February 5, 2012; Source: Wikimedia Foundation Global Blog | We think you should each take a look at Wikimedia’s blog post about what it found out through its survey of why readers donate to the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia, and who they tend to be. If you will remember, Wikimedia’s most recent fundraising campaign raised $20 million from readers. 

Editing at Wikipedia is, of course, dependent on you and me, and our favorite takeaway is the fact that editors are much more likely to donate (26 percent did) than are regular readers (only 3 percent did). Additionally, while non-editors have donated three or fewer times, “as many as 21 percent of the editors have donated more than five times.”

This finding does get at that central principle that we all need to be reminded of: if people feel personally engaged in something, they are more likely to donate. They have ownership. This reinforced what we heard seven years ago from Eli Pariser of MoveOn.org when we interviewed him to discuss online fundraising. At that time, he said:

Our basic theory has been that you engage people on the things that they’re passionate about and they will be happy to put their money and their time where their mouths are. But this is definitely not something that you can do disingenuously—it’s not something where you trick people into giving you money by pretending to engage them on issues. The way that you get that passion and the trust which is necessary for online organizing and for online fundraising is by serving people.

Among the other things Wikimedia pulled from the study was that consciousness of Wikipedia’s nonprofit status varied quite significantly from one country to the next. Readers from India and Egypt were, by far, most aware of the organization’s nonprofit status and respondents from these two countries said they would donate in greater numbers than the rest. –Ruth McCambridge