Last week I won a catered holiday dinner for 8 people as part of my spoils from the AIPMM Blogger Battle.  The catch was that I would have to pick it up from the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose and I live in Toronto.  As much as I like the idea of flying to San Jose and inviting a random group of people to eat roast beef with me in my hotel room, I decided someone local could make better use of it than I could.  So I’m giving my dinner to The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that supports Wikipedia.

My friend Sue Gardner is the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation and before she took the job, even though I was a frequent Wikipedia user, I never really thought about who or what was keeping the lights on over there.  In case you didn’t know, The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports Wikipedia as well as the Wikimedia Commons, Wikinews, Wikibooks and a set of other projects all aimed at accomplishing their mission of the free and open sharing of knowledge. The Wikimedia Foundation depends entirely on donations.  They do not sell information, nor do they accept advertising.

When Sue joined the Wikimedia Foundation in 2007, it was operating on a shoestring budget.  While they were certainly keeping the servers running, it did not have the resources it needed to pursue partnerships, oversee new projects and most importantly raise the funds needed to safeguard the work of hundreds of thousands of volunteers for the future.

Since then, the Foundation has undergone a transformation that has included improving the operations of the organization with proper revenue targets, annual plans and board-approved budgets, as well as focusing on projects such as the Bookshelf project, aimed at encouraging new volunteers to contribute to Wikipedia and other projects that are bringing information to communities without internet access.  This change has also been accomplished with openness and respect for the voices and opinions of a massive group of passionate volunteers who (rightfully so) feel a great deal of ownership of the content of the projects.  With a tiny team (only 33 full time staff, half of which are focused on technology) and a small budget this group is doing an amazing job maximizing the potential of Wikipedia and the other projects.

The Wikimedia Foundation has just kicked off its annual fundraising campaign.  The goal is to raise $7.5 million.  I’ve donated (and not just the roast beef either) and if you’re a frequent Wikipedia user like I am, so should you.  Click here for more info and to donate.

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