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#50900 - 01/12/19 12:37 AM Wikipedia
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Several years ago, in response to a post that encouraged contributions to Wikipedia, tacit argued that they had already accumulated an unreasonable amount of cash and weren't necessarily in need of more.

When I looked at the numbers, I saw that he was perhaps correct in his assessment, and I've followed them on and off since then. Here are their most recent available numbers:

In their 2016-2017 Annual Report, Wikimedia, Wikipedia's parent organization, reported having $105 million in cash, cash equivalents, and short term investments, approximately $20 million of which derived from that year's donations and contributions.

They've been accumulating cash at an astonishing rate for the past bunch of years (they had $25 million in June 2012.), and they continue to unabashedly solicit more with neither a particular current need for it nor a specific future spending plan, and while they're certainly a worthy organization, it sure looks like they're overplaying their need for support dollars, and people should perhaps consider redirecting theirs to organizations that REALLY DO need them.

It's looks like Wikimedia is caught up in a "there's never enough and no such thing as too much" syndrome.

I'd love to think that their solicitations aren't gratuitous, but I haven't found any evidence to the contrary.
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#50901 - 01/12/19 06:14 AM Re: Wikipedia [Re: artie505]
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
Originally Posted By: artie505
....it sure looks like they're overplaying their need for support dollars, and people should perhaps consider redirecting theirs to organizations that REALLY DO need them.

You didn't ask for suggestions but, opportunist that I am, I'll take this opening to recommend a site I support - The Internet Archives . Love old radio shows? ....this is the place for you. Ditto old TV shows. Just want to read? ....how about 3,000,000 public-domain books and growing. And there's too much more even to think about describing it here.

One of the things I like about this site (they've been around since 1996) is that they are also activists, fighting for a free and open internet.
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#50903 - 01/12/19 10:45 AM Re: Wikipedia [Re: artie505]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
I am not sure what your complaint is. According to their numbers 95% of Wikimedia's income is derived from Donations which tallies nicely with their claim of being supported by contributions. Their cost of operations averages out to $5,761,396 a month and the income from investments and other non-contribution sources average $314,039.25 a month which would leave them $5,447,357 in the red each and every month without the contributions.

What I see in their numbers is...
  • Wikimedia is providing a service that offers sufficient value to the user base that they are willing to contribute (pay) for the privilege of using the services provided. (While it isn't mentioned here I have no reason to doubt that only a relative small percentage of users actually contribute. The same is true of most non-profit institutions including churches.)
  • 12% of their costs are for fundraising which is perhaps slightly high (≤ 10% would be ideal, but I have seen fundraising costs exceed 30% and in extreme case 70%)
  • the $3,809,286 item for Donation Processing Expenses may sound high but as it is only 4.35% of the total donations and contributions it is actually on the low side of what banks typically charge for Credit Card processing and transaction fees.
  • The investment in Property, Plant, and Equipment seems relatively modest.
  • What is missing is beginning balance sheet data that would give a better picture of where the $22,105,660 increase in net assets actually lie.
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#50922 - 01/15/19 04:00 AM Re: Wikipedia [Re: joemikeb]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
This isn't about whether or not Wikimedia needs contributions (which it obviously does) or how it's run. It's about its having been created to give back, not to accumulate money for no particular purpose other than to accumulate it as it appears to have done and be doing on an ongoing basis.

There certainly are organizations that can justify huge balances as necessary to support their current operations and future known and potential needs, but even their accumulation of money is in danger of becoming money for money's sake rather than for purpose's sake, which appears to be the mode Wikimedia is in.

I don't think anybody other than Congress can force the issue, and that's not likely to ever happen, and, on the other hand, all those billions of dollars are supporting the stock market, not to mention probably helping keep the national debt afloat, so I guess the status will remain quo.
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#51027 - 01/29/19 09:20 AM Re: Wikipedia [Re: artie505]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
I'm confused by what organizations Wikipedia is connected to. Wikipedia itself probably needs money, but I don't know about all that other stuff.

I support a classical guitarist in Germany through Patreon. I guess you could call that my charity. I put a lot of thought into how I spend my pennies. You do that when you don't have that many. I come from a line of independent people: small business, farmers, restaurateurs. People who for whatever reason had to be their own bosses. Instead of sinking my money into Africa or something like that, I figure the best thing to do is pay for a person's product or service. Is there software you like? Buy it. Music? Buy the CD, see a show. Like your doctor? Then pay him. You can't have a successful economy where people don't spend money. Giving it all to China seems like a waste of time.

I do sometimes worry about elephants (Africa).
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#51028 - 01/29/19 09:22 AM Re: Wikipedia [Re: deniro]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
I've done a lot of editing for Wikipedia. The headquarters is in San Francisco, but most of the people I've encountered online are British. Maybe Americans don't like encyclopedias. I always have.
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#51029 - 01/29/19 11:57 AM Re: Wikipedia [Re: deniro]
freelance Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: London, UK
Originally Posted By: deniro
Maybe Americans don't like encyclopedias.


If Americans don't like encyclopedias, it's probably because of encyclopedia salesmen, who like to target new parents. I know...
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#51031 - 01/29/19 12:42 PM Re: Wikipedia [Re: artie505]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: artie505
This isn't about whether or not Wikimedia needs contributions (which it obviously does) or how it's run. It's about its having been created to give back, not to accumulate money for no particular purpose other than to accumulate it as it appears to have done and be doing on an ongoing basis.

There certainly are organizations that can justify huge balances as necessary to support their current operations and future known and potential needs, but even their accumulation of money is in danger of becoming money for money's sake rather than for purpose's sake, which appears to be the mode Wikimedia is in.

and how would you see Wikipedia "giving back"? confused

To me the service Wikimedia provides IS "giving back". A relative few users actually contribute to their operations while millions of users around the world benefit from the services provided.

I am a "member" of and contribute to a several organizations like Wikipedia who provide "free" services to the public. From serving on the board of one of these convinces me the financial realities for such organizations inevitably dictate that unless they have and maintain substantial assets and reserves they either go out of business or switch to a pay for access or advertising model and the free public services disappear. By-the-way you would probably find the amount of government regulation of these organizations is staggering and a substantial part of the "cost of operation" is compliance with and documentation of said government regulations.
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#51044 - 01/31/19 08:59 AM Re: Wikipedia [Re: joemikeb]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
"government regulation of these organizations is staggering and a substantial part of the "cost of operation" is compliance with and documentation of said government regulations."

Doesn't surprise me a bit. But anyone who brings up reducing government regulation of any kind is automatically dismissed as evil or insane or stupid—as not even a human being, more like a piece of furniture that's in the way. This reduction of people to objects or abstract symbols has been one of the more ominous developments in my lifetime. The internet makes it worse because although our privacy is constantly being invaded we remain to some degree strangers to each other.
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#51049 - 02/03/19 02:00 AM Re: Wikipedia [Re: joemikeb]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: joemikeb
Originally Posted By: artie505
This isn't about whether or not Wikimedia needs contributions (which it obviously does) or how it's run. It's about its having been created to give back, not to accumulate money for no particular purpose other than to accumulate it as it appears to have done and be doing on an ongoing basis.

There certainly are organizations that can justify huge balances as necessary to support their current operations and future known and potential needs, but even their accumulation of money is in danger of becoming money for money's sake rather than for purpose's sake, which appears to be the mode Wikimedia is in.

and how would you see Wikipedia "giving back"? confused

I haven't got a clue about how Wikimedia might "give back", i.e. spend their money...couldn't even begin to hazard a guess without reading their charter to see how they're allowed to spend it.

Originally Posted By: joemikeb
To me the service Wikimedia provides IS "giving back".

True, but their accumulation of vast sums of money for no particular purpose is NOT IN KEEPING with their "giving back", and, in fact, I'd call it taking...and in the grossest way.

Originally Posted By: joemikeb
I am a "member" of and contribute to a several organizations like Wikipedia who provide "free" services to the public. From serving on the board of one of these convinces me the financial realities for such organizations inevitably dictate that unless they have and maintain substantial assets and reserves they either go out of business or switch to a pay for access or advertising model and the free public services disappear.

Every entity needs a cushion, but there's a point at which enough is enough.

And I"ll go out on a limb and say that it seems to me that a well run organization that's fulfilling a valid and relevant need should be self-sustaining and not need to accumulate a mattress-full of money when a much smaller cushion would suffice.

Remember, too, that some percentage of Wikimedia's accumulated funds came from students and others who are broke if not poverty stricken, but were kinda cowed into giving when their gratitude for the benefit they derived from Wikipedia ran head-on into Wikimedia's aggressive fundraising.

Perpetuating that is unconscionable!

I suggest that we table this discussion for five or six years, at which point either Wikimedia will have spent A LOT of their money within the scope of their charitable purpose, or, if nothing changes radically, they'll have $250,000,000 (that's a quarter of a billion dollars) socked away for us to "argue" about.


Edited by artie505 (02/03/19 10:32 AM)
Edit Reason: More thoughtful
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