The Wikimedia Foundation has historically kept a cautious distance from Bitcoin. Back in December 2013, CCN’s Caleb Chen (then writing for Bitcoin Blogger) emailed the Wikimedia Foundation about accepting Bitcoin donations. This is the response he received:
“Thank you for your email and interest in supporting free knowledge — it seems like you already know we don’t accept bitcoins :) The Wikimedia Foundation, as a donor-driven organization, has a fiduciary duty to be responsible and prudent with its money. The Foundation does not currently accept Bitcoin or other currencies not backed by the full faith and credit of an issuing government. 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.”
This led to some Bitcoiners (unsuccessfully) trying to boycott Wikipedia until it accepted Bitcoin donations. However, in March 2014, Jimmy Wales, Wikimedia Foundation board member and co-founder of Wikipedia, started experimenting with Bitcoin.
— Jimmy Wales (@jimmy_wales) March 6, 2014
So far the accidentally viral BTC address I posted yesterday has collected 4.5+ BTC. I will donate all to Wikipedia of course.
— Jimmy Wales (@jimmy_wales) March 10, 2014
Soon afterwards, Wales took to r/bitcoin to discuss his thoughts, questions, and confusion about Bitcoin. The response with the highest points came from Rees Sloan, representing Coinbase. Sloan explained how Bitcoin transactions work, what makes Coinbase different, and invited Wales to contact Coinbase support for further questions. And now, about four months later, the Wikimedia Foundation has partnered with Coinbase to finally accept Bitcoin donations.
What Took Them So Long?
Non-profit organisations such as the Wikimedia Foundation have to be very careful and transparent about the money they receive. And since Bitcoin has been in a legal grey area for a long time, coupled with the fact that it’s easy to send and receive BTC anonymously, it makes sense that the Wikimedia Foundation would be hesitant about accepting Bitcoin. However, in today’s Wikimedia blog post, the Foundation states that the recent guidance from the IRS was one of the main reasons the Wikimedia Foundation revised its stance on Bitcoin.
Partnering with Coinbase
The Wikimedia Foundation will immediately convert Bitcoin donations to U.S. dollars by using Coinbase, which requires minimal technical implementation on Wikimedia’s end. Furthermore, Coinbase has announced today that all registered non-profit organisations can take advantage of zero processing fees for BTC to USD conversions (bypassing Coinbase’s typical 1% fee for conversions after $1,000,000 in sales).
Ways to Give
“It has always been important to the Foundation to make sure donating is as simple and inclusive as possible…Currently, we accept 13 different payment methods enabling donations from nearly every country in the world, and today, we’re adding one more: Bitcoin.”
-Lisa Gruwell, chief revenue officer at the Wikimedia Foundation
The Wikimedia Foundation has an annual budget of ~$50 million, and receives funding almost entirely through user donations. One-time Bitcoin donations can be made here, and users with Coinbase wallets can also make recurring Bitcoin donations here. It is currently not possible to donate anonymously, and a donor must enter his/her personal information such as his/her home address (although some have had success entering in dummy information).
“Your support enables us to realize the Wikimedia vision – a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.”