What makes a good banner? How can we cultivate donors to ensure long term commitment to our cause? Wikimedia Deutschland has released a Fundraising Report that assess the development of campaigns from the last few years. This figure shows the revenue of the fundraising campaigns from 2010-2014 and each increase rate to the previous year. Graph by Till Mletzko, CC-BY-SA 4.0

What makes a good banner? How can we cultivate donors to ensure long term commitment to our cause? Wikimedia Deutschland has released a Fundraising Report that assess the development of campaigns from the last few years. This figure shows the revenue of the fundraising campaigns from 2010-2014 and each increase rate to the previous year. Graph by Till Mletzko, CC-BY-SA 4.0

In less than five years, Wikimedia Deutschland’s yearly fundraising efforts grew from € 700,000 to € 8,200,000. That is an astonishing development. But fundraising is not just about money.

Fundraising at Wikimedia Deutschland, and across the entire Wikimedia movement, not only helps us achieve financial goals, it also helps raise awareness for our mission. We reach several million people each day during our fundraising campaign in Germany, making ours the most successful online campaign in the country. With the help of a systematic strategy and comprehensive A/B tests, we have managed to increase our annual fundraising campaign revenue by more than ten times in just five years. This success is the result of a data-driven approach that focuses primarily on donors and their behavior.

Wikimedia Deutschland has been running professional fundraising campaigns since 2010. In previous years, all fundraising was undertaken by volunteers. With the creation of the non-profit Wikimedia Fördergesellschaft in 2011, we now have the institutional requirements in place to forward donations received in Germany to the Wikimedia Foundation.

This Fundraising Report reviews the findings gathered from our latest campaign and assesses how our work has developed over recent years. Thanks to extensive A/B tests and the technical infrastructure that we have built up over the years, we are constantly and systematically collecting data and insights. This allows us to analyze the behavior and payment methods of donors, which in turn helps us to plan and continually improve our campaigns. We have identified five main factors that contribute towards fundraising success at Wikimedia Deutschland, and this report discusses them in detail.

Five factors of successful banners

1. Relevance: No association, no donation. Our results show that a personal appeal in banners, the use of key words, and particularly references to current events make our appeals more relevant and therefore more persuasive to potential donors.

2. Visibility is something one has to fight hard for. The time span we have in which to draw attention to our message is very short. This Fundraising Report presents findings relating to when is the best time for the banner to appear and analyzes various design decisions, including color scheme.

3. Closer to the reader: If there is one thing that the entire donation process should be–from reading the appeal through to completing a donation–it’s straightforward. The fewer clicks required, the better. This fact is nothing new, and it certainly does not only apply to us, but this report will explain the concrete application of this knowledge in the creation of successful banners.

Bank transfers as a payment method are getting more important each year. Graph by Till Mletzko, CC-BY-SA 4.0

4. Donation obstacles should be kept to a minimum. Two findings in particular have emerged from our previous years’ work: Firstly, including suggested donation amounts on the banner has proven to provide effective guidance for donors. The lower the sum, the higher the number of people who donate–and the overall success of a campaign is greater when more donors give smaller amounts. Secondly, the option to donate anonymously is very important to many donors.

5. Raising the campaign profile: It pays to communicate fundraising goals and show the progress of donations. In 2014 in particular we saw how effective the creation of dramatic moments within a campaign can be. This report also touches on a surprising topic: the principle of “social proof” demonstrates how the behavior of a group can motivate others to act in the same way, yet Wikimedia Deutschland’s fundraising campaign made good use of the reverse of this effect.

Looking back, the five factors all played a crucial role in the success of our campaigns; and looking ahead, their importance for the international movement stretches far beyond monetary matters. We should all see fundraising as the start of a relationship – one that requires continuous care and attention.

Fundraising is not about banners only

Our goal for the future is to persuade donors to become long-term supporters of free knowledge and the Wikimedia movement. This report provides a glimpse into our strategy on how to maintain and consolidate our donor relationships, which are built on three main pillars: regular contact, targeted appeals, and personal dialogue–all things that are not possible through communication via banners alone. This report discusses the enormous benefits that stand to be gained from attracting long-term support for the Wikimedia mission.

Using the example of donation certificates, this report will show how we benefit from taking the wishes and expectations of donors seriously. Our postal and electronic mailings are proof of how target-group-specific content and communication strategies can ensure long-term success. The fundamental importance of a well-functioning customer service team should also not be overlooked. During the last fundraising campaign in Germany, for example, we received hundreds of calls and answered well in excess of 5,000 e-mails. Contact is therefore not merely an additional service; it is the very basis of future relationships.

Year Total No. of
multiple donors
Total No. of
one time donors
Sum of all Ratio of
multiple donors
2012 53.260 189.985 243.245 21,90%
2013 95.802 237.452 333.254 28,75%
2014 135.228 254.153 389.381 34,73%

 

Looking ahead to future challenges, the report ends with a call to intensify donor relationships, to focus on donors’ needs, and to further diversify fundraising communications.

Read the whole Fundraising Report on Meta.

Till Mletzko, Wikimedia Deutschland

Tobias Schumann, Wikimedia Deutschland