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The Wikimedia Foundation exists to support a global community of readers, contributors, and donors. Hundreds of millions of people are involved in maintaining and nurturing the open knowledge movement. The Wikimedia Foundation is proud to serve, and humbled by, the millions who keep Wikipedia thriving each year with small donations averaging about $15 USD.
More than 5 million readers around the world donated $77 million USD in the Wikimedia Foundation’s 2015–2016 fiscal year. We are grateful for all the readers, contributors, and donors who make Wikipedia and our other projects a global home for knowledge and discovery. To continue thriving we must constantly innovate, adapting to the changing needs of our readers and new advances in the technology that powers the Wikimedia universe.
We strive to listen, and we strive to learn. To that end, we are happy to share our findings from the last year of Wikimedia fundraising. We invite your feedback and wisdom.
DONATION TOTALS BY CONTINENT
The fundraising team works year-round to optimize the donation experience for readers around the world. This means everything from right-to-left language support, to configuring preferred local payment methods and language options. We also monitor our readership trends to inform our fundraising strategy. With the Japanese Wikipedia growing steadily in popularity — more Wikipedia pageviews come from Japan than any other country except the United States — we invested in a reader focus group survey conducted by Lake Research Partners, a leading public opinion research firm. We also made substantial improvements to our timing, targeting and payment flow throughout Latin America that resulted in a 17x increase in revenue throughout the region.
If you would like to help translate fundraising messages or provide localization feedback, please visit our hub on Meta to get involved.
ANNUAL TOTALS AND AVERAGE GIFT SIZE, 2009–2016
DONATIONS PER MONTH, CALENDAR YEAR 2015
MONTHLY REVENUE AS PORTION OF TOTAL, CALENDAR YEAR 2015
THE DECEMBER SPRINT
While we fundraise year-round internationally, the bulk of our revenue (almost 50% in FY15-16) comes in during the December English campaign, when we fundraise in 6 primarily English-speaking countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the US. In 2015, we focused on exceeding previous years’ fundraising totals through extensive user testing and focus group research before our campaign’s start, followed by A/B testing throughout December.
Throughout each fiscal year, the Online Fundraising team conducts research in many countries so we can provide relevant and localized donation experiences to Wikipedia readers. In 2015–16, our research resulted in tangible improvements to our banner design and payment processing, and provided us with new messaging ideas and test concepts.
U.S. READER SURVEY
In October 2015, the fundraising team worked with Lake Research Partners (LRP) to conduct a detailed survey of Wikimedia readers in the United States. With LRP, we examined how U.S. readers recall and respond to Wikimedia fundraising messages, as well as readers’ general charitable habits and the perceived value of Wikipedia.
Below are a sample of highlights from the survey.
FEELINGS TOWARDS FUNDRAISING MESSAGING
From LRP: “Two-thirds of readers agree that they don’t mind the fundraising messages on Wikipedia, and clear majorities view these messages as necessary and see them as relatively infrequent. By a 2:1 margin, readers say they are not annoyed when they see fundraising messages on the site. Readers divide evenly as to whether they pay attention to Wikipedia’s fundraising messages when they are running.”
WIKIPEDIA USAGE BY DEVICE
From LRP: “Laptop computers remain the most popular way to access the site, but laptop and desktop use have both declined slightly since February [when our last survey was conducted]. Smartphones have now overtaken desktop computers as the second most popular way to access the site, and tablet use is also on the rise.”
In the preceding chart, the percentages reflect the responses from participants who indicated which devices they used to access Wikipedia very or somewhat often. Participants were free to select as many devices as they used somewhat or very frequently.
JAPAN READER SURVEY
We are seeing considerable growth in page view traffic to Japanese Wikipedia. As of September 2016, the overall Wikipedia readership in Japan ranks second in overall traffic, surpassed only by U.S. traffic. In the spring of 2016, we worked with Lake Research Partners (LRP) to perform an online survey of 1,000 readers of Japanese Wikipedia. Here are some of our findings:
UNDERSTANDING NON-PROFIT DONORS IN JAPAN
From LRP: “Donations to non-profits are not widespread in Japan. Only 35% of readers say they donate to non-profits. This indicates a cultural difference from the West where donations are more commonplace. Most prefer to give cash to Japanese non-profits and organizations focused on disaster relief. Donating is not thought of as a regular activity – it is often a one-time action in a time of need.”
The numbers of self-reported donors to Wikipedia are particularly stark among Japanese Wikipedia readers, with just 4% of survey respondents indicating that they have ever made a gift to Wikipedia.
From LRP: “Many users have seen fundraising messages on the site, and donors report donating as a direct response to seeing these messages.”
However, “[v]ery few [Japanese] Wikipedia readers have made financial donations to the organization. A plurality of Wikipedia donors say they took action because they are frequent users. Slightly smaller majorities reference their support for free knowledge for all and their desire to keep Wikipedia online.”
READER RESPONSE TO WIKIMEDIA BANNERS
When viewing Wikimedia’s fundraising banners, focus group participants indicated that the Japanese language used in the banner did not flow smoothly, and gave them the impression of having been translated from English. Acknowledging respondents’ preference for supporting Japanese non-profits over international organizations, LRP recommends that “reworking this message to feel more authentically Japanese may help fundraising.”
Moreover, survey participants suggested that Wikimedia use a more colorful banner design.
Feedback from the Lake Research Partners 2016 survey of Japanese readers heavily informed our testing priorities in our 2016–17 Japan fundraising campaign, which ran from September 1st - September 30th, 2016. We considered feedback regarding design, language, and tone to develop banners that would better address reader concerns and impact donor conversion.
The point of entry for the majority of our current donors was through fundraising banners placed on Wikipedia.org. The fundraising team relies on statistical analysis of donor and reader habits to design and execute banner campaigns. Each new fundraising concept is tested against our "Current Best" performing banner to compare its donation rate and average amount given. The most promising experiments are re-tested and refined so that the widest possible audience sees the best fundraising appeal.
EXAMPLE BANNER VARIATIONS
BANNER TEST HIGHLIGHT: LOCALIZED COPY
This year we decided to start testing banners with the country’s name to localize the banner message. After early results, we continued the trend and have received positive results in a majority of tests. Of 10 localized copy tests with statistically significant results, 8 produced increases in donations per impression. In these tests, including the name of the country where we were fundraising in the opening line of our desktop banners made it 11% more likely that a reader would decide to donate.
BANNER TEST HIGHLIGHT: REMIND ME LATER
One of the most interesting findings in 2015 was the addition of a “Send me an email reminder” option to our donation forms. We tested this idea in previous years without success. However, in December 2015, we found a style and placement that not only garnered email addresses for us to send a follow up reminder, but also slightly increased donations per impression.
Typically, when we add new fields or steps to the donation flow, the number of donations decreases. In this test, however, we saw that adding the option to receive an email reminder didn’t hurt donations, and we were also able to collect email addresses for a new subset of readers interested in receiving more communications about Wikimedia.
We estimate that the Remind Me Later option will bring in over $1,350,000 USD in revenue in 2016–17. This is a very exciting new channel that we are just beginning to optimize.
Wikimedia's email fundraising program continues to grow significantly, doubling email revenue for the second year running. Readers opt-in for future email communications when they make a donation, and a year later the fundraising team sends a few reminders to donate. Similar to banner testing, we compare different variations of the emails to find the most effective ways to communicate with donors. We value our donors’ time and respect their inboxes. The average nonprofit sends about 49 emails per subscriber per year; we send 1–10, working to strike a respectful balance between donation appeals and informational content that keeps donors engaged and invested in our work. As our community of donors continues to grow over the next few years, our email fundraising program will continue to grow as well.
|Past Donor Email Metrics|
|14,598,979 emails sent|
|$16,967,399 raised (USD)|
|$17.59 avg donation|
|697 variables tested|
More than 1,400 people and institutions contributed $1,000 USD or more in the 2015-16 fiscal year. These Major Gifts ($1,000 USD or more) totaled $9.5 million, which is less than the $10.7 million raised the previous year, but a still-significant portion of the Wikimedia Foundation’s overall budget – for which we are deeply grateful. Our Major Gifts donors come from around the world and have the capacity to support many worthwhile organizations. Their outsized donations to the Wikimedia Foundation are a testament to their generosity and their belief in our free knowledge mission.
Many of our Major Gifts donors choose to be recognized on our Benefactors page, but some prefer to go unnamed – like the anonymous donor who, in 2014, awarded the Wikimedia Foundation a $5 million unrestricted gift that is supporting $1 million worth of operating expenses each year until 2019. Major Gifts include general operating grants and restricted donations that support specific Foundation-run programs, such as Wikipedia Zero and the Wikipedia Education Program. These donors give throughout the year, through our online banner campaigns, email and postal-mail campaigns, and in-person events.
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. Like active editors who contribute a multitude of content to Wikimedia projects, donors who give at a high level bolster the foundation of our entire knowledge base.
THE WIKIMEDIA STORE
100% of the proceeds from the Wikipedia store go to the Wikimedia Foundation. The profits are earmarked toward our Merchandise Giveaways Program to reward those who have made an impact on the projects.
In December 2015, we included a link to the store on the thank you page (screenshot, right) that donors saw after completing a donation. As is evident in the chart below, this simple link caused our sales to skyrocket, giving the store its first quarter where revenue exceeded expenses.
Readers, contributors, editors, donors, Wikimedia Foundation staff: innovation can come from any source, and we value the thousands of messages we receive each year on how to improve our fundraising practices. Responses from donors boost our morale and help us identify technical glitches; comments from editors and contributors help ensure that our banners and emails represent our movement values while raising funds effectively.
In 2015–16, we renewed our commitment to building community and staff feedback sessions into our creative pipeline. We added an Advancement Associate to our team with the primary goal of supporting better coordination with Wikimedia chapters and volunteers. In June 2016, we inaugurated our feedback program with a “Staff Brownbag” that brought together members of all major Wikimedia Foundation departments to brainstorm new ideas for our banners and emails. Our first session generated 47 new ideas for tests. We will expand feedback sessions with community and staff members in the 2016–17 fiscal year.
In the last fiscal year, our donor services team received more than 80,000 emails from readers and donors. The majority of emails come in during live campaigns, and cover a range of topics: from compliments and morale-boosting appreciations for our work, to problems with payment processing, donation flow, or other technical issues. The Wikimedia Foundation prides itself on answering every donor comment personally. Our donor services team carefully tracks the type of feedback received and average first reply time, improving the donor experience by resolving technical issues and building relationships with our donor community.
QUOTES FROM DONORS
You (Jimmy) – and Wikipedia – are great. This is an example of the best of an open society and how the wide diffusion of knowledge and information can be a vehicle for tolerance, peace and fellowship among people throughout the world. I give small amounts but do so whenever I can. A small price to pay for a world of info at your fingertips.
Wikipedia is the democratization of information in real time. I wish I had millions of dollars to give you.
Being 95 years old Wikipedia is an important help in my work and I am very happy to help.
You are magnificent and it is a joy to contribute to something so full of generosity in so many ways!
...to invest in the site I so freely use gave me a sense of pride that I could help keep it going to the standard we are all accustomed to. It's so worth it!
Wikipedia is referenced constantly online when people around the world have an inspiring biography to share, a history lesson that needs reinforcement, or an argument they’re trying to win. Wikipedia or Wikimedia are mentioned more than 1,000 times an hour on social media, according to the media measurement company Meltwater.
During the course of our English Wikipedia fundraiser every year, social media increasingly reflects and cheers the progress of our fundraising efforts. Conversations on social media also serve as a barometer of social opinion that help us understand how our fundraising efforts are being talked about, perceived, and understood by readers and donors.
With guidance from the Fundraising team, the Foundation’s Communications team produced two short, fun videos to kick off and conclude our 2015 English fundraising campaign. These videos were popular, totaling more than 200,000 views and generating a vastly positive response. We thanked every single donor who tweeted about donating on the first day, and responded to every issue on the first day in a significant effort to show that we were present, responsive and engaged.
We were happy to see that responses to our #keepitfree hashtag and general mentions of Wikipedia were overwhelmingly positive and/or neutral:
More than 5,000 tweets from Nov. 30 to Dec. 17, 2015, mentioned Wikipedia and donate, or around 300-400 a day. Here are some of our favorites:
I donate to @Wikipedia because, A) knowledge is a gift, and B) sometimes I want to know when that random actor was born.
|Annual Change (2013–16, linear)|
|Mobile (web + apps)||+25%|
On December 20th, 2015, for the first time in Wikipedia’s 15-year history, mobile traffic surpassed traffic to the desktop site. This trend has been on our radar for several years. As we see the general rise in smartphone usage around the world, we have coordinated our own efforts to lower barriers to accessing Wikipedia in places where the Wikimedia projects are not widely known or used. (for more info, see Wikipedia Zero).
The rise of mobile traffic does not offset the decline of desktop traffic, and overall traffic has declined slightly in recent years. This poses a challenge to our ability to raise the budget every year, because our fundraising model depends on a substantial reader base. The fewer people reading Wikipedia overall, the fewer people see our banners and have the opportunity to become donors.
Mobile fundraising is uniquely challenging compared to our established donor flow on desktop. The mobile Wikipedia experience is much different than that on desktop. On mobile, readers are finding content quickly, often on the go, which can make it challenging for potential donors to stop, take out their debit or credit cards, and complete a transaction. We see this impact in the considerably lower donation rate from our mobile banners when compared to desktop.
We are excited to meet this challenge head-on. In our 2016–2017 fiscal year, we will be exploring the most seamless mobile payment processing methods and fastest donor flows, while continuing to optimize our mobile fundraising appeals.
The fundraising team will continue to optimize the donor experience across our main existing channels: desktop, mobile web, email, and recurring donations. We will follow Wikipedia’s readership trend and will put increased effort in mobile fundraising as well as our growing email database of existing donors. We are also researching new channels to reach more readers.
In-App Fundraising Banners
As part of our ongoing efforts to improve our mobile fundraising, and in recognition of the work done by our Reading team to build and refine the Wikipedia mobile apps (available for iOS and Android), we are excited to test the display of fundraising messages to app readers. Combined, the Wikipedia mobile apps receive more than 30,000 new installations from the Apple Store and Google Play every day, offering a new frontier for engagement with our readers.
Mobile Web Banner Optimization
As Wikipedia’s mobile readership steadily surpasses desktop readership, we will continue to prioritize significant improvements to the donor flow and banner experience on mobile and tablet devices.
Email Fundraising Optimization
The last two years have exhibited incredible growth in our email fundraising capacity, doubling our revenue annually while maintaining some of the highest recipient engagement rates in the non-profit sector. With the advent of the Remind Me Later email option in our banners, and new experiments with a range of non-appeal communications to keep our donors engaged throughout the year, we expect many more improvements to our email program that will provide a vital source of revenue.
Thank you to the millions of readers, five million donors, tens of thousands of volunteers, Wikimedia 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.