Did I Read That Correctly – Wikipedia Needs Donations?

If you have been to Wikipedia lately, which I’ll assume yes because it is pretty much impossible to NOT be there, then you have seen the personal plea for donations from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Wiki Plea


Wales said, “I got a lot of funny looks ten years ago when I started talking to people about Wikipedia.”

You got funny looks then, well you deserve funny looks now.

There have been two more recent articles related to this including, Wikipedia Pleas for Money (2011), and  How Much Money Does Wikipedia Need (2012), there is an article in progress for 2013.


Why Does Wikipedia Need Donations – Emphasis on the WHY?

According to the plea, Wikipedia needs donations to cover its operating expenses of about 6 million dollars per year which pays the salaries of its 23 employees, as well as the additional costs of managing the website. Wales says:

Your donation helps us in several ways. Most importantly, you will help us cover the increasing cost of managing global traffic to one of the most popular websites on the Internet. Funds also help us improve the software that runs Wikipedia — making it easier to search, easier to read, and easier to write for.

Wikipedia NEEDS More Money Do They?

Okay, before we get our credit cards out let’s just do the due diligence first.   It’s a good cause and all, but we should really make sure they really do need it. (sarcasm intended)

Let’s look at the Balance Sheet First

Balance Sheet Test – FAILED

Balance Sheet Data ( Source Data )

  • Net Worth June 30, 2010: $15,425,177
  • Net Worth June 30, 2009: $8,602,135

Wiki has a Net Worth around $15.4 Million

Let’s be good citizens and continue the due-diligence.  I’ve heard varying reports of the number of employees, however the report that I trust was a Wiki source and it said 24 employees and that they wished to double that number next year. So my search for the need for cash will assume 24 employees.

Wikimedia Foundation Triva

The foundation is exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and from state income tax under Chapter 220.13 of the Florida Statues and Sections 23701(d) of Revenue and Taxation Code of the State of California.

What is Wikipedia spending money on now?

Interesting Summary Data

  • Travel Expenses per Employee: $19,860.96
  • Average Employee Wage & Salary: $146,180.67
  • Internet Hosting Costs $1,056,703 yet they received .5Million in donated hosting and bandwidth
  • Mysterious Expense Called “Operating” with no other details: $3.846 Million up by over 300% from 2009

So where were the increases from 2009 to 2010?

“Operating”?  Expense was the biggest expense increase at over 300% from 2009 to 2010

$1.2 Million in 2009  more than tripled to $3.8 Million in 2010

The one expense that they don’t provide detail on bloated by 300%

** keep in mind we’ve already paid the lease, wages & salary, hosting, losses on lease sublet, in-kind expenses, Travel, and “Other”

Brand New Expenses for 2010 – Stuff They must have needed

Special event expense: $70,407

Awards & Grants: $208,662

Supporting Details of Data Above

Travel Expenses for 2010: $476,663

$19,860.96 per employee!

Higher than 99% of the real corporate world (e.g. NON non-profit organizations), the one that Wiki competes against for SERP position.

Wages & Salary

Salary & Wages for 2010: $3,508,336 of which was broken into three categories Projects, G&A, Fundraising however it was all recorded as Salary and Wages

Salary & Wages for 2010:

$146,180.67 Average Employee Salary

Don’t you love non-profit organizations?   They are one of the BEST places to work.

Why We Should NOT Donate to Wikipedia?

The economy is in the trash, people are being thrown out of their houses in record numbers, the jobless rate is at an unsustainable rate, the US government has gone so far into debt that they have surpassed the threshold at which not any government with paper currency has EVER recovered.

If we were to experience minor “above average” inflation, the GDP would be catastrophically negative.  At average inflation rates GDP decrease is… unthinkable.

I’m no economist, but when I see reports coming out from professors at Harvard warning us Americans that debt should be our number ONE concern then I’m going to listen to them and not the snake oil salesman we’ve got working in D.C.

If you’ve got the stomach for the full report here is the link, Entire Harvard Economic Report

When looking at these charts you’ll notice they are broken into 0-30% Debt, 30-60, 60-90, and > 90%.    We (USA) are well beyond 90% and into unchartered territory.   I quote from the report, “Seldom do countries simply ‘grow’ their way out of deep debt burdens”.   I’m am normally an optimist but how can you find optimism in that?

Lets end my personal RANT with Mr. Wales final plea for money… blah, blah, blah

Each year at this time, we reach out to ask you and others all across the Wikimedia community to help sustain our joint enterprise with a modest donation of $20, $35, $50 or more.

If you value Wikipedia as a source of information – and a source of inspiration – I hope you’ll choose to act right now.

All the best,

Jimmy Wales

Founder, Wikipedia

Thanks for the Wiki Mr. Wales.  By the way, you should have done your homework before the plea, sincerity is one of the most difficult things to fake.

A Suggestion

Put the darn ads on Wikipedia nobody cares.  You’ll generate so much revenue from the ads that you won’t know what to do with it, being a non-profit.  The ad below this paragraph is a 336×280 one of the higher paying banner ads and one of the most obtrusive but it is hard to pass up as it pays well and usually gets the highest percentage of clicks and a click can pay $1 or more sometimes $5 and more.  Then maybe take some of that money and spread it around the world where it is needed most.

[adrotate banner=”16″]


Rich (aka DisplacedGuy)

p.s.  To my beloved readers. I have avoided topics related to politics and other sensitive areas until now.   I apologize if this offends anyone.

26 Responses

  1. Amen brother! Apparently there are at least two of us who were wondering why the plea. Unfortunately I am not one that feels we can’t live without Wikipedia. Sure it’s nice to check stuff out, but honestly if it is something I have to be sure about, I always find another reference. Forget that academic institutions don’t allow Wiki quotations, there is just something, rather icky-like quoting Wikipedia.

  2. Like many organizations, Wikipedia is a start-up. They have established proof of concept in their English Wikipedia, but they are now looking to scale out to include every country or language in the entire world and every kind of knowledge which can be captured online. Their mission is pretty bold, expansive, and radical and is simply not reflected in their past operating expenses. It’s venture capital, guys. Get with it.

  3. I would like to know how exactly donating to Wikipedia relates to U.S. government debt. Would donating to Wikipedia increase U.S. government debt?

    • The headline for that paragraph was “Why we should not donate to Wikipedia”, and what I was thinking is that if we donated any money maybe it should be to pay down the national debt, to improve the chances that our government collapse, and world economy collapse might not happen. Wiki competes with normal taxpaying businesses for advertising, technology, bandwidth and to make matters worse Wiki, is in my humble opinion abusing the non-profit status. So in a small (very very tiny) part it does relate by hurting taxpaying business but it wasn’t my main point. I was really ranting about two things, the other being the national debt.

      Your point is taken, I admit there is no measurable relationship between donating to Wiki and the national debt. I didn’t properly convey my thoughts in that paragraph and apologize to my readers.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. Any comments, even criticism are appreciated.

  4. I agree with you 100%, when I first saw the “plea” I thought why????? But of course scrounging around for money from the needy and giving it to the rich has ALWAYS been the way of the world….. ENTER ROBIN HOOD PLEASE!

  5. Wow.. that was an eye-opener. This much for the employees?? They really need to put-up ads on their sites.

  6. I just saw this donation plea for the first time and totally see where you are coming from. You present a strong case, but many of these issues could be debated further. For me, however, the issue can be simplified into two questions: “what value do I get from Wikipedia?” and “how much do I pay for it?”.

    I probably read between one and 20 Wikipedia entries every day. Sure the information needs to be verified, but Wikipedia has a wealth of easy to sift, highly interconnected information and represents a great value to my life. The answer to my second question is $0. So, I get substantial value and pay nothing for it.

    Finally, I wholeheartedly believe that individuals who engage in world-changing innovation should be richly rewarded and Wikipedia represents one such case. As a result, I am happy to give $5 and hope that a fraction of Wikipedia’s 450M monthly users do the same.

    Thanks for the engaging post!

    • I welcome opposing views and appreciate the thoughtful comment. I would probably donate to Wikipedia myself if I felt that the money was managed better. I tend to avoid Wikipedia as well because I figure if I’m not willing to support it then I don’t deserve to use it for free.

    • Let me correct you there.

      What do you get from wikipedia:
      The same information on the webpage directly below the wikilink (You use to be able to see DIRECT Plagiarism of webpages… maybe only a few words changed here and there.)

      The ability to feel apart of “something great” without doing anything.

      To see jimbo wales’s face everyday and hear about how he toppled another government every now and then.

      What you should pay for it?
      Well, what would you pay an illiterate donkey to write a book?
      The people “maintaining” wikipedia are just no-life losers who want to feel special. Some know what they’re talking about, most don’t. They fervently protect THEIR changes cause they need to be remembered as the great wikipedian admin of god.
      Wikiculture is pathetic.

      Hell, we could TORRENT wikipedia and free ourselves from the evils of Wales. You’d technically have to setup an entirely different p2p protocol, but hey… no reason people couldn’t “donate bandwidth” rather than “pay for wales’ new private jet.”

      The finances show that what wikipedia does with the “donations” is NOT run the webpage. They INVEST them in a complex money laundering scheme that allows jimbo to take out “operating funds” (buying 11 million in “assets” and selling out half of those in the same year doesn’t sound suspicious? Especially on the “low operating funds” that wales claims to have?)

      Hell, only reason Wales opposed SOPA was because he didn’t want to hire any REAL People to, idk… monitor the absurd amount of uploads of teenagers photographing their genitals and trying to get their dicks on some article? Perhaps he was scared of losing more of his “umbrella tree of money” where he keeps most of the donations rather than spending them on people who verify that… idk… people aren’t VANDALIZING wikipedia? Or maybe it would put into question why there are so many articles about child pornography “search terms” to help people get their fix!

      Google, of course, has raised all piracy related links to the top of their search engine; they just don’t want to lose “piracy related customers” to some other search engine.

      The blackout, the protest… it was about BIG MONEY you fools! He doesn’t care about american freedoms, he only cares about making money off of dumb americans! The NDAA was a bigger threat (legalizing what was already being done) than SOPA was, but he won’t be a BRAVE WARRIOR over that stuff. There’s no money to be made / lost.

      Heck, he probably DOUBLED his donations by acting like he gave a damn. Money. Thats all he wants.

  7. Have you thought of doing an update for this post in 2012? I see Wikipedia is still asking for donations, and I’d like to send this post around to some friends of mine, but it’s a few years old now and more recent figures might help make the point. Thanks.

    • You know I actually started a post for 2012, it is in draft mode so check back in a few weeks and I should have it posted! I could tell they are asking for money again because the demand for the articles goes through the roof. 🙂

      • Thanks for replying. I do hope to see an updated Wikiedia post soon.

        In the meantime, I just read this today about Facebook’s salaries:

        “Glassdoor estimates that the average Facebook product manager makes $132,000 a year, while software engineers take in $114,000. Ah, but what about the poor interns that the company surely exploits for some cheap coding help? Oh, they make between $5,600 and $6,300 a month—the equivalent of $65,000 to $75,000 a year. Yes, the interns. As Business Insider notes, that’s some $25,000 more than the average American worker.”


        I’m curious to see how much the employees at Wikipedia are making in 2012 compared with just a few years ago.

      • I made an update this year but didn’t spend as much time on it because I was short on time. Wikipedia reported more employees this year which brought down the “per-employee” totals. Overall their expenses just about doubled and their cash and cash equiv’s just about doubled. The wage and salary case against Wikipedia wasn’t overly strong this year however it wasn’t hard coming up with some strong negative opinion which I admit was the initial intention. Wikipedia fund-raising was just not as obnoxious in general this year so I found it less enjoyable having a negative opinion. 🙂

        Thanks for the comments.

  8. I Think we should donate to Wikipedia because Wikipedia is useful to any person …

    but in one condition, we will only donate a single dollar only and only if ….

    they cry in front of us … whoah they will never do that …. i am sure …..

  9. I read a lot of articles and stuff in Wikipedia but …

    I would rather buy myself and my family a food than donate in a site that will surely vanish many years from now ….

    people will not depend on Wikipedia alone … their are so many other sites out there with information that are more reliable than wikipedia were everyone can say whatever they want because they have this freedom to edit anything in one article and so others …

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  11. FYI 501(c)3s cannot earn money from advertising without severe tax penalties from the IRS since they are always considered Unrelated Business Income. Further advertising income threatens 501(c)3 status by leading to failing the public support test. Just like with PBS or NPR the fact that you find donation requests more upsetting than giving money to advertisers (and we all know why that is if we are honest) just don’t watch PBS during a fund drive, just don’t listen to NPR, just don’t read wikipedia until it’s over or resolve to deal with feeling guilty or just given them some money and feel superior to those who don’t.

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  13. Sure it’s nice to check stuff out, but honestly if it is something I have to be sure about, I always find another reference. Forget that academic institutions don’t allow Wiki quotations, there is just something, rather icky-like quoting Wikipedia.

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