Wikipedia, funding, and scale

Wikipedia may be getting some bad press these past few days, but its success is undeniable. It does so well as a community to self-validate material — particularly the most used articles — that I’ve come to rely on it several times a day. I think you could develop good adult faith formation courses with items already available, and without license costs or restrictions. Good stuff and a good idea.


So how is it funded? Individuals mainly, in quarterly appeals. What amazes me is how mass collective effort drives Wikipedia, and also funds it. I note one foundation gift, of $40k. Conventional wisdom would suggest that deep pocked should be giving the bulk of the funds, with small contributions decorating the edges. But in this recent appeal, the average (presumably the mean) contribution for any given day has been in the US$20-30 range. I looked in the current appeal and back to the third quarter appeal and noted the gifts given — did I mention the transparency of donations and budget — and while there was one I noted for $700 and several for $1, most were between $10 and $50. This shouldn’t work but it does, and they have two full-time and two part-time employees, and tons of hardware costs, besides.

Some links:
Fund drives/2005/Q4/Daily report
2005 Budget

(I now know more about the Wikimedia Foundation budget than I do of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s, which — though public — isn’t nearly as easy to access or digest.)

Now, I know not everything in the world can be done so cheaply. And I know that Wikipedia benfits from its global reach. But I have to ask myself: shouldn’t other institutions be asked to maintain a higher-than-expected standard for fundraising, service providing, user participation, and financial transparancy.

I’m thinking of churches, of course. Or if that seems unfair, church-related outreach organizations.

I’m thinking there are lessons here.

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