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Despite tough economy, Wikimedia raises $20 million in donations

January 4, 2012

Wikimedia Foundation is marking the new year with a hefty deposit into its coffers.

The San Francisco-based non-profit group that maintains Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, officially closed its annual fundraising drive on Tuesday. The total amount raised: $20 million.

That’s a record, and a step up from the $16 million Wikimedia raised last year during a nearly two-month-long fundraising effort.

Raising $20 million may seem commonplace by the standards of today’s super-heated venture capital start-up world. But given the difficult economic environment, and some of the struggles that other non-profits have experienced raising money, Wikimedia’s result is notable.

The drive garnered some big-ticket donations, such as $500,000 from Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife’s foundation. But according to Wikimedia, the majority of the pledges came from more than a million ordinary folks coughing up donations in the $20 range.

The money will help Wikimedia — whose more than 20 million Wikipedia articles are written and edited for free by volunteers — pay for the technology and infrastructure necessary to keep the service growing, develop new features for the website and bolster its legal defense fund.

Wikimedia’s record-breaking fundraising drive still isn’t enough to cover the 90-employee organization’s operating budget. According to Wikimedia communications head Jay Walsh, the operating budget for the 2011 fiscal year ending June 30 is $28 million.

Don’t expect those banner images of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales asking for money to reappear on the website though. According to Walsh, Wikimedia  is confident the remainder of its financing needs will come in through donations and grants in the months ahead.

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