Once a year, Wikipedia runs their big donation campaign -- "Oh! Won't you please donate to Wikipedia? It's only the cost of a cup of coffee! We really need every penny!" It's all lies. Wikipedia is rich. How rich? $250,965,422 to be exact, with an additional 105 million dollars in the Wikipedia endowment, which is counted separately for some reason. "Okay," you might say, "but Wikipedia is a popular website, it must cost a lot of money to run it." You are right, it costs $2,704,842 in internet hosting, and $405,885 in "in kind" expenses every year. These are all big numbers, but notice how the costs seem to be a lot smaller numbers than their assets. In fact, Wikipedia has enough money to keep running until the year 2103 A.D. not counting the endowment.
What do they do with all the money?
If you go to Wikipedia's donation page, it says...
Where your donation goes
Technology: Servers, bandwidth, maintenance, development. Wikipedia is one of the top 10 websites in the world, and it runs on a fraction of what other top websites spend.
People and Projects: The other top websites have thousands of employees. We have about 700 staff and contractors to support a wide variety of projects, making your donation a great investment in a highly-efficient not-for-profit organization.
Hmm... They put technology first, so that's probably what they spend the most on, right? Lol, no. They spent close to $150,000,000 on the other thing from 2021 to 2022 alone. I would go into a long rant about how misleading this is, but I'm too lazy to. Anyways let's look at that in number in more detail.
(By the way, all these numbers are from Wikipedia's yearly Audit reports. Wait a second... They are audited by KPMG, the same company that audited all those banks that just failed???? Hmmm....)
$88,111,412 -> "Salaries and wages"
Sorry, I thought Wikipedia was written by volunteers. Oh wait, it is. I know because I have submitted a few changes to Wikipedia, even written entire sections of articles. You know what I got for that? $0, exactly what I thought everyone else did. So who are all these "Staff Members" getting these millions?
|Group||Amount of Money Spent||Comment|
|Fund-raising||$7,208,287||Notice how this is twice the actual expenses of the website.|
|General and Administrative||$11,531,675||Very Specific|
|Programs||$69,371,450||Oh yeah, that other thing instead of the real reason people donate.|
This whole "programs" thing keeps bothering me, so I tried digging around for more information.
This part of the blog post was supposed to be about everything Wikipedia wastes their money on, but it is really hard to find out where that money actually goes. I swear, I spent 3 hours trying to find out specific information, but everything I found is really vague. The only things I could find are about the CEO (I thought this was a charity) and some other board members getting a few hundred thousand here and there, and how some of the money goes to local chapters of the Wikimedia foundation, and how sometimes that money gets spent in bad ways, but there was very little concrete information on what they do with all $150 million of the budget. Either way, you shouldn't donate to people who won't tell you what they do with the money, try to mislead you by saying they spend it mostly on technology, and don't even need it anyways since they have close to a 100 years of funding for their core mission.
I was planning on making a much stronger point, but it's really hard to find specific evidence. (If you know any specific details about where all the money goes, feel free to contact me. Details are on the home page.) Still, I know what some of you are going to say, so I'll try to counter it now.
"I'm sure the costs are justified somehow."
No. We have already established that the costs aren't going into keeping the website up. The writers and administrators of the articles aren't getting paid (With all the money they have, they could have given each active editor $3750 a year but they don't). You can't claim it's all in development of a website that's changed very little in the past 10 years (don't bring up the new look or some small optimizations like that's really worth hundreds of millions of dollars). Where is all the money going?
Wikipedia can function on a lean budget. In 2007, despite still being one of the most popular sites on the internet, Wikipedia had a budget of around $2,000,000. A quarter of that went to keeping the website up, only $415,006 went to salaries and wages (including the mysterious "projects" category), and fundraising cost only $54,712. And Wikipedia was arguably a bigger project back then, they had twice the number of active editors compared to today. (Lots of people have stopped contributing to Wikipedia due to how cult like the admins have become, but that's another issue.) I don't see how the costs of the website went from a quarter of the budget to 2% of the budget, with the rest now going to salaries and fundraising. I am not the first one to point this out. In 2017, back when the budget was "only" 65 million dollars, a Wikipedia contributor wrote an article talking about some of the same things , although at a much smaller scale compared to today.
I think what's happened to Wikipedia is similar to what all the big tech companies were going through a few years ago. They had so much easy money that they didn't really care what they spent the money on. They hired all these people who didn't justify their salaries, and they could shrug it off. If you value freely accessible knowledge online, Don't Donate to Wikipedia. Teach them financial discipline now while times are good and the money is still rolling in, or you can watch them squander away centuries worth of funding until their eventual bankruptcy.
P.S. People keep complaining about how Wikipedia doesn't have enough women and minority editors. I'm sure an easy way to fix that would be to give those people that $3750. It would work a lot better than whatever they've been failing at doing for the past 20 years. Seriously, enough money to last until the next century??? and they spend that mostly on "programs"???