How do I donate money to Wikipedia

When Pete Forsyth visits Wikipedia these days, he is always annoyed. The reason for the displeasure with the American consultant of the online dictionary can be found at the top of the page: As every year before Christmas, a donation banner is placed there. Users are expected to donate a total of $ 25 million in December. "We ask you to help Wikipedia," it says.

What the many donors from all over the world are often not aware of: They give money to an organization that is doing well financially and has been increasing its assets for years. Wikipedia's traditionally based on co-determination is also annoyed by the banner that has been optimized through intensive market tests, says Forsyth. Before working as a consultant, he worked for the American Wikimedia Foundation for two years. She stands behind the lexicon and thus also behind the donation banner.

The donation team does not take sufficient account of the community's criticism

Most of the funding comes from small donations around $ 20. But despite such manageable amounts, a lot is accumulating: The American Wikimedia Foundation is currently sitting at 78 million dollars, an increase of more than 24 million dollars compared to the previous year. In 2008, the foundation was less than $ 10 million.

Although the language is no longer as compassionate as it was with previous banners, users could still feel deceived, says Forsyth. "At one of my lectures I met a donor who was totally horrified when she found out how much money the foundation actually has," says Forsyth. "The woman considered asking for her donation back."

However, the community's criticism is not sufficiently taken into account by the fundraising team. "The volunteers are the heart of Wikipedia. With their unpaid work on the more than 35 million available entries, they create the value that the foundation's donation banners refer to."

Critic Forsyth therefore sees the dispute over the campaign only as a symptom of a deeper conflict within the project: "The campaign is a rare opportunity to speak directly to the users. It can make our values ​​clear and explain why we are all involved in this project But the foundation's banners do not reflect those values. There is an ever widening gap between Wikipedia's volunteers and the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation. "

The non-profit organization behind the Wikimedia project generally has a tough time with its professional donation department. Because parts of the base are set radically: They fundamentally refuse to make any money with Wikipedia at all. But it just doesn't work without it, the organizational structure doesn't work without financial backing, argues the US foundation. Perhaps the Wikipedia project of free knowledge just got too big for such radical ideas, grew too fast.

The foundation defends itself against the impression of hoarding money and collecting dubious donations. "There are unplanned costs, emergencies, or revenue collapsing," said the US foundation. Having a healthy financial cushion is recognized as the best practice in the nonprofit sector. In addition to the operating costs for the server, there were many other costs for the development of the software and the administration of Wikipedia and the eleven other Wikimedia projects. The annual campaign finances a large part of the annual budget.

"If there is a lot of money, there is also criticism," says the foundation

While in many countries around the world the banners devised by the American parent organization appear on the Wikipedia pages, Germany is a special case. The fundraising campaign is also running here. But the German branch is responsible for its own banners and has chosen a different wording for the appeal than the foundation in the USA: "The price of a cup of coffee would be enough," the Germans are campaigning for donations this year. Overall, however, a little more than small change should come together: The Wikimedia support company, which is part of the Wikimedia Germany association, wants to collect 8.6 million euros. A third of the donations remain in Germany, where 81 employees now work for the Wikimedia association, including working students and interns. The rest goes to the US foundation, which operates all servers for this purpose, for example.

The German donation target results from the annual plan of Wikimedia Germany, says Till Mletzko, head of the fundraising department. He wants to achieve the sums stipulated therein.

As in the USA, the Germans are also offering ever higher target sums: in 2014 the donation target was 7.8 million euros, in 2011 it was only 3.9 million euros. "The network is large and open to discussion, everyone feels part of the movement. We accept that, explain a lot and are as transparent as possible, including with regard to finances," says Wikimedia Germany. When volunteers did not like the choice of words in the banner text, they were changed. The fact that not all Wikipedians are happy is inevitable with the "movement", as the Wikipedia foundation calls it. "If there is a lot of money there is also criticism."