Wikipedia became a household name since its launch in 2001. Its popularity remains unquestionable. Although what is being questioned is its relevancy of donation drive in India.
Wikipedia’s Indian users now see an alarming red and white banner on the top of every Wikipedia page, asking for donations to keep the site up and running. This has puzzled many users in India. This article tries to explain what the donation drive is all about.
What does Wikipedia’s note say?
“We ask you, humbly: don’t scroll away,” the message, now pinned atop every Wiki page, reads. “We depend on donations from exceptional readers, but fewer than 2% give. If you donate just? 150, or whatever you can…Wikipedia could keep thriving. Thank you.”
Why is Wikipedia in need of donations?
SimilarWeb, a website for tracking and analyzing statistics of websites shows that Wikipedia.org has 5.2 billion visits in July 2020 and is the eighth most popular site in the world. So automatically, questions for the fundraising drive have sparked heated debates if one of the world’s most popular websites really needs donations to be kept running?
Unfortunately, popularity does not give you money, advertisements do. While you must have scrolled excellently through the page, few notice that Wikipedia does not show advertisements.
The site is a non-profit and its mission, as per its founders, is to ensure that everyone can share and access free information. With the website’s recent call for donations, Wikipedia users are quickly realizing the cost of keeping the knowledge free.
How does Wikipedia sustain?
The website is run entirely by a team of around 250 employees and over 250,000 global volunteers. Pat Pena, Director of Payment and Operations for Wikimedia Foundation, offered a few explanations about the fundraising campaign launched in India, in a blog post and went on to explain how Wikipedia earns, “Reader donations are critical to supporting Wikipedia’s global presence,” Pena writes, “To meet the needs of readers in India and around the world, we operate an international technology infrastructure comparable to the world’s largest commercial websites.”
Since Wikipedia does not carry any advertisements, it ultimately depends on donations made by its millions of readers around the globe. A tiny part of the website’s total revenue is generated from its merchandise, including t-shirts, pencils, notebooks, and pens embossed with Wikipedia’s branding.
The website also has the attention of several corporate contributors like the E-commerce giant, Amazon, it made a $1 million donation to the Wikimedia Foundation.
This money goes towards keeping its servers running and also maintaining the site while ensuring that it is secure, and protects user data. While donations help pay the salaries of its staff members, the volunteers contribute their services to the website for free.
Does Wikipedia really need donations from its readers?
When the website started requesting donations in India, some of its users feared that the online encyclopedia could be on the brink of bankruptcy. However, according to the paper that is not the case.
Wiki page on its fundraising statistics, the website was able to raise $28,653,256 between 2018-2019, bringing its total assets to $165,641,425. The previous financial year, it garnered $21,619,373 — a marked rise from the $56,666 it earned through donations in 2003. Wikipedia’s assets have grown exponentially and it has a considerable net worth. Then why is it asking for donations?
Asked about the same by The Indian Express, the spokesperson for the Wikimedia Foundation said, “As a website that hundreds of millions of people have come to rely on, we have a duty to ensure Wikipedia remains accessible, up to date, and relevant for its readers.”
“We hope the public in India, and in other countries, will consider making a contribution to Wikipedia with the same goal, and with an eye towards the future; it’s also the reason why our messages are written in that spirit.”
A Washington Post report stated that it isn’t so unimaginable for large nonprofits like Wikipedia to consistently add funds to its reserve, charitable organizations are in fact encouraged to keep enough cash reserves in excess, in case of an adverse situation.
A charitable website this large in scale needs a constant incoming of donations.
How is Wikipedia spending the donations?
According to a detailed report shared by Wikimedia Foundation in 2019, about 49% of its annual financial gains was spent as direct support to the website; 32% was used for training, tools, events, and partnerships for its network of volunteers; 13% was spent to recruit and pay its staff members, and the remaining 12% was used for its various fundraising initiatives.
This donation drive is most certainly not the website’s first, the charitable website is supported by its readers across the world and depends on their donations to survive. Fundraising campaigns have been carried out at certain times every year.
According to Pena’s blog post, India is the fifth-highest user of the website. Indians flock to Wikipedia more than 750 million times a month. Given the readership the website receives from India, it is rather astonishing that Wikipedia launched its first full-fledged fundraising campaign in India only now.