Faith, Hope and Charity

by Charles Miller on November 4, 2007

Looking something up today on Wikipedia, I was finally drawn in by their banner seeking donations. I use the service daily, and while I really have no idea how to work out what value I derive from its existence, it has to be worth digging into my pocket for.

Post-banner, the donation page offers me the following important directions:

If you and 99 other people donate .. $200 – We can make Wikipedia available in developing countries through DVDs, books and pamphlets. $100 – We can pay for two Wikipedia Academy events in Africa. $60 – We can send three students to our annual Wikimania conference. $40 – We can deliver 100 million pageviews of free information!

This threw me for a loop. If I send in a donation, what portion of my money will go to maintaining and improving Wikipedia itself? What portion will go to sending students (selected how?) to navel-gazing wiki-conferences? How much will go to educational programs of unknown value in unnamed African countries? I already give money to charities that provide aid in Africa, what's the overlap? The FAQ mentions I can restrict my donation to a specific purpose, but recommends against it and provides no explicit mechanism for doing so.

There's something to be said for staying on message.

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