2016-2017 Fundraising Report
Wikipedia is now 16 years old, and the trust and support from millions of donors around the world is ensuring its place as one of the internet’s most visible bastions of neutrality and free knowledge. Wikipedia offers everyone, regardless of belief or background, a place to learn free of distraction—just the facts, with the sources to back them up. The continuing support of our donors, representing nearly 30 countries and more than 20 languages, is both a testament to the value of Wikipedia and a root cause of the continued health of our global community of passionate editors, readers, developers, and free knowledge advocates.
Our annual fundraising reports exist to offer donors, readers, and anyone who is interested a transparent view of our fundraising operations, successes, and plans for the future.
Thank you to the millions of readers and donors, tens of thousands of volunteers, Wikimedia Foundation staff, and our fundraising team for an incredible year. Together, we have built the largest collection of free knowledge in recorded history. Your participation is a vital piece of the puzzle.
Donation Totals by Continent
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Donation Totals by Source $91 million raised from 6.1 million donations
The above figures are expressed in USD and reflect gifts received during the 2016–17 fiscal year, excluding commitments for future donations. Major Gifts reflect donations of $1,000 USD and above.
Donation Totals by Fiscal Year and Average Gift Size
Key Stats: Big English
The Wikimedia Foundation’s year-end English fundraising campaign generates around 50 percent of our annual revenue through the use of online banners and email. In 2016, we reached our English campaign fundraising goal in the shortest amount of time to date.
English Campaign Banners: Total Earned Rate Comparison, from Launch Day
English Campaign Banners and Email: Totals by Source
Donations from mobile devices increased its share in fundraising revenue from last year, while the share of donations from desktop banners decreased. Email donations increased by 5 percent and, for the first time, matched our desktop banner campaign in share of overall revenue.
Online Fundraising Banners
The Wikimedia Foundation’s online fundraising model facilitates the transition from reading Wikipedia, to wanting to contribute to the site through a donation. Through extensive A/B testing and user and focus group research on our fundraising web banners and email, the online fundraising team’s goal is to maximize campaign efficiency while mitigating disruption of the Wikipedia experience as much as possible.
From thousands of survey responses over the years, we’ve learned that most Wikipedia readers don’t consider our fundraising content too intrusive or aggressive. However, we also wanted to find a better way to determine when to limit banners so that readers had a fair chance to contribute without experiencing burnout. In December 2016, we found one.
We crunched the data on last year's banner impressions (each time a user sees a banner) to determine which ones generated the largest number of donors ('donor conversion'). Looking at the distribution across all devices, including mobile, tablet, and desktop/laptop computers, it became apparent that the first two banner impressions converted the vast majority of donors. Donations dropped off significantly once a reader had seen a banner twice.
Readers saw 44 percent fewer desktop banners during the '16 Big English Campaign
Each subsequent banner impression exhibited a rapid dropoff in conversion. After the tenth, the conversion rate was minuscule: Only about 3-5% of our donations occurred on a given device’s 10th+ banner impression. What’s more, we validated a central premise of our fundraising strategy: that our model depends upon a wide readership contributing small amounts of money to sustain Wikipedia and its related services. It would be ineffective to run fundraising banners on Wikipedia in the same markets constantly throughout the year. Our strategy of annual high traffic campaigns in a rotating lineup of countries ensures that our content stays fresh and engaging to readers, while offering readers around the world the opportunity to become a sustaining donor of the world’s independent encyclopedia.
How we test
Over the years, the online fundraising team has learned several important lessons that keep our fundraising strategies focused and effective:
- Don't over ask.
- Rely on research and testing data, not assumptions.
- No test idea is too small.
- Genuine messages from real people work.
- Understand your audience.
- Collect feedback from our global community of readers, contributors, and donors.
The key to our A/B testing strategy is knowing that small improvements can make large total gains.
Examples of incremental improvements to our large desktop banner donation rate
Online Fundraising Email
Every year, email becomes a more important part of the Wikimedia Foundation’s fundraising revenue model. Increasingly effective banners and new outreach tactics helped us grow our email list by 30 percent each of the past two years, giving us more opportunities to test email content, quantity and types of communications, and timing of campaigns. Using the same A/B testing strategies that make our banners successful, we increased revenue by 40 percent and created emails that raised our fundraising goal more efficiently than the previous year.
|Past Donor Email Metrics|
|19,289,697 emails sent|
|$23,568,140.51 raised (USD)|
|$16.21 avg donation|
|761 variables tested|
It is essential that donors understand how much we value their relationship with Wikipedia; we only communicate as much as necessary to achieve our goals, and send far fewer emails per donor than the average nonprofit sends each year.
We know that email is more than a fundraising tool: It can be our entry point to educate donors about the movement they support. Through long-term tests, we are working to strike the right balance between educating donors and respecting their time. More than one million newsletters went out last year in service of such tests, with much more to come in the next fiscal year.
More than 1,400 people and institutions contributed $1,000 USD or more in the 2016-17 fiscal year. These Major Gifts totaled $10.2 million and made up a significant portion of the Wikimedia Foundation’s overall fundraising revenue—for which we are deeply grateful. Large donations help the Wikimedia Foundation diversify our revenue stream, and they give high-capacity donors a chance to make a significant positive impact on our mission. Many of our Major Gifts donors choose to be recognized on our Benefactors page.
Structured Data on Commons
From the WMF blog: "Thanks to a three-year, $3,015,000 USD grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Wikimedia Foundation is leading an effort to enable structured data on Wikimedia Commons, the world’s largest repository of freely licensed educational media. The project will support contributors’ efforts to integrate Commons media more readily into the rest of the web, making it easier for people and institutions to share, access, and reuse high-quality and free educational content."
From the WMF blog: "In 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation announced the launch of a community health initiative to address harassment on Wikipedia, with initial funding of $500,000 USD from the Craig Newmark Foundation and craigslist Charitable Fund. The two seed grants—each $250,000 USD—will support the development of tools for volunteer editors and staff to reduce harassment on Wikipedia."
The Wikimedia Endowment is a dedicated and permanent funding source to realize the power and promise of Wikipedia and its sister projects—ensuring access to knowledge for everyone, everywhere. The Endowment was launched in January 2016 on the 15th anniversary of Wikipedia.
To date, we’ve raised $17.6 million USD of our initial $100 million campaign through a combination of major and planned gifts (ie., bequests, wills, and trusts), Endowment Advisory Board engagement and giving, and annual support from annual campaign donors.
This year, we’ll continue Advisory Board recruitment, as well as ramp up efforts to increase visibility of our planned giving program, and continue to cultivate high-net worth donors for the Endowment.
New Engagement Opportunities
The social media Big English campaign revolved around the theme of “Wikipedians and the world celebrating Wikipedia.” These messages were seen by nearly five million people. The team is investigating ways to expand our fundraising presence on social media in the next fiscal year.
During the English campaign:
- 4.9 million different Facebook users saw these profile picture frames on their friends’ profiles.
- More than two million different Twitter users saw the hashtag #ilovewikipedia on Twitter.
- 9,000 people included the picture frame in their profile, telling the world that they love Wikipedia.
- 6,500 people used the hashtag #ilovewikipedia in one month.
- Sentiment was overwhelmingly positive.
Mobile App Fundraising
In 2016, the Reading Team introduced fundraising appeals in the Wikipedia mobile app feed for the first time. In a one-week test window, total amounts raised from the mobile app feed, per device type, were as follows:
The team will be setting up more messaging tests and is considering a launch earlier in the fall fundraising season. We’re also investigating app payment methods, app reader/usage numbers, and optimizing notifications.
Thank you for reading the report. We are happy to share information about fundraising at the Wikimedia Foundation and look forward to your feedback. We will respond to comments and questions to the best of our ability. In some cases, we may not be able to provide all data requested for a number of possible reasons, including the privacy and protection of our users and donors, security considerations, data limitations, and the team's capacity.