The Wikimedia fundraiser is facilitated by two things: Banners and appeals. The banners appear at the top of the site, featuring a picture of someone from the Wikimedia movement (Jimmy, our founder, an editor, reader, or donor), and the words, “Please read: A personal appeal from Wikimedia (Founder|Editor|Reader) So and So.”

Clicking the banner lands you on a donation form featuring a letter from the person in the banner. A lot of fundraising experts have told us this is a dumb way to fundraise. They say people don’t read the appeals, and that surely there’s something better we could run in the banners other than “Please read a personal appeal.”

We’ve tested the appeal pages against simple donation forms with no appeals, with basic facts, and slogans, and nothing has performed better than the appeals. We’re happy about that, because we love that the fundraiser serves a double purpose of educating our 470 million readers about how Wikipedia and the Wikimedia movement work.

But we’re unhappy that we haven’t been able to find anything better than “Please read a personal appeal” for our banners. It’s not for lack of trying. We’ve tested more than 100 different banner phrases. And we’ve tested a few non-human images (e.g. hands holding the Wikipedia globe logo).

Only one banner has occasionally beaten “Please read a personal appeal,” and that is: “If everyone reading this donated $5, we could end the fundraiser today.” But that banner seems to set the expectation that the fundraiser is about to end soon, so we only like to use that at the end of the campaign.

Last year, we asked the Wikimedia community to suggest banners and tested many of them. None came close to beating “personal appeal.” This year, though, thanks to a tool created by friends at Princeton University, we have a new way to revisit those ideas, and bring in some new ones, for testing.

Professor Salganik and his research group are the developers of All Our Ideas, an open source platform for public participation. It enables groups to collect and prioritize information in a way that is democratic, transparent, and efficient, and it has already been used by governments and non-profit organizations around the world.

He approached us about using this tool for choosing new banners to test and we said we would like to try it. You can go there now and start voting on banners at:

We’ll be watching the results and will test the ones that come out on top in the voting. We’ve helped to seed the tool with banners proposed by the community last year. We were not able to test all of the ideas suggested then. We will test at least a handful of the ones that come out on top in this voting process that haven’t been tested before — as long as they are in line with the spirit and values of the Wikimedia movement.

There is also a way to propose new ideas — and new images — for banners using the All Our Ideas tool.

Finally, one thing I should explain is why we’re looking for a better banner. Each year, we only raise what we need and then end the fundraiser. If a better banner brings double the number of donors from our best current banner, then we can cut the duration of the fundraiser in half — and that would be a very good thing.