Wikimedia Foundation Receives $140k in Bitcoin Donations in One Week

August 8, 2014 02:43 UTC
The Wikimedia Foundation has soaked up 140k in bitcoin donations since announcing accepting the cryptocurrency last week.

The Wikimedia Foundation has soaked up $140k in bitcoin donations since accepting bitcoin donations last week. After some delay, it seems that the decision has paid off.

The renowned public domain imaging site announced its partnership with Coinbase to accept bitcoins last week. It took a surprisingly long time for Wikimedia to warm up to donations considering founder Jimmy Wales’ explicit curiosity, the obvious convenience in accepting a fee-free payment method, and the Bitcoin community’s famous generosity. But it seems that the partnership has paid off for the Wikimedia Foundation so far.

Coinbase’s role

Coinbase is helping Wikimedia along in this process and reported the donation numbers in a blog post Thursday. The San Francisco based company noted its excitement over the partnership:

“We feel that the decentralized, inclusive nature of Wikipedia is well aligned with Bitcoin and we wanted to help the Bitcoin community contribute to the democratization of information.”

The blog post also touched on Bitcoin’s exhilarating potential for crowdfunding and charity cases. “For donors worldwide, bitcoin is a convenient donation method that ensures 100% of donated funds go to the cause.” Donors are likely thanking Wikimedia for the implicit approval exhibited by accepting digital currency donations, but the ease of transactions might have also contributed to the appeal of accepting the cryptocurrency. To give you an idea of the size of the influx of donations, Wikipedia has garnered $15 million to $20 million in donations total in previous blocks of fundraising efforts.

Overblown Privacy Concerns?

Wikimedia requests for identifying information, like name and address, from all donors. The Bitcoin community expressed concerns about this mechanism for donation acceptance, which more than a few found overreaching and privacy intrusive. Some pinned these requirements on the U.S. government for imposing burdensome transparency requirements on non-profits.

Other savvy users pointed out that this is probably so donors can get a tax refund and/or so Wikimedia can invite future donations. If donors enter a fake name and address, it will go through all the same–it is not difficult to fool.

Initial Hesitance

Again, nonprofit organizations are expected to be very transparent. Bitcoin’s alleged anonymity properties could have been one reason for a wait-and-see approach. The Wikimedia Foundation attributed its reluctance to accept Bitcoin donations in part to murky Internal Revenue Service laws. But since the IRS issued guidance on virtual currency earlier this year, the organization felt comfortable reconsidering its position–a sign that clarification from governments can produce positive results.

Cryptocoins News writer Caleb Chen emailed Wikimedia earlier this year about the prospect of bitcoin donations. They replied “We do, however, strive to provide as many methods of donating as possible and continue to monitor Bitcoin with interest and may revisit this position should circumstances change.” Indeed they have changed.

The Foundation famously promotes a philosophy of free knowledge. The various Wikimedia Foundation outlets provide free information, images, data and other material for anyone to use. For example, Cryptocoins News uses many Wikimedia Commons pictures for the website. The San Francisco-based non-profit hosts a number of famous wikis, including Wikipedia. The organization survives solely on donations.

Featured image by Shutterstock.

Last modified: August 8, 2014 18:47 UTC


Alyssa earn a B.A. in history from the University of Minnesota. She's written for Motherboard, Reason, and PolicyMic. Get in touch on Twitter: @AlyssaHertig