The best way to support Wikipedia is with your time


The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that hosts and provides other support for Wikipedia and its sibling projects, has been under fire recently for the messaging it uses in the infamous donation banners and the disconnect with how that funding is used. These criticisms are not particularly new, but the tension rose to a new level last month with a "Request for comment" on the English Wikipedia on whether the planned fundraising campaign banners were appropriate.

I didn't end up participating in the RfC because it coincided with a heavy travel period for me and I just didn't have time to read through it all. I also don't find arguing about random parts of the WMF's fundraising strategy to be super useful, I think it's all part of a larger picture on how the WMF allocates resources, and whether those goals and projects are inline with what editors want. (There is also the question of whether editors solely should be deciding what the WMF works on, or whether someone needs to speak up for the silent readers. So like I said, much larger picture.) I used to work at the WMF, and I'd like to think that most of the work I did was valuable and that my compensation was appropriate. A bunch of my former coworkers and friends still work there and I do think that the work they do is also valuable, and they should be compensated appropriately for it.

Anyways, there is one point I want to make, and that's the title of this post: the best way to support Wikipedia is with your time. Yes, if you give $5 or whatever to the Wikimedia Foundation, it's a reasonable investment in humanity's collective future...and there are way worse ways to spend $5. But if you give 30 minutes of your time to Wikipedia by contributing to articles, that's worth significantly more than any cash donation!

You can look through the English Wikipedia's backlog for yourself. There are currently 442,000+ articles tagged as needing more references, 98,000+ that need geographic coordinates, etc. This doesn't even include articles that have fallen out of date and need someone to update them. Over the weekend I was looking up demographics on various U.S. cities and noticed that the majority of articles I looked at were still using 2010 census data instead of the newer 2020 dataset! It was frustrating.

One major criticism of the fundraising banners tends to be that they say your money is going to supporting Wikipedia, when it's actually going to a non-profit that does support Wikipedia[1], in addition to doing some other things.

So if you want to be sure your contribution is going directly to Wikipedia, donate your time. You will see firsthand where your efforts go, and it'll be way more valuable than any financial donation.

P.S. Editing Wikipedia can become addicting; you've been warned.

[1] Critics tend to downplay how much money is actually needed to support Wikipedia on a regular basis. And the WMF has done itself no favors by being less and less transparent over the years on what it's up to!