A Personal Appeal from Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales to Read This Blog Post

If you’ve checked out Wikipedia lately, you’ll notice that there’s a large, dramatic picture of a man named Jimmy Wales at the top of each page.  This guy is the founder of Wikipedia, and he wants you to give the Wikimedia Foundation some money to keep the lights on at Wikipedia.

So why does this squinty, temple-veined, bearded man want your money?  Wikipedia is completely free, with no advertisements or sponsorships.  Wikipedia needs donations to keep running, and since almost a third of the Internet-connected world uses Wikipedia every month, it needs a decent amount of cash to stay free.

Aside from what is, in my opinion, a very genuine and valid call to action for donations, Jimmy Wales really offered himself up for the internet’s endless humor with this latest marketing move.  But you know what’s crazy?  Wikipedia has seen 15 times as many donations with the Jimmy Wales “personal appeal” message compared to their next most effective fundraiser!

Wikipedia provides data from their fundraising campaigns publicly, and David McCandless of informationisbeautiful.com created this fantastic infographic to show the difference in effectiveness.

And in case you were wondering, Wikipedia’s least successful fundraising campaign in the last year was their “Thanks for the brain massage.” campaign which resulted in only 19 donations.

Wikipedia’s Fundraising Committee puts a lot of thought into each campaign, and they’ve documented the details of their many campaigns on their What we’ve learned so far page. They’ve conducted focus groups, surveys, and have continued to improve their results by making data driven conclusions (very cool for us data nerds).

But of course, the best part about Wikipedia’s newest fundraising campaign is what the internet has done with it.  You can add Jimmy Wales’ terrifying visage to any website with the Jimmy Wales Google Chrome extension (with some great pictures at TechCrunch).  Dustin already did the honors of christening Techerator with Mr. Wales.

And finally, I’ll leave you with what I found floating around Twitter:

(Image courtesy @yesthatkarim)

I'm convinced Jimmy Wales spends money he raises on more headshots.
Joey Ellis
heard the wikipedia ads do better with jimmy wales' face on them... so i'm adding jimmy wales to my business cards.
joshua schachter
Still no Beatles songs in the iTunes top 10. If the current promo isn't working, maybe they should put Jimmy Wales' face on top? #WalesFace
Anil Dash
If you look up "hubris" in Wikipedia, you get a picture of Jimmy Wales. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubris
Don Cruse
personal appeal to jimmy wales: stop staring into my soul
Josh Millard
  • Evan, careful here… You’ve been duped by a number of myths. Jimmy Wales isn’t “the founder” of Wikipedia. He installed some wiki software at the request of Larry Sanger, who also named it “Wikipedia”, and who also issued the first public call for participation in the project. If truth is your guidepost, then even calling Jimmy Wales the “co-founder” of Wikipedia is a stretch.

    As for that awful histogram that shows Jimbo’s ad “winning” against the other ads — again, look at the facts. Jimbo’s was the only ad to feature an image overlaying text. Of course a pretty picture is going to draw more eyeballs and clicks than plain text! Also, they don’t seem to bother mentioning that Jimbo’s ad ran 2x more often than any of the other ads, to get to that ridiculously disproportionate level. It still would have won, but I guess the Wikipedia minions didn’t feel like their Great Leader would be honored enough just to “win” — his statistics had to be fudged to look like he “crushed” the competition.

    Never mind how nobody in the media seems to have enough of a brain to ask why the Wikimedia Foundation only spends 41 cents of every received dollar on program services, earning it only one star (out of four!) from Charity Navigator on the measure of “organizational efficiency”.

    • Weeblefish

      Agreed: they should test the Jimbo ad against, say, a stock photo of a large-breasted model smiling winsomely at the reader. Given Wales’ career as a porn baron, the Jimbo fan club shouldn’t have a problem with it.

    • Smith Andy

      I like Wales

  • Jackgoldman1

    Facebook, Amazon, Wikipedia, Google, Youtube, and Twitter are all evil. They are the FAWGY Tweeters seeking global domination. Wikipedia is a faith based propaganda rag to promote liberal bias, liberal racism (liberal quotas are good quotas), and liberal bigotry (there homosexual article is some thirty pages. There heterosexual article is five pages?) What the frick? I worry about our future as a species forsaking Encyclopedia Britannica for the tragically biased Wikipedia.

    • jhern

      Its called not being lazy and getting your information from a book buddy. Try it sometime. Wikipedia is only to get a basic understanding of a topic.

      And idk why your are calling Youtube evil when you are obviously watching plenty of conspiracy theory videos on it. 

      • KodyFrazier

        By their own admission, Wikipedia is not intended to be used as a primary source, but rather as a supplemental or base from which to expand. You’re exactly right when you say it’s there to give you a basic understanding of a topic. The best thing you can do is read through Wikipedia articles and then visit their supporting links and sources to get the more academically sound information. 

  • They’re conducting focus groups and surveys, and the most successful campaign so far has only raised $47,000?

    I work in UX and market research, and a typical focus group study costs between $25,000 and $50,000 to conduct.

    Someone’s not doing it right.

    • In defense of the Wikimedia Foundation (I cringe when I say that, really I do), the $47,000 amount was annotated as “per day”. If I could trade a $25,000 set of focus groups for a $47,000-per-day revenue stream, I would do it.

  • Hey man, thanks for this post. I was thinking of doing something about this on my blog and found you… regardless of people’s suspicions, the fact remains that Wikipedia remains one of very few places that you won’t see any ads or attempts to social network you to death.

    It worked on me… I made a modest donation. Seems only fair when I use the thing almost every day.

    • David

      Hear hear.  I did too, but only after reading the “personal appeal” from one of the researchers.  (She was cute)

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  • It’d be interesting to see how Jimmy Wales compares to the lady Lilaroja =)

  • No
  • Ivan

    Wikipedia does not need your money. But it surely wants it.

  • Dev


    • I wouldn’t put it past an underpaid code developer at a Wikimedia Chapter organization to phish for credit card numbers through the donation applet.  Yet another reason NOT to donate to the Wikimedia fundraising scam.

  • Ashscott_2010

    Who ever owns Wikipedia, just “switch the lights off” and all those billions of geniuses out there will have to go to a book to find the answer as detailed. That will be a traversity and many will donate (think the fear of books is the founding reason but you can google that) lol!

  • Joz

    Soon he’ll achieve higher face recognition rate than Chairman Mao among the Chinese people when he was alive.  North Korea’s Kim would want to learn from him…

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