News and notes
Challenges for WMF fundraising; Indian flora windfall for Commons
Total donations to the WMF in the fiscal year 2015–16 by continent
Sagging pageviews and shift to mobile challenge future of WMF fundraising
The most recent Wikimedia Foundation Metrics and Activities Meeting, held in San Francisco on 30 September (full video here) included talks by fundraising staffers on the newly published 2015–16 Fundraising Report. The report comes at a time of uncertainty for the WMF's fundraising efficiency, given the much lower yield from visitors who access the Wikipedias from mobile devices, and the continued strong move from desktop to mobile readership around the world: since 2013, desktop pageviews are down 18%, mobile pageviews (web plus apps) are up 25%, and overall pageviews are down by 3%; last December saw mobile overtake desktop for the first time. These statements in the report encapsulate the impending challenge to the fundraising:
||The rise of mobile traffic does not offset the decline of desktop traffic, and overall traffic has declined slightly in recent years. This poses a challenge to our ability to raise the budget every year, because our fundraising model depends on a substantial reader base. ... Mobile fundraising is uniquely challenging compared to our established donor flow on desktop.
The Foundation's director of online fundraising, Megan Hernandez, presented the introduction (5:16–10:50). The good news is that compared with the 2014–15 fiscal year, total donations, rising from US$75.5m to $77.2m, did exceed the general rate of inflation. In 2015–16 there were 5.4m donations, yielding $28.8m from desktop, $6.3m from mobile/iPad, and $16.9m from the new approach of directly emailing previous donors (a doubling from the previous year). Average donations from mobile devices are much lower than from desktop. One issue not mentioned is that because devices are counted in the WMF’s traffic statistics, the same person can be tallied as multiple potential unique readers/donors; the extent to which this is influencing the interpretation of fundraising statistics and the size of the potential donor base is uncertain.
Hernandez was followed by the Foundation's senior fundraising email manager, Caitlin Codgill (10:55–17:15). The new strategy of forging direct online contact with previous donors, she pointed out, is now more important given the prospects of falling revenue from traditional approaches. The number of emails sent in 2015–16 grew by 40% to 14.5m; 8.7% of emails generate a donation, which is very large by industry standards (this amounted to nearly a million donations, averaging $17.60 each). The fundraising team is testing many variables to refine its use of emails in fundraising; already, the "open rate" is 2.4 times non-profit industry averages, the "click rate" 14.1 times, and the "conversion rate" to actual donating 30.9 times. Despite this promising level of engagement, the team is aware of the dangers of oversaturating potential donors, and have a policy of limiting contact to two emails per year per person.
Cogdill spoke at some length about the new attempt to engage more broadly with donors by sending out a newsletter at targeted times before donation campaigns. Newsletter reach is now being expanded to about 2m donors, and the Foundation is testing various kinds of content, including video emails, blog highlights, and "fun facts" from Wikipedia. They have found that donors who received two newsletters before the donation campaign are 14% more likely to give again. The newsletters, which presumably are sent under a free license, do not appear to be publicly archived. While the newsletters have not yet contained a direct solicitation for donations, Cogdill indicated that they likely will in the future.
Sam Patton, the WMF's campaign manager for banners, spoke about the extensive testing that has been conducted on the many variables involved in this traditional linchpin of fundraising (17:25–24:05). Among these variables has been the adoption of localised text by country, and the addition of what has turned out to be a very successful "Remind me later" option that readers can click on to have a reminder about donating emailed to them. This is a welcome development, since after 10 years of optimising desktop banners, "you reach practical limits of creativity", as Patton said. In explaining the future plans for banner development, he said: "It's all mobile for us ... as we see traffic moving there." Improvements in payment systems through finding "payment processors we could actually work with" has led to a significant rise in revenue from within the US, which invites the question of why this has taken so long.
Samples of the "remind me later" links included in various fundraising banners.
Caitlin Virtue, development outreach manager, then spoke about major gifts (24:20–26:00). More than 1400 people and institutions contributed $1,000 or more during the fiscal year, totalling $9.5m, a drop from the $10.7m raised in the previous year. Major gifts include general operating grants and restricted donations that support specific Foundation-run programs. David Strine, product manager for fundraising tech, spoke of advances made during the year, in particular technical optimisation for specific countries (26:10–28:30).
The document shows how complex and technical the path ahead is for WMF fundraising. Coincidentally, it was published in the same week as the announcement of the Nobel economics prize by Harvard's Oliver Hart and MIT's Bengt Holmström for their work on the theory of contracts. Their contribution is in part to see contracts as part of a web of interpersonal economic and social relationships of obligation, expanding their scope beyond the conventional legalistic frame. What, then, of the implicit contracts between donors and the major stakeholders, including the readers, the WMF, the editorial communities, and the affiliates? Does the reliance on small-scale giving produce a lack of accountability, and what are the movement's potential obligations towards major donors? T
Indian flora windfall for Commons
Thousands of new images are now available on Wikimedia Commons thanks to recent work from numerous Indian field biologists. What began as the pet project of V.R. Vinayaraj, who took pictures of Indian flora on the weekends and used Facebook groups to help identify the plants, has exploded into a wave of uploads from citizen scientists, photographers, and botanists throughout the subcontinent.
The Signpost spoke to two Wikimedians who have uploaded images: David Raju and Jeevan Jose.
Raju, a self-taught naturalist who has co-written a book on dragonflies, is motivated to contribute his work so that others may see what he has learned and he can contribute to global knowledge.
||I love to share whatever I have. I believe the only way we can gain more knowledge is to share our knowledge.
Raju hopes to upload images of a thousand different species of dragonflies, and he happily reports that he is well on his way.
Jose became involved in uploading images to Wikimedia Commons in 2010 after friends invited him to share his freely licensed images from Flickr more broadly. He takes great joy in learning more about insects and herbs, his two primary categories of uploads, and views Wikimedia Commons as an outlet to do just that. He shares that he has connected with prominent scientists to help identify species in photos he has taken ... in one case, a photo Jose captured could not be identified and may be a new species of crane fly.
For Jose, the motivation is intrinsic: "Every time when I photograph and share a work, I'm learning something new from the experts who commented on it. It can be a new record from my place or an interesting behavior documentation of an existing one", he says. "My experience is the more I'm willing to disseminate my works, the more my opportunity to get such friends and learn from them."
In the future, Jose hopes to establish a fund to help procure equipment for aspiring photographers to contribute images to Wikimedia Commons. His equipment came from a Wikimedia India grant. Jose also would like to see a partnership between Wikimedia and India's forestry agency to facilitate collaboration in identifying and documenting native species.
To get involved or see more work from the collaboration, check out the WikiProject that has formed on Commons. GP
- WMF to directly fund Wikidata: The Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Germany (WMDE) have reached an agreement by which the WMF will support the basic expenses of Wikidata directly, removing the need to move funds through Annual Plan grants to WMDE. The arrangement accords with the recommendation of the Funds Dissemination Committee in the past two funding cycles. Going forward, funds allocated to software development for Wikidata will be determined in the WMF's annual budgeting process. P
- Hosts enthusiastic about WikiConference North America 2016: The San Diego Public Library, which hosted this annual event last weekend, posted their thanks for "a wonderful weekend of learning and discovery". A group picture of participants appears below. T
- Importance to electoral process: The Foundation's blog has reported on the translation by Wikipedians into 30 languages of the Estonian Wikipedia article on the newly elected president of that country.
- Shortlisting: The English Wikipedia's User:Rosiestep has been shortlisted for the 2016 ITU/UN Women GEM-TECH award in the category of "Apply Technology for Women's Empowerment and Digital Inclusion." T
- Kiwix's 10th anniversary: video has been produced and disseminated to celebrate ten years of Kiwix, an app that compresses pre-downloaded wiki content for use where connectivity is poor or unavailable, or where internet censorship is a problem. Kiwis receives support from the Swiss chapter. T
- Annual plan grants open for comment. The twice-yearly round of proposals to the Funds Dissemination Committee by eligible Wikimedia affiliates for funding for programs, operating expenses, and employees and contractors has closed. Questions and comments by the community are open, through the links on this page. First-time annual plan grants can now be for multiple years of funding. T
- Swedish chapter wins social media award: A Swedish bank has awarded the chapter 100,000 Swedish kronor (~US$11,000) for "innovations in the collection and presentation of user-generated knowledge in the digital landscape." The chapter is seeking ideas from the community on how best to spend the funds, in the comments section of its announcement (Google translation). T
- WMF funds six community-led grant initiatives: This blog post outlines the six projects, spanning software development, outreach, and research. The six were selected from 13 applications.
- Central and Eastern Europe to hold conference in Warsaw: The location for the 2017 conference was announced.
Group picture of participants in WikiConference North America 2016
Disclaimer: Rosiestep, who serves on the Signpost's editorial board, was uninvolved in the writing of "News and notes" for this edition.
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