Helping Wikipedia raise more money

Work
2016 Feb 09
By Matej Sucha

Helping Wikipedia raise more money

The first proposal we ever did was a rather bold one – we pitched to Wikipedia. They didn’t ask for it but we thought we could help anyway. 

The idea emerged when we saw one fundraising banner Wiki used to approach potential donors. 

“DEAR WIKIPEDIA READERS: To protect our independence, we’ll never run ads. We take no government funds. We survive on donations averaging about €10. Now is the time we ask. If everyone reading this right now gave €2, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. We’re a small non-profit with costs of a top 5 website: servers, staff and programs. Wikipedia is something special. It is a library or a public park where we can all go to think and learn. If Wikipedia is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online and ad-free another year. Thank you.”

We thought it could be done way better by simply taking into account several simple findings from behavioural sciences. This how our proposed changes looked like.

Principle of reciprocity

People have the urge to reciprocate a gift or a service provided to them.

Original: Now is the time we ask.
Reframed: For 13 years Wikipedia has been helping you in your quest for knowledge. Now, we ask you for help.
Source: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Robert B. Cialdini, 2008)

Social proof

People follow the lead of others. If many people do something, it makes it trustworthy and right to do.

Original: We survive on donations averaging about 10 Euro.
Reframed: Already X hundred thousand people like you decided to become donors this year. We survive on their donations averaging about 10 Euro (where of course X is the real number).
Source: Cialdini, R. B., Demaine, L. Sagarin, B. J., Barrett, D. W., Rhoads, K., & Winter, P. L. (2006). Managing social norms for persuasive impact, Social Influence, 1, 3-15

Note: A list with names of Wikipedia donors could serve as additional motivation for people to donate (“My friends are on the list, I want to be there too”).

Loss aversion

Information framed as possible loss has more impact than information framed as possible gain.

Original: If Wikipedia is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online and ad-free another year. Thank you.
Rephrased: If Wikipedia is useful to you, take one minute and help not losing it for another year. Thank you.
Source: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman, 2013)

Seed money

Mentioning that a significant amount of the overall fundraising goal has already been collected encourages people to donate.

Reframe: If we don’t want to lose ad-free Wikipedia for another year we need to raise 58 million $. Already X hundred thousand people like you contributed this year with their donations summing up to 67% of what is needed. Please become a donor yourself and help achieve our common goal!
Source: The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life (Uri Gneezy, John List, 2013 )

Donor Identity

Asking people to enact their identity is more effective then asking them for a specific behavior (e.g. when you want to encourage someone to vote asking her “to become a voter” is more persuasive than asking her “to vote”).

Reframe: Please become a donor and help save ad-free Wikipedia.
Source: Bryan, C., Walton, G., Rogers, T., & Dweck, C. (2011). Motivating voter turnout by invoking the self. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(31), 12653-12656

An example of changed banner could look something like:

For 13 years Wikipedia has been helping you in your quest for knowledge. Now, we ask you for help. Please become a donor and join the X hundred thousand people like you who donated this year. If we don’t want to lose ad-free Wikipedia we need to raise 58 million $.
We have already raised 67% of the money! Together we can do it! Please help. Thank you.

So how did it all end up? To our huge surprise we received a very positive and enthusiastic answer within two days. We exchanged a couple of emails, but then, suddenly the communication stopped. We are not sure what happened with our proposal, but we hope they at least took some inspiration from our suggestions.

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