Analysts advise Wikipedia to stop asking for donations

Wikipedia donations
Editor’s Note: See our update at the bottom of the story for Jimmy Wales’ response to this article and some clarifications.

Jimmy, Joan, Kartika. By now, they’re starting to become household names, and they all want the same thing: your money. Wikipedia is once again pleading for user donations with banners across the top of its site with memos from purported authors. And while the messages are heartfelt and even manage pull at a few notions about collective good, there could be a better way to increase profits. It’s called advertising.

But founder Jimmy Wales has considered and rejected this idea, saying, “Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn’t belong here. Not in Wikipedia.” Which would all be well and good if Wales himself hadn’t had his own finances called into question. Two years ago, it was reported that he was accepting money in exchange for Wikipedia page edits, which he firmly denied.

Aside to the questionable scandal, there’s also that fact that these public pleas don’t appear to be working. Wales attempted the same request for donations last year, and failed to meet the company’s goal. However, Google stepped in with a $2 million gift to the foundation. What also could be causing a bit of consumer skepticism is some background about Wikipedia’s fundraising organization. Charity Navigator gives Wikipedia a commendable rating, but its fundraising efficiency gets a lowly one out of four stars. And despite its protests of volunteerism, there is at least one person on the payroll: Executive Director of its fundraising department Sue Gardner, who pulls down $168,700 a year (as of 2009).

Part of Wales’ message is that if users don’t want ads, they need to donate. And from the looks of it, they just might want ads. The foundation is approximately $7 million short of its 2010 fundraising goal, and Wikipedia analysts are saying the site would be better off with a marketing scheme. Wikiexperts founder Alex Konanykhin argues that using ads could solve its financial issues without affecting its neutrality.

Konanykhin also believes that Wikipedia needs to generate revenue in order to pay for some written content. Subject-matter experts often have their articles revised and rewritten by the site’s other volunteers, leaving many feeling the time invested in contributing to the site is a waste. “We believe that boycotting fundraising efforts of Wikipedia might compel it to raise billions via advertising and develop content of significantly better quality. Qualified contributors may and shall be compensated for their time,” Konanykhin says.

Wikiexperts formerly supported Wikipedia’s fundraising efforts, but the organization (which assists businesses in composing their pages for the site) says that the relationship Wikipedia and its volunteers have cultivated is hostile to outside sources, limiting the depth of information it can provide. It’s common knowledge that Wikipedia shouldn’t be a trusted as a verifiable source, but seeing how widely used it is, Konanykhin thinks it needs to be.


Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales contacted us in response to the article, obviously in disagreement about several issues we reported. You can read his e-mail below.

There is an important set of errors in Molly McHugh’s article “Analysts advise Wikipedia to stop asking for donations.”

1. Last year’s fundraiser was a complete and total success, and Google’s gift was *on top of* the fundraiser. We met our goals handily without Google’s help, but very much appreciated their gift as well.

2. It is absolute fabrication on the part of Molly McHugh’s to say that I was accused of accepting money in exchange for Wikipedia page edits. No one has ever suggested such a thing. There was an absolutely false claim that I asked for a donation to the Foundation in exchange for edits. I can only say this in the strongest possible terms: that claim is absolutely and completely false from top to bottom, and no evidence of it has ever been put forward by anyone. It is shocking and offensive to me to not only hear this false claim repeated, but also made worse by having it claimed that *I* accepted money.

3. It should be emphasized in any discussion of Wikipedia financials that I work tirelessly for Wikipedia and do not accept a salary, nor even money for expenses incurred. Even when I travel for Wikimedia Foundation board meetings, I pay for my own accommodations and travel.

In regards to last year’s fundraiser, Wales is correct. Wikipedia did raise a reported $6.2 million dollars by January of 2009, but at the same time it’s important to note that this money would only see the organization through the end of its fiscal year, June 2009. Wikipedia also has received large contributions from established institutions, such as Google and the Stanton Foundation, which have inarguably benefitted the organization’s financial situation, and if anything, given it a stronger reputation as a source.

As far as Wales being formerly accused of accepting money for Wikipedia entry edits, the fact remains that he was. We have never accused Wales of actually being guilty of this crime, instead consistently acknowledging he has always denied these claims.

Wales does often contend he volunteers his efforts for Wikipedia and goes unpaid, and we have never reported anything to the contrary.

Emerging Tech

A projection onto Sydney Opera House causes huge rumpus in Australia

An idea to project an ad for a big-money horse race onto the iconic sails of Sydney Opera House recently sparked a fierce national debate in Australia. So what was all the fuss about?
Movies & TV

Peter Dinklage gets cryptic about two 'Game of Thrones' characters' fates

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable -- if you don't mind spoilers.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix in October, from 'Mindhunter’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in October, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.

Your ‘Do Not Track’ tool might be helping websites track you, study says

New research from the "Do Not Track" features embedded in popular browsers are being ignored, opening up the possibility of consumers having their information targeted by specific ads based on their web histories and cookies. 

Which is best: The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme or the 15-inch MacBook Pro?

To try and help nail down the best 15-inch laptops in the world, we compared the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme vs. MacBook Pro 15 in a head to head that looked at their power, design, and portability.
Product Review

Don't bother with any other 2-in-1. The Surface Pro 6 is still the best

The Surface Pro been updated to its sixth generation, now coming dressed in black and packing a quad-core processor. Outside of that, you’ll have to dig a little deeper to see where Microsoft has made some truly noteworthy improvements.

Microsoft co-founder, Seahawks owner Paul Allen dies at 65

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen died on October 15 of complications from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The cancer survivor was best known for his entrepreneurial spirit and his frequent contributions to charities.

How does Microsoft’s newest Surface stack up against the Apple iPad Pro?

In an era where everyone is taking a bite at Apple’s products, we’ve stacked up the 12.9-inch iPad Pro against the latest Surface Pro 6. Check out this comparison guide to see which one gives you more bang for your buck.

Leaked benchmarks suggest rumored AMD GPU could be king of midrange graphics

AMD's next GPU may not be Navi-based after all. Rumors continue to build about an RX 590 which has now shown up on 3DMark's benchmark database, delivering results that easily outstrip stock clocked GTX 1060s.
Emerging Tech

Curious how A.I. 'brains' work? Here's a super-simple breakdown of deep learning

What is deep learning? A branch of machine learning, this field deals with the creation of neural networks that are modeled after the brain and adept at dealing with large amounts of human-oriented data, like writing and voice commands.

Qualcomm’s ‘Snapdragon 1000’ could bring octa-cores to Windows laptops

The rumored Qualcomm Snapdragon 1000 CPU may bring the octa-core design of mobiles and tablets to Windows laptops, offering four powerful cores for high performance, and four low-power cores for efficiency.

Is the new Surface Pro 6 worth the extra money or is the Surface Go good enough?

Each of Microsoft’s Surface devices are great, but with the recent addition of the Surface Pro 6, you might be wondering how it stacks up against the Surface Go. In this comparison piece, we’ve put the two devices up against each other…

Is the Surface Pro 6 a sidestep, or does it blow away its predecessor?

How good is the new Surface Pro, and is it worth an upgrade? The best way to find out is to pit the Surface Pro 6 vs. Surface Pro 5 in a head to head that tests them both on performance, design, and portability.