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The 2010 Wikipedia Fundraising Campaign is the online encyclopedia’s first fundraising campaign which implemented a site-wide banner ad featuring photographs of the founder Jimmy Wales and a donation plea that begins with “Please Read: A Personal Appeal From Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales.” Following its launch in November 2010, the banner ad became a popular subject of parodies based on the phrasal template “Please read: A Personal Appeal from (X) Founder (Y).”
As Wikipedia is both a non-profit and free-to-use worldwide organization, The Wikimedia Foundation raises money on a yearly basis to sustain both staff and web servers. After five months of planning, a group of volunteers launched a campaign placing an image of the site’s founder Jimmy Wales and a link to a personal message from him and donation page at the top of every article on Wikipedia. The ads were implemented on November 15th, 2010, calling on anyone visiting Wikipedia to donate $20 or more to support the website.
Please read: A Personal Appeal from (X) Founder (Y)
Shortly after its first appearance on the site, a Google Chrome browser extension was created that would place Mr. Wales’ appeal on the top of every web page. The appeal was parodied on Uncyclopedia, PC Gamer and The Next Web. On November 25th, 4chan implemented a similar banner ad featuring moot that redirected to a fisheye photo of an orange cat.
Additionally, many users began sharing screenshots of Wikipedia entries showing both the banner ad and the article title, thus visually associating his message with entries that are irrelevant to the campaign. Due to the prevalent display of the ad unit across Wikipedia pages, many Internet users quickly responded with their opinions and parody images featuring a wide variety of website founders and business leaders began spreading.
Despite being $1 million short of their goal on December 3st, 2010, Wikipedia’s fund-raising campaign reached its target of $16 million in just 50 days, in comparison to $8.7 million the site raised in 67 days at the end of 2009. More than 500,000 users contributed from 140 countries, with an average contribution of $22.
Banner Ad Testing in 2011
Beginning in June 2011, Wikipedia began testing a wide variety of similar banner ads expanding the images to not only include Jimmy Wales but other employees of the Wikimedia Foundation as well. One of the pleas featured Brandon Harris (shown below, center), a staff programmer who says he quit his job building “some crappy thing that’s designed to steal money from some kid who doesn’t know it” to work with Wikipedia. These ads were often screenshot with entry titles to yield an oddly-fitting, inappropriate or absurd comedic effect. Widely shared online, many of these images were featured on the single topic Tumblr A Personal Appeal.
According to the Wikipedia article about its own fundraising efforts, the banner featuring Harris was the first banner ad to outperform the one with Jimmy Wales, signaling an optimistic outlook for the organization’s goal to raise $25 million by the end of 2011. In January 2012, the company announced they had raised more than $20 million from more than 1 million people in different countries.
Search queries for “wikipedia donation” peak during the last month of each year, coinciding with the website’s launch of end-of-year campaigns.
WIkimedia Foundation – Wikimedia Fundraiser Concludes with Record Breaking Donations
fn13, Uncyclopedia – A personal appeal from Jimbo Wales