The 2009 Wikimedia Fundraiser began on 10 November, according to Rand Montoya, Head of Community Giving for the Foundation. The messages and design for the fundraiser this year were developed with a PR firm called Fenton Communications. Fenton was hired on retainer over the next year to work on public relations for the Foundation, including the fundraiser and to help "to build the credibility" of Wikipedia; this is part of the Communications Campaign noted in the 2009–2010 WMF annual plan.
Once again, the fundraiser will feature site-wide banners across all projects. The messages for the banners are listed on Meta, while mockups of the sitenotice designs are listed on the fundraiser development site (with discussion on meta). A mockup of the donation page can also be found on the site.
The fundraiser has an overall theme of "Wikipedia Forever". Notes about the meanings of some of the individual banner messages are on meta, in a note from Jelly Helm, the PR lead.
The planned "Wikipedia Forever" campaign started drawing fire soon after the details of the campaign were made public in draft form in mid-October. Wikimedians saw in the campaign messages overtones of totalitarian propaganda, cultishness, and arrogance. The style of the messages was also criticized, with messages in all caps perceived as shouting.
An anonymous critic created wikipediaforever.org, which leads with "Chauvinism 4eva! A cult of personality 4eva! Wikipedia 4eva!™", and a "creepy" picture of Jimmy Wales. A single link leads to an explanation of some of the central objections to the campaign.
Wikimedia board member Samuel Klein (User:Sj) noted that:
A lot of these messages are ones I wouldn't use in a public talk for fear of not being understood, or coming across as arrogant - when we are really mainly modest about the known gaps in coverage, failings of our systems that we are improving, and the many things we have still to learn from other fabulous knowledge-sharing projects out there.
Messages like "This is all we know" and "Look at what you've done", said Klein, were less compelling than the comments from donors, which he described as genuine.
Rand Montoya responded to some of the criticism, noting that the current drafts for banner messages had toned down the use of all caps. However, he defended the core message as likely to be effective at both attracting donors and "elevat[ing] our perception and impact to the world." Different groups, he said, respond well to different messages, and donation data collected over the course of the fundraiser would be used to decide which messages to emphasize and which to remove from the campaign.