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The new Wikimedia Endowment will try to keep Wikipedia free for another 15 years

The smartest person you know just turned 15. Well, not a person, but an entity that always seems to have all the answers when you need them most: Wikipedia. And while the digital encyclopedia does have a very annoying gift of spending what seems like a significant portion of the year asking for birthday gifts in the form of cash donations, Wikipedia must’ve done something right this year as it blew out its birthday candles. The Wikimedia Foundation has just launched the Wikimedia Endowment, which will serve as a “permanent safekeeping fund” that hopes to diminish Wikipedia’s reliance upon ad hoc donations. The goal is to raise $100 million over the next decade, “ensur[ing] that Wikipedia lives forever.”

Wikipedia has crossed a number of impressive milestones in the last few weeks, many of which its founders never thought possible. Today, over 36 million articles have been logged, and some 80,000 volunteers make around 15,000 edits and create 7,000 new articles each and every hour. “Wikipedia seemed like an impossible idea at the time — an online encyclopedia that everyone can edit. However, it has surpassed everyone’s expectations over the past 15 years,” co-founder Jimmy Wales told The Guardian.

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But of course, much of that success has been contingent upon the generosity of its readers. Enter the Endowment. The first $1 million has been donated by the estate of software engineer Jim Pacha, and Wikimedia hopes to attain the rest of the $100 million goal over the course of the next several years, hitting its target by 2026. Thus far, over the course of the site’s history, Wikipedia has managed to raise $250 million through its regular campaigns, but a permanent endowment should provide more stability.

“We have a great fundraising model right now, but things on the Internet change so it’s not something we can count on forever,” said The Wikimedia Foundation’s chief advancement officer Lisa Gruwell. While you won’t be completely rid of those “donations please” banners, you may be able to see a little less of them … if you contribute to the Wikimedia Endowment.