Wikipedia, to cofounder Jimmy Wales's eternal dismay, is a nonprofit project rather than a lucrative private enterprise. The online encyclopedia, home to volunteer-written disquisitions on subjects like the umlaut in names of heavy metal bands, hopes to raise $6 million this year in a fundraising drive now featured in prominent ads on the top of most pages on the otherwise ad-free site. How's it going?An online thermometer, which has popped on and off the site, shows that the effort has raised $2,155,883 towards its $6 million goal. But that figure is meant to deceive potential donors about the level of Wikipedia's grassroots support. It started out $2.1 million ahead, by counting previously made donations from large organizations like the Sloan Foundation, which has already agreed to give Wikipedia $3 million over the course of three years. But that's not what has Wikipedia's volunteer editors up in arms. They're calling the donation banner "ugly." They're debating how to make it easier to hide. They're even questioning whether the foundation should be asking them for money at all, since they already contribute their labor. On a Wikipedia mailing list, Nathan Awrich sums up the reaction:
My observation is that the comments have been almost universally negative, and in fact a number of people - including long time administrators and previous donors - have said that this year they will not be donating at all. Reasons have included the banner itself, a sense that the foundation does not use its money appropriately, or concerns related to allegations made by Danny Wool last spring.
Wool, a former Wikimedia Foundation employee, noted earlier this year Jimmy Wales's attempts to expense a $1,300 dinner with a venture capitalist. Now, he points out on his blog, by most standards of charities, the Wikimedia Foundation is incredibly inefficient, spending very little of the money it raises on the mission it claims to be raising money for. Wales's jetset lifestyle is the least of the issues, since much of that is funded by his speaking fees. It's time for the people Wikipedia is hitting up for donations to start asking questions about the foundation's management, starting with the executive director, Sue Gardner, and its board of directors.