It is not only the Indian billionaires who have realized the power of giving, small donors also seem to have caught the "giving" fever. India has moved up the rank of donors to the Wikimedia Foundation to become the sixth largest donor in 2010-11 after donors from the US, Canada, Japan, Spain and the UK.
Nearly 11,000 Indians donated $ 193,657 to the foundation, which raised a total of $ 14.81 mn through donations from across the world. Donors from the US contributed over $ 10 mn, the highest among all countries.
In 2007-08, India ranked 18th in the list with merely 583 donors contributing about $ 12,532. A year later, 2008-09, India was at 15th rank with 1759 donors contributing $ 38,776. In 2009-10, the country slipped one place to the 16th rank with 2956 donors contributing $ 52,156. An average Indian who donated gave $ 18.5 to the foundation this year up from the previous average of $ 17.6 last year.
So why did they do it? Some say that they can't imagine a life without Google and Wikipedia. Some say that it feels good to be doing something for a good cause. The reasons may be many but it will be a very small price to pay if the foundation goes on to realize its vision to create the "sum total of all human knowledge."
Says T Gautham Shenoy, a creative director at an advertising agency, "It's my way of giving something back to Wikipedia for being what it is today. Perhaps not authoritative, and definitely not without its flaws and errors but it surely is the first port of call for many of us on a daily basis and the go-to site for quick references. And can you image the result if it achieves its dream of being the storehouse of all human knowledge? This is my contribution to help make that dream come true. As they say, Information wants to be free. But it takes money to keep it free."
Coimbatore based self-employed professional, who goes by the name Sodabottle on Wikipedia, donated $ 46 to the foundation. "I was paid for speaking about Wikipedia at a conference at a college. I donated the amount to the foundation instead, as I am doing the Wikipedia outreach as a volunteer," he told ET. Contributing to Wikipedia has made him a better writer in both Tamil and English, he said.
In November last, the Wikimedia Foundation had set out on its annual fund raising exercise to keep Wikipedia, the worlds largest online encyclopedia running for free. They had set a target of raising $ 16 mn from donations across the world. Lately, the foundation has been active in emerging markets and had announced its intent to improve its focus in countries such as India and Brazil.
"Any partial or full commercial ownership of Wikipedia could severely impact its neutrality with a systemic-bias. At the same time, Jimbo Wales' focus on developing Wikipedia in Indian languages is supposed to provide a great opportunity for consolidation of knowledge with indigenous flavors from Indian sub-continent on this monolith global platform," said Milind Joshi, another donor who works as a principal business technology consultant at a top MNC in Bangalore. The rise in the number of donors is also being attributed to an increase in disposable income.
"We are concentrating on professionals who own credit cards and have high disposable incomes. There are over 18.2 million credit cards in the country and individual fundraising on the internet is potentially a very large source of funds for us," said Anirudh Bhati, Treasurer, Wikimedia India Chapter.