Five years ago, we launched the Wikimedia Endowment as an independent, permanent fund to support a strong future for Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects. That launch was preceded by years of thoughtful discussion among Foundation staff and volunteer communities about what needs we would foresee for the projects, and how we could protect them for future generations.
In those discussions, we asked ourselves questions like: What purpose would the Endowment serve? How long would it take before investment income from the Endowment could be used? How could we build a fund that maintained the projects’ independence, while still aligning with the values of the movement? We decided to move forward with our plans for an Endowment in 2016 to commemorate the critical role Wikipedia played in the world in its 15th year, and further ensure its sustainability. We set a target to reach $100 million by 2026, the first 10 years of the Endowment’s existence.
Now in Wikipedia’s 20th year, it is with immense gratitude that we announce that the Wikimedia Endowment has reached its initial $100 million goal ahead of schedule. With this milestone, the Wikimedia movement will have a critical base level of funds to continue to flourish and thrive over the long-term. This milestone was achieved thanks to the generosity of our Endowment donors, who find value in the volunteer-created content on Wikimedia projects and want to protect and support its growth for others to benefit from.
The purpose of endowments
In the nonprofit sector, endowments are considered an important part of proactive financial planning for organizations that aspire to fulfill their mission for the long-term. While organizations look to annual fundraising and other revenue streams to support their day-to-day operations, they look to endowments to provide support for their goals and mission well into the future.
People around the world have demonstrated the incredible value they find in Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects as trusted, reliable sources of information. Yet we also know that our projects have a long way to go before achieving true knowledge equity. There are more people to bring into our movement, content gaps to be addressed, and new demands of a changing Internet to be met. With this important milestone, the Endowment will help provide a baseline level of financial support to Wikimedia projects, and better position the movement to tackle long-term challenges.
In practical terms, this means that investment income from the Endowment can now be used to support Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects. The Wikimedia Endowment Board will be sharing more about their plans for the Endowment later this fiscal year. Please keep an eye out for updates here on Diff and on the Wikimedia Endowment Meta page for more information.
In addition, the Endowment, which was initially hosted as a Collective Action Fund with the Tides Foundation, will be transferred to its own permanent US charitable 501(c)(3) organization later this year. This new organization will give the Endowment the independence it needs to operate and support Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects.
Meet the new members of the Wikimedia Endowment Board
As part of reaching this critical milestone, the Wikimedia Endowment Board is also expanding to support the needs of the Endowment in its next chapter. Three new members were welcomed to the Endowment Board, adding important community and movement experience as well as expertise in nonprofit management. New Endowment Board members include:
Phoebe Ayers is a long-time editor in English Wikipedia, Commons, Wikidata, Wikivoyage, and other Wikimedia projects. A former Wikimedia Foundation Board Trustee, she has become a seasoned participant in Wikimedia Foundation governance, as well as community events, including many Wikimania conferences, and outreach to educators and librarians. Ayers has been an academic reference librarian in the science and engineering library at Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 2015. Prior, she was a librarian in the Physical Sciences & Engineering Library at the University of California, Davis.
Annette Campbell-White, fellow Wikimedia Endowment Board member, said, “The addition of Phoebe Ayers to the Endowment Board of the Wikimedia Foundation is a very welcome event. Phoebe is not only a long standing member of the Wikipedia community, but she has participated in Wikipedia’s growth and development over many years. Her knowledge and experience will help ensure that the goals of the Wikimedia Endowment remain congruent with those of Wikimedia Foundation itself.”
Patricio Lorente of City Bell, Argentina has also been appointed to the Wikimedia Endowment Board. Lorente is a scholar devoted to outreach activities in education. He is currently the General Secretary of Administration of the National University of La Plata. Lorente joined Spanish Wikipedia as an editor in early 2005 and has been an administrator since 2006. He is a founding member of Wikimedia Argentina and served as president from 2007 – 2012. He was selected as a Wikimedia Foundation Board Trustee in the years 2012, 2014, and 2016. He served as chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board from July 2015 through June 2016.
Wikipedia founder and Community Founder Director of the Endowment Advisory Board, Jimmy Wales, says, “Patricio is a longtime well known and well trusted Wikipedian. His deep experience in the community and as Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation makes him perfect for the Endowment board.”
Doron Weber currently serves as Vice President of Programs at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Weber is a graduate of Brown University (B.A). and studied at the Sorbonne and Oxford University (M.A., 1981), where he was a Rhodes Scholar. At the Sloan Foundation, he runs the Public Understanding of Science and Technology Program, with national programs in science and the arts, and the Universal Access to Knowledge Program, which has supported the Wikimedia Foundation since 2008. A published author, Doron has been a Wikimedia Foundation Board Visitor since 2011, mentored by Jan-Bart de Vreede.
Senior Director of Development, Caitlin Virtue, shared, “As one of the longest institutional supporters of the Wikimedia Foundation, Doron has consistently been engaged with our movement– both individually and through the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He is incredibly knowledgeable about our movement and has hands-on philanthropic experience. Doron has consistently demonstrated his passion for Wikimedia’s mission over the past decade.
We welcome the new Wikimedia Endowment Board members who will guide this next phase of the Endowment’s maturity.
Wikimedia Endowment Advisory Board:
- Phoebe Ayers
- Peter Baldwin
- Annette Campbell-White
- Niels Christian Nielsen
- Michael Kim
- Patricio Lorente
- Jimmy Wales
- Doron Weber
As part of this announcement, we also have added an FAQ on the Endowment meta page with more details on the Wikimedia Endowment. We invite you to ask questions and join the conversation via the talk page where Fundraising staff will be reviewing and responding to comments and questions.