San Francisco • Wikipedia has raised $20 million in its annual plea for donations to help expand and improve the Internet’s leading encyclopedia.
More than 1 million people contributed the money during a 46-day fundraising drive, which concluded Sunday. The amount pledged to the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit group that oversees the volunteer-driven Wikipedia, is a third more than the $15 million donated during the previous year’s fundraising campaign.
The year-end financial push accounts for most of Wikimedia’s revenue. The foundation also gets money from grants and other donations.
Wikipedia relies on the foundation to support one of the world’s most popular reference tools. Its 10-year-old website has amassed an index of more than 20 million entries in 280 languages on subjects ranging from the history of Howdy Doody to the origins of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. The free articles are compiled and maintained by about 90,000 editors who volunteer to share their research and knowledge. About 474 million people visited Wikipedia in November, according to the most recent data from the research firm comScore Inc.
Even as Wikipedia has become more influential, Wikimedia’s management has been fretting over whether the online encyclopedia will be able to afford the technology upgrades it needs to stay relevant. Wikipedia has been investing heavily to make its website more accessible and compelling on mobile devices, which are gradually replacing desktop and laptop computers as the main way people look up information on the Internet.
Attracting and retaining editors has become more difficult, a problem that Wikipedia blames on its reliance on outdated software for editing its entries. The number of editors contributing to Wikipedia has dropped from a peak of 100,000 during the past year or so. Wikipedia believes it can reach 200,000 editors and 50 million articles by pouring more money into software upgrades, hiring more engineers and upgrading its mobile tools
Wikimedia, which is based in San Francisco, is striving for revenue of $29.5 million in its fiscal year ending June 30. That would be a 19 percent increase from revenue of nearly $25 million in the previous year.
Bolstered by the success of its recent fundraising, Wikimedia is confident that it can hit its revenue target for the current fiscal year, foundation spokesman Jay Walsh said Tuesday. He declined to say how much more money Wikimedia needs reach the goal.
Wikimedia expects to spend $28.3 million in the current fiscal year, with nearly half the money going toward employee salaries and other staffing costs. The foundation currently employs about 90 workers.