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Jimmy Wales: Will stare at you for food

Alex Kilpatrick | Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In case no one has noticed yet, for the past few weeks, Wikipedia has been flooded by dramatic life-size banner ads featuring founder Jimmy Wales’ terrifyingly temple-veined yet endearingly squinty face and personal plea for donations.

Because Wikipedia is entirely free to users, free of advertisements and free of sponsorships, the site needs donations to keep running. Wikimedia, the charity that runs the non-profit site, is dependent on donations to help with the $10 million per year cost of running Wikipedia. In lieu of running ads from the plethora of multi-national organizations that would love to be seen showing their support for Wikipedia, Wikimedia has been running a Christmas time appeal for donations every year for the past six years. This year, the charity hopes to raise $7.5 million.

As for the effectiveness of Wikimedia’s various fundraising campaigns, the Jimmy Wales personal appeal is the most successful yet, most likely because the gigantic ad is so in-your-face (no pun intended). The appeal rakes in more than $47,000 a day, 15 times as many donations as the next most effective fundraiser, a campaign that read, “Admit it — without Wikipedia you could never have finished that report!” and reeled in a mere $3,000 a day. The “Thanks for the brain massage” donation ad resulted in only 19 total donations.

Even “Please read: A personal appeal from Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales” tests significantly better in terms of click-through rates and daily donations than “A personal appeal from Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales” without the “Please read.” The “Please read” makes Wales’ call for money seem both more polite and urgent than it actually is.

Here are just a few of the reasons you should donate money to Wikipedia, also known as Jimmy Wales and friends.

u Jimmy Wales will not stop staring at you through your computer screen until Wikimedia raises the expected $7.5 million.

u The “Phone a Friend” option on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” will not maintain the same respect and recognition once the caller’s friend loses the resource for looking up trivial information.

u Why would you want to donate to a legitimate charity, like St. Jude’s or Partners in Health, when you could send your funds Jimmy Wales’ way this Christmas?

u Someone needs to give Jimmy Wales some money and soon so that he can afford to eat three full meals a day and shave on a regular basis.

u Jimmy Wales also needs the money to spend on more headshots.

So there you have it. If you have any doubt in your mind as to whether you should donate to Wikipedia, just take another look at Jimmy Wales’ banner ad and you’ll want to donate immediately.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Alex Kilpatrick at akilpatr@nd.edu