Charity? Really?!

In the last few weeks I’ve been laughed at several times. Openly, with ridicule.

When introduced to new people they invariably ask me what I do and so I try to explain as quickly as I can the difference between Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia Chapters and (if they’re a techie) MediaWiki. Anyone involved in the Wikimedia world has had this conversation many times.

Now, I usually expect the question that begins “…but who controls it” and the other question that begins “…what if there’s mistakes” but what I’ve not expected is getting questions about how much money the Wikimedia movement makes from advertisements. I demur and say how there are no ads. and that the project is run by a charitable (US Based) foundation.

It is at this point I get laughed at. Most people do not know that Wikimedia projects Do.Not.Have.Ads. Many people don’t believe that We.Exist.Because.Of.Donations. Some people think I’m lying or trying to deceive them when I say it’s a charity and so they laugh in my face. And I mean 20-something, educated professionals who tell me how often they use Wikipedia already. The fact that people who I would have thought know this stuff already does come as a surprise and must be an indictment of our public information on Wikipedia itself. After all – 99% of people who use Wikipedia would never read the bit at the bottom of the page that says “Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.”

I sincerely hope the upcoming Credibility Campaign being prepared by Jay Walsh will hope alleviate this. If people (who are already using Wikipedia!) think that contributing time, effort or money to Wikipedia is just going towards a for-profit company making ludicrous amounts of money from advertisements then we’ve got a problem. At the very least it’s quite uncomfortable to be ridiculed across a dinner table for telling people that Wikimedians do it for the love of it, not for personal or corporate profit.

[n.b. Whilst the Wikimedia Foundation is a charity in the USA and most of the Chapters are also charitable in their respective country, the chapter I am a representative of – Wikimedia Australia – is a non-profit but does not meet has not yet been approved for charitable status in Australia nor has Wikimedia UK yet met their requirements. Hopefully we can sort this out soon.]

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