Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Fundraising

News about fundraising, including the annual Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser.

Wikimedia Foundation launches tenth-annual online fundraising campaign

The Wikimedia Foundation has kicked off its tenth-annual year-end fundraising campaign with donation banners visible at the top of Wikipedia.

Online fundraising brings in the resources needed to keep the Wikimedia projects freely available to everyone around the world in their own language, and guarantees that Wikipedia will never have to rely on advertising. Donations help the Wikimedia Foundation maintain server infrastructure, improve and simplify the software that runs our projects, support initiatives around the globe to increase the number of project contributors, and make Wikipedia accessible to billions of people who are just beginning to access the internet.

“People donate to Wikipedia because they find it useful, and they trust it because even though it’s not perfect, they know it’s written for them. We aim to tell the truth, and we can do that because of the millions of people who donate what they can each year,” said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. The support of so many people keeps us independent and able to deliver the world’s knowledge for free. Exactly as it should be.”

The online fundraising campaign aims to raise $20 million, while the remainder of the Wikimedia Foundation’s funding will come from individuals gifts given outside the year-end campaign, and from foundation grants. The overwhelming majority of the Foundation’s funding comes from individual readers giving an average of $15.

Every year, as the number of Wikipedia readers and donors grows, the Wikimedia Foundation is able to shorten the duration of the end-of-year campaign. “We thank all our donors for their support,” said Megan Hernandez, Director of Online Fundraising at the Wikimedia Foundation. “We also want to thank the volunteers who help make our campaign a widely localized and internationalized effort.”

Hernandez noted that in the 2012-2013 fundraising cycle, more than 1,000 people translated the fundraising banners into more than 100 languages, which prompted donations from nearly every country on the planet. She expected similar volunteer support and localization throughout the 2013-14 cycle.

The 2013 year-end fundraising campaign builds on the success of previous years and will run through the end of this year, or until the target is met. To make a donation, click the banners at the top of Wikipedia, or go directly to donate.wikimedia.org.

Matthew Roth
Global Communications Manager, Wikimedia Foundation

In Wikipedia, a roadmap to life

At the age of 25, Chelsea Rapp has a Bachelors of Science degree in molecular genetics and a Bachelor of Arts in German language and literature. Currently she’s pursuing her Ph.D in retroviral genetics at the University of Maryland Baltimore. By most accounts, she is an accomplished individual, but for a short while things didn’t seem so clear.

Chelsea Rapp

Like many teenagers, high school for Chelsea was a series of highs and lows that produced more questions than answers. After graduating, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do in life. The frustration brought more stress onto her already unstable relationship with her father. Unsupportive, and to a large extent downright discouraging of Chelsea’s college hopes, her father was a source of resentment.

Lacking guidance during this time of indecision, she had a lot of questions, but no insight into how she could answer them.  In high school, she had excelled in biology but she hadn’t really considered making it an avocation. What careers existed within biology? What are the different areas of emphasis? Most importantly, how does one go about achieving any of it?

She logged onto Wikipedia and typed in “genetics.” And then she finally understood what she wanted to do. “It was from there that I found out how one even goes about getting into a field like this. It’s where I found out that you can go to graduate school and get your Ph.D. largely funded through government agencies like the NIH,” she says.

Once insecure and discouraged, Chelsea found clarity within the articles on Wikipedia. “Negative energy has a huge impact on you and can really dishearten you from doing things that you’re so capable of,” she says. “All it really takes, I think, is a little bit of inspiration to show you that perhaps you are more than what people say you are.”

Subsequently, she went on to enroll at Ohio State University as a Molecular Genetics major. Upon a professor’s recommendation, she decided to study abroad in Germany. Although she originally planned for a six week trip, she later changed it to a year. Her travels also took her to Sub Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. She came face-to-face with the realities of the HIV epidemic in Africa, something she had previously only had a detached understanding of. She explains, “When you see it and you’re there, and you know that have the capacity to do something about this, you just say to yourself, ‘Why wouldn’t you?’”

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Changes to the Wikimedia Foundation Fundraising Team

I’m sorry to tell you that Zack Exley has decided he wants to leave the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), although I am glad to say he’s planning to continue contributing his prodigious creative and analytic talents to our fundraising. As of August 30, Zack will no longer be Chief Revenue Officer, but will instead be a part-time consultant and advisor to the WMF fundraising team, in addition to other consulting work he’s planning to take on.

We all owe Zack enormous thanks and praise.

The year before Zack joined us, the WMF raised USD 16 million in donations, and three years later that has more than tripled to USD 56 million — and we are doing it in a way that’s 100 percent consistent with our mission, vision and values. The many-small-donors model preserves the Wikimedia movement’s independence by preventing over-reliance on a small number of people, it enables the WMF to focus on readers and editors without having their needs drowned out by other stakeholders and it makes us the largest amount of money at the smallest-possible cost. Zack has earned his place in the histories of Wikimedia yet to be written: For the past three years, he has been the single person most responsible for funding the growth of resources for the global movement.

Zack is leaving the WMF fundraising team in terrific shape, and I’m very happy to announce I’ll be promoting into the position of Chief Revenue Officer the deputy head of the department, Lisa Seitz Gruwell.

Since Lisa joined in 2011, both Zack and I have come to heavily rely on her leadership, managerial and strategic abilities. Lisa has been responsible for foundations and major donors as well as being Zack’s deputy, and over the past two years she and her team have significantly grown revenues without increasing the costs to the organization. This is a big deal: Most non-profits need their non-fundraising staff to participate in fundraising efforts, and it’s to Lisa’s credit that her team has figured out how to raise money without that. Lisa is widely respected and trusted. I look forward to her leadership and am confident she will continue Fundraising’s track record of success.

We are also promoting Megan Hernandez, who has been the behind-the-scenes creative talent of our last two online campaigns. She will become Director of Online Fundraising, leading all our online work. And we are promoting Sara Lasner to the role of Development Director, where she will lead the foundations and major gifts team that has been Lisa’s responsibility. Congratulations to Megan and Sara.

Our fundraising strategy will not change. We will continue to focus on the many-small-donors model, supplemented by unrestricted grants and major gifts. Everything takes effect immediately, except Zack’s official departure, which will be August 30. He won’t be at Wikimania, but people in the San Francisco Bay Area will get a chance to see him when he comes to town in early September. And of course we’ll continue to see him afterwards, in his new relationship with us.

I’m very confident in the trio of Lisa, Megan and Sara to lead fundraising for the movement, and I’m delighted Zack will continue to lend his guidance and creativity to our campaigns. Please join me in thanking Zack for everything he has done for the Wikimedia movement and for his continued involvement. And congratulations to Lisa, Megan, and Sara on their well-deserved promotions.

Sue Gardner
Executive Director, Wikimedia Foundation

IBM Research donates AAAI Feigenbaum Prize for Watson to the Wikimedia Foundation

Watson’s avatar

The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) has chosen IBM Research’s Watson team as the recipient of the 2013 Feigenbaum Prize. Watson is recognized as one of the most impressive results of AI research in the past several years, famously winning in the quiz show Jeopardy! against former grand champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings in February 2011. Watson is now being put to work in areas such as healthcare, finance and retail.

In recognition of the role Wikipedia played in the success of Watson in the Jeopardy! Challenge, the IBM team has asked AAAI to donate the award prize of $10,000 accompanying the Feigenbaum Prize to the Wikimedia Foundation. IBM Research said they were motivated to donate the prize to recognize and support the Wikimedia Foundation’s work, especially on Wikidata, which aims to become a part of providing everyone – whether human or machine – with easier access to the sum of all knowledge.

“Watson embodies a paradigm shift in artificial intelligence by applying a novel architecture to aggregate data and information from many different sources, including the full text of Wikipedia,” said Chris Welty of IBM Research.

The text and structured content of Wikipedia was analyzed using natural language processing methods. In addition, structural elements of Wikipedia – links, infoboxes, categories – were extracted and added to the massive knowledge base that Watson drew on during the game of Jeopardy! 

We’re grateful to IBM for their kind consideration and look forward to seeing what remarkable new feats the Watson team accomplishes next.

Matthew Roth
Wikimedia Foundation Global Communications Manager

The faces behind the numbers: reviewing the 2012 Wikimedia Deutschland Fundraiser

Wikimedia Deutschland, the official Wikimedia Chapter in Germany, is the largest chapter fundraiser in the Wikimedia movement. This report of the 2012 fundraiser in Germany expands on the Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser report published this week on the Wikimedia Blog. The original blog post in German can be found here

In this video appeal a number of Wikipedia readers speak up. Pavel Richter, CEO of Wikimedia Deutschland, also explains why donations are important for spreading free knowledge.

In his thank you message to donors, readers, authors and staff, Pavel Richter gives a summary of the fundraising campaign and stresses what is important for Wikipedia and the future work of Wikimedia Deutschland.

The Numbers

Wikimedia Deutschland has experienced continued support from Wikipedia readers and the 2012 fundraising efforts again demonstrated how much people value the free encyclopedia. Even though this campaign was three days shorter than the previous year, we were able to increase the total result by 32 percent: 5,273,374 Euros were donated for Wikipedia and free knowledge during the last weeks via our fundraiser.

The online encyclopedia rests on many shoulders. It not only relies on the contributions of thousands of volunteer editors and supporters of free knowledge, but also on the 233,813 people who were inspired to donate. To look at this strong current of continuing support another way: We received a donation every 20 seconds over 49 days, between November 13 and December 31, 2012 (compared to 160,000 donors in the previous year). The average donation was 22,50 Euros. With many people giving to Wikipedia by means of small contributions, we’re not overly reliant on large donors and we can maintain our independence.

Wikimedia Deutschland is particularly happy about the many German Wikipedia readers who were willing to make recurring donations. Once again, we were able to increase the number of recurring donors by almost 50 percent compared to the previous year. During the fundraiser, more than 7,300 people opted for supporting Wikipedia on a regular basis.

Apart from asking for support in the form of donations, during this campaign we specifically asked Wikipedia readers to become members of Wikimedia Deutschland as well. Right after after they finished their payment, donors were able to fill out an online form in order to become a member. This simplified process was a sweeping success. We activated 2,376 new members, which means that, over the course of a few weeks, we almost doubled the number of Wikimedia Deutschland’s members.

The Campaign

Even though we were thoroughly prepared for the fundraiser, its start always marks the beginning of great activity for us. From the moment we switched on the fundraising banners on Wikipedia, we began to receive high volumes of e-mails and phone calls. That is why we now have some back up in our team. We know now that this was a wise decision. We were able to answer more than 100 e-mails during every day of the campaign (4,267 in total) and we answered all inquiries by the end of the campaign for the first time.

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Wikimedia Foundation releases detailed report on 2012 fundraiser

We are very happy with the success of the 2012 Wikipedia fundraiser, which has demonstrated the amazing support Wikipedia readers feel for the free encyclopedia. From July 2012 to April 2013, more than 2 million people donated approximately $35 million USD to the Wikimedia Foundation to support the online encyclopedia and its sister projects.

Donations help the Wikimedia Foundation maintain server infrastructure, support global projects to increase the number of contributors, improve the software that supports our projects, and make Wikipedia accessible globally to millions of people who are just beginning to access the Internet.

We divided the 2012 campaign into two parts. More than 1.2 million donors contributed to the 2012 year-end campaign, which ran on English Wikipedia in five countries (United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand). The campaign was the shortest and most successful in Wikipedia’s history. It ran for only 9 full days, down from 46 days in 2011. The most successful 24-hour period for donations in 2012 brought in $2.4 million from 145,585 donors.

In early 2013, the fundraising team worked with volunteer translators to translate the best messages from the 2012 year-end campaign, and ran banners in the rest of the world outside of the five English-language countries. We also limited the number of times people saw the messages. Readers worldwide outside of the five English-language countries saw a maximum of five banner impressions in March 2013. During the multilingual 2013 campaign, we raised approximately $7 million USD from nearly half a million donors.

Volunteer contributors are the heart of the world’s largest encyclopedia and they make it the amazing resource it is. To highlight the tens of millions of hours they put into the projects each year, the Wikimedia Foundation ran a thank you campaign with a short video that showcased some of the roughly 80,000 volunteer editors, photographers and free-knowledge advocates from around the world who regularly contribute to Wikimedia projects. The thank you campaign also included an invitation to all Wikipedia readers to get started editing.

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Intro to the statistics of A/B testing with Wikimedia fundraising banners

The Wikimedia fundraising team relies on A/B testing to increase the efficiency of our fundraising banners. We raise millions of dollars to cover the expense of serving Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia sites. We don’t want to run fundraising banners all year round, we want to run them for as few days as possible. Testing has allowed us to dramatically cut the number of days of banners each year — from 50 to about nine.

We’re in the middle of reevaluating the statistics methods we use to interpret A/B tests. We want to make sure we’re answering this question correctly: When A beats B by x percent in, say, a one-hour test, how do we know that A will keep beating B by x percent if we run it longer? Or, less precisely, is A really the winner? And by how much?

If you’re not familiar with this kind of statistics, thinking about coin tossing can help: If you flip a coin one thousand times, you’re going to get heads about half the time. But what if you flip a coin only 4 times? Often you will get heads 2 times, but you’ll often get heads 1, 3 and 4 times. Four coin flips are not enough to know how often you’ll really get heads in the long run.

In our case, each banner view is like a coin toss: heads is a donation, tails is no donation. But it’s an incredibly lopsided coin. In some countries, and at certain times of day might only get “heads” one in one hundred thousand “flips.” Think about two banners with a difference: one has all bold type and one only has key phrases in bold. Those are like two coins with very slightly different degrees of lopsidedness. Imagine that, over the course of a particular test, one results in donations at a rate of 50 per hundred thousand, and another at a rate of 56 per hundred thousand.

Our question is: How can we be sure that the difference in response rates isn’t due to chance? If our sample is large enough (as when we flipped the coin one thousand times) then we can trust our answer. But how large is large enough?

We run various functions using a statistical programming language called R to answer all these questions. In future posts, if readers are interested, we’ll get into more details. But today, we just wanted to show a few graphs we’ve made to check our own assumptions and understanding.

The graph immediately below is from an exercise we just completed: We went back to one of our largest test samples, where we ran A vs B for a very long time. In fact, it is the example of “all bold” vs “some bold” I just mentioned, and the response rates across a range of low-donation-rate countries were 56 and 50 per 100,000 respectively. We chopped that long test up into 25 smaller samples that are closer to the size of our typical tests — in this case with about 3.5 million banner views per banner per test. Then we checked how often those short tests accurately represented the “true”(er) result of the full test.

In the graph below, you’re looking at the data showing how much A beat B by in each test (each subset of the larger test actually). The red vertical line represents the true(er) value of how much A beats B based on the entire large sample. Each dot represents A’s winning margin in a different test — 1.1 means A beat B by 10 percent. This kind of graph is called a histogram. The bars show how many results fit into different ranges. You can see that most of the tests fall around a central value. This is good to see! Our stats methods assume the data conforms to a certain pattern, which is called a “normal distribution.” And this is one indication that our data is normal.

Test data

Another piece of good news: all of the dots are greater than 1. That means that none of these smaller tests lied about banner A being the winner. What’s sad, though, is how much most of the tests lie about how much A should win by. This isn’t a surprise to us — we know that those ranges are wide — especially when response rates are as low as they were in this test.

One fun thing R can do is generate random data that conforms to certain patterns. The graphs below show what happened when we asked R to make up normally distributed data using the same banner response rates. Compare the fake data graphs below to the real data graph above. First of all, notice how much the three graphs vary below. That’s one simple way of showing that our real data doesn’t need to look exactly like any one particular set of R-generated normal data to be normal.

20130408_randTests2 20130408_randTests3 Randomly generated test data 1
Even so, can we trust that our data is normally distributed? We think so, but we have some questions. Our response rates vary dramatically over the course of a 24-hour day (high in the day, low at night). Does that create problems for applying these statistical techniques? In this particular test, the response rate varies wildly from country to country — and there are dozens of countries thrown into this one test. Does that also cause problems? Tentatively, we don’t think so because the thing we’re measuring in the end — the percentage by which A beats B — doesn’t vary wildly by country or time of day…we think. But even if it did, since A is always up against B in the exact same set of countries and times, we think it shouldn’t matter. One little (or maybe big?) sign of hope is that the range of our real data approximately matches the ranges of the randomly generated normal data.

But those are a few of the assumptions we’re working to check. We’re always reaching out to people who can help us with our stats. We’re looking for people who are Phd level math or stats people who have direct experience with A/B testing or some kind of similar response phenomenon. Email fundraising@wikimedia.org with “Stats” in the subject line if you think you might be able to help, or know someone.

Zack Exley, Chief Revenue Officer, Wikimedia Foundation and Sahar Massachi

Wikimedia Foundation raises $25 million in record time during 2012 fundraiser

The Wikimedia Foundation is happy to announce the successful completion of our ninth annual fundraising campaign in record time. Wikipedia readers donated $25 million and once again affirmed the value of the project by guaranteeing that the online encyclopedia will remain ad-free.

Donations help the Wikimedia Foundation maintain server infrastructure, support global projects to increase the number of editors, improve and simplify the software that supports our projects, and make Wikipedia accessible globally to billions of people who are just beginning to access the internet.

More than 1.2 million donors contributed to the campaign, which ran on English Wikipedia in 5 countries (United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand) for only 9 full days, down from 46 days in 2011. The most-successful 24-hour period for donations this year brought in $2,365,564 from 145,573 donors. Messages and formats optimized in this year’s campaign will be used in another short fundraising drive for the rest of the world in April 2013.

“I’m grateful that the Wikipedia fundraiser was so successful. Our supporters are wonderful and without them we could not do the job of delivering free content worldwide,” said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “We’re thrilled to be able to introduce our readers to the editors around the world who create Wikipedia and to invite our readers to join in editing.”

Volunteer contributors are the heart of the world’s largest encyclopedia. To highlight the tens of millions of hours they put into the projects each year, the Wikimedia Foundation has started a thank you campaign with short videos that showcase some of the roughly 80,000 volunteer editors, photographers and free-knowledge advocates from around the world who regularly contribute to Wikimedia projects. The campaign started today and will run through the end of the year.

You can meet the Wikimedians who we’re profiling in our thank you campaign here and continue to tune into the Wikimedia blog for further profiles of volunteer contributors.

Matthew Roth, Global Communications Manager

The Impact of Wikipedia: visual storytelling

(This video is part of a series produced for this year’s Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser. You can also view this video on Youtube.)

A montage video, Impact of Wikipedia, part of a series showcasing Wikimedians.

Every year for a handful of weeks in November and December, the Wikimedia Foundation has traditionally asked Wikipedia users to support the 5th largest website in the world with whatever donation they felt appropriate. The fundraising banners on the top of Wikipedia bring in the resources needed to keep the Wikimedia projects freely available to everyone in their own language and they guarantee that the sites will not have to rely on advertising.

Building on the effort last year to feature Wikipedia editors and contributors in fundraising appeals, the Foundation has produced a series of videos that dive deeper into what inspires these volunteers to improve the Wikimedia sites. These videos are replacing the fundraising banners today as part of a thank you campaign to everyone who has supported Wikipedia.

The interview footage for the videos was shot by a film crew at the 2012 Wikimania Conference this past July in Washington, D.C. Leading the crew was the Wikimedia Foundation’s Visual Storyteller, Victor Grigas, who is a filmmaker by training and has been a Wikipedia editor since 2005.

With the videos, Grigas said he hoped to show a personal side to Wikimedia and the process of why volunteers edit or donate their time. He found that the reasons editors cited for contributing ranged from wanting to share a love of baking, to an interest in white water kayaking, to a desire to create a more open society where information is available to everyone for free.

“Everybody is a nerd about something, and this is an outlet to express yourself in a way that deeply and profoundly influences other people,” Grigas said.

Finding Wikipedians amid the crowd of over 1000 attendees at Wikimania was an involved process. Grigas and his team reached out to editors through their userpages on Wikipedia and they set up a recruitment table in the conference cafeteria.

The team converted a number of hotel rooms near the conference site into mini studios, shooting each interview on two digital SLRs at different angles and focal lengths. They recorded with professional sound equipment, and to accentuate the interview subjects, they used light kits and shot against white paper backgrounds. In all, Grigas and his team conducted on-camera interviews with approximately 100 Wikipedians, capturing over 120 hours of footage.

“I started with a 20 minute cut that became a 6 minute cut and now the final version is just over 4 minutes,” explained Grigas of the video above. “One hundred plus hours of footage cut down to 4 minutes.”

In editing, Grigas chose to intersperse the wide-angle secondary camera footage with the primary camera so the audience could catch a glimpse of how they staged the sets. “I like the behind-the-scenes thing because Wikipedia is all about that,” explained Grigas. “Being behind the scenes allows anybody else to be able to see what equipment was used to make this, and then they can replicate it themselves too.”

In order to make the videos as widely accessible as possible and keep the focus on the editors’ stories, he elected to leave out music. “First of all, I’ll spend a lot of time trying to find music that fits the right mood. Then music has cultural baggage attached to it. I’m going to reach less people,” said Grigas. “I wanted people with a critical mind to be able to judge it and tear it apart and not feel like there’s music manipulating them.”

Grigas added, “Also I love remix culture and I thought I’d release something with a clean dialogue track that people could easily remix and sample. I’d love to hear a Bassnectar track or something that uses these sounds.”

The videos were fine-tuned using an array of software, including the open-source audio editor, Audacity. Grigas said the audio mixing process was streamlined thanks to the program and its ability to easily analyze and remove room tone from the soundtrack.

To help localize the videos, Grigas has provided English subtitles to his cuts and he’s hoping to get help from the large community of volunteer translators who work on Wikimedia projects. “Captions in multiple languages are something that we now have the ability to crowd-source with the new HTML5 video player. I’d love to see the community help to translate these short videos into their local languages,” he said.

Though the videos were part of the fundraiser and were originally meant to encourage contributions, Grigas is hopeful they also humanize the editing process. The videos, he said, do “a great job of explaining how Wikipedia functions and how it is generated, but he wants “people to learn something about the movement and about Wikipedia and then as time goes on, maybe they will donate potentially in the future.”

Interview and profile by Jawad Qadir, Communications Intern

The Impact of Wikipedia: Andrea Zanni

(This video is part of a series produced for this year’s Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser. You can also view this video on YouTube.)

Andrea Zanni discusses the power of serendipity

Andrea Zanni is a digital librarian at the University of Bologna, where he promotes and disseminates the institution’s 16 open-access journals, and provides access to digitized historic books by compiling metadata, uploading new scans, and running optical character recognition (OCR) software. He integrates the university’s free content into various WikiProjects and publishes documents to WikiSource. In addition to his contributions to the projects, Andrea is the project coordinator of Wikimedia Italia, the Italian chapter of the Wikimedia movement.

We recently ran an in-depth profile of Andrea that you can read in Italian and English here.

Matthew Roth, Global Communications Manager