Jump to content

Wikimedia Foundation

From Strategic Planning

The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States, and organized under the laws of the state of Florida, where it was initially based. It operates the Wikimedia projects. The creation of the foundation was officially announced on June 20, 2003 by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, who had been operating Wikipedia under the aegis of his company Bomis.

As a young and growing organization, it has already outgrown several internal crises, maturing very rapidly, becoming professional in its operations. Day to day operations are carried out by paid staff, led by paid executive(s). The Board consists of unpaid trustees who oversee operations from a distance.

The Frankfurt retreat in Spring of the year 2005 had set a series of goals to be achieved within three years. All those goals have been accomplished.

Goals and Mission

The Wikimedia Foundation falls under section 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue Code as a public charity. Its National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) code is B60 (Adult, Continuing Education). The foundation's by-laws declare a statement of purpose of collecting and developing educational content and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

The Wikimedia Foundation's stated goal is to develop and maintain open content, wiki-based projects and to provide the full contents of those projects to the public free of charge. This is possible thanks to its Terms of Use (updated and approved on June 2009, to adopt CC-BY-SA license).

The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

In collaboration with a network of chapters, the Foundation provides the essential infrastructure and an organizational framework for the support and development of multilingual wiki projects and other endeavors which serve this mission. The Foundation will make and keep useful information from its projects available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity.

Fundamental Reponsibilities

  • Work towards Wikimedia mission and vision
  • Protect the Wikimedia brand
  • Maintain the servers and technology platform

Major levers

These are the Wikimedia Foundation's major levers - see Theory of change for a bigger picture.

  • Technology
  • Paid staff, including core developers
  • Maintain the servers and technology platform


The Wikimedia Foundation relies on public contributions and grants to fund its mission.It is exempt from federal income tax and from state income tax. It is not a private foundation, and contributions to it qualify as tax-deductible charitable contributions. The continued technical and economic growth of each of the Wikimedia projects is dependent mostly on donations but the Wikimedia Foundation also increases its revenue by alternative means of funding such as grants, sponsorship, services (datafeed) and brand merchandising.

At the beginning of 2006, the foundation's net assets were $270,000. During the year, the organization received support and revenue totaling $1,510,000, with concurrent expenses of $790,000. Net assets increased by $720,000 to a total of over one million dollars. In 2007, the foundation continued to expand, ending the year with net assets of $1,700,000. Both income and expenses nearly doubled in 2007.

Financial History

These numbers were taken from the Form 990s filed with the IRS and available through Guidestar.

Fiscal Year Revenue
2005-2006 $1,405,385
2006-2007 $2,422,745
2007-2008 $6,739,370

Employee History

Calendar Year Number of Employees % Growth
2005 1 n/a
2006 6 500%
2007 11 83%
2008 21 91%
2009 32 52%

Source is Foundation internal records. These numbers show rapid growth, and they only tell part of the story, because it doesn't account for attrition. For example, in 2008, the Foundation moved from Tampa to San Francisco, and a few employees decided not to move with the Foundation. So the growth from 2007 to 2008 is actually higher than 91% (probably over 100%). Compound annual growth is 100%.

See Also