Fundraiser starts on November 15, aiming for $16 million in two months
Last week, Philippe Beaudette (User:Philippe (WMF)), the Wikimedia Foundation's Head of Reader Relations and leader of the upcoming annual fundraising campaign, posted a "memo to Wikimedia community, friends, staff, and other stakeholders", detailing its schedule and giving an overview of the preparations that have been ongoing since August. The campaign will kick off on Monday, November 15 (one week later than was planned in September), and will run for two months, ending around the time of Wikipedia's 10th anniversary. Explaining that the campaign had an "entirely achievable goal", but that the projected amount was "still a stretch", Beaudette said:
||This year, we have to raise $16,000,000. That’s our biggest target yet, but it’s still only a tiny fraction of what the other top-ten websites spend on their operations. It’s critical that we reach our goal to maintain the infrastructure necessary to keep Wikipedia and its sister sites running smoothly.
The fundraiser is expected to contribute most of the $20 million projected spending in the fiscal year 2010–11 (see also last week's News and notes: "Foundation's financial statements released and July's Signpost coverage of the Foundation's 2010–11 financial plan: "Plans for major expansions of the WMF".)
As in every fundraising drive since they started in 2004, the primary means for soliciting donations will be notices displayed on Wikimedia sites. The 2009–10 fundraiser – although reaching its goal in the end – had a rocky start due to concerns about its "WIKIPEDIA FOREVER" banner that was developed with a communications firm. As the Foundation's Deputy Director Erik Möller acknowledged at the time, this "was too in-your-face for many Wikipedians". There were also technical problems with some browsers that led to a disabling of the banners for several days. (See Signpost coverage: "'Wikipedia Forever' fundraiser arouses controversy", "'Wikipedia Forever' fundraiser begins")
One of the landing pages
tested for the fundraiser, featuring the appeal from Jimmy Wales
The approach taken in this year's fundraiser preparation clearly reflects lessons learnt from last year's issues, with an emphasis on community involvement ("the fundraiser you can edit"). Volunteers were invited to submit a banner proposal (adding to those by consultants), for example in last month's "Beat Jimmy" challenge (see Signpost coverage) that sought a message which would perform better than Jimmy Wales' personal appeal. However, (as in previous years) "Jimmy" continued to outscore the alternatives in the tests, with a 3% clickthrough rate. According to Beaudette, "almost 900 people were involved in the creation and discussion of potential banner messages".
As reported earlier in the Signpost, the Foundation's Chief Community Officer, Zack Exley, has been advocating an integrated view of donors, readers, and Wikipedians as part of the same community (reflected in the creation of a single "Community Department" headed by Exley, instead of separate departments responsible for fundraising and relations with volunteers/readers). This year's fundraiser introduces a novel concept of using part of the advertising space "to ask people to contribute – not financially, but with their knowledge. We will target readers, and encourage them to become editors" (after the financial goal has been met).
The Community Department's temporary staff employed for the fundraiser includes several "Community Associates", hired from the volunteer community through the "Community hiring" process started in July (Signpost coverage). These staff members are tasked with "making sure that people know about the fundraiser, trying to convince various language wikis to participate in the creation of new banners, working on our social media plan, and a few other things." Last month's hiring of another Community Associate, Christine Moellenberndt, who will act as the first point of contact for Wikimedia's Reader Relations in coming months, is indirectly related to the fundraiser, as it is intended to take workload off Beaudette during that time. He explained that she "has been a Wikimedia reader for some time, which positions her nicely as someone who can speak for the needs of our readers", and that this increase in capacity was also necessary because of the impending departure of Volunteer Coordinator Cary Bass at the end of the year (see Signpost coverage).
Research and testing
Some banners will be appearing before the launch, from Friday, November 12, for "full-scale functional testing". Occasional testing had already been ongoing during recent weeks, with the team focused on optimizing three major points in the donation process. The first is "banner messaging" (the message displayed in the ad, such as the already-mentioned high click-through rate for "Please read: a personal appeal from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales"). Secondly, regarding "banner design", the team found that graphical banners perform twice as well as text-based banners, and will therefore use them more heavily than in previous years. The third point concerns the design of the landing pages (that are reached after clicking through the banner) where the actual donation is initiated. Chicago-based research firm Webitects optimized the donation form, and has blogged about their findings – for example, that "with radio buttons of equal size for PayPal and Credit Card logos, presented on one line, users were most likely to donate". The extensive research conducted in preparation also included a focus group and a survey of past donors, carried out by contractors.
Beaudette emphasized that the fundraising team is "committed early to radical and full disclosure of all the data we had".
Technical issues and chapters
The Foundation's technical department is also involved in the fundraiser, and three staff members are working on several tasks, including the CentralNotice software extension to display the banners. The necessary changes have not come without minor disruptions, causing a very brief failure of the entire site at the end of September, and a distortion of the pageview statistics on Wikimedia sites (see Signpost coverage) that was remedied last week, as announced by Erik Zachte, the Foundation's data analyst.
A separate server has been set up at http://geoiplookup.wikimedia.org/, allowing the easier geotargeting of countries, and the involvement of a chapter's donation system if a chapter exists in that country. In that case, donations are split evenly between the Foundation and the chapter, a requirement that has recently caused headaches for some chapters (see Signpost coverage: "German chapter creates new body to meet Foundation's fundraising requirements").
See also the log of the November 5 IRC office hour with Philippe Beaudette and the fundraising team.