Are People Who Donate to Wikipedia Just Better People in General?

Man Helping Senior Woman With Shopping
Wikipedia donor helps an old lady. Photo: iStockphoto

Over the past week or so, if you’ve gone to Wikipedia (and you probably have), you’ve been confronted with the website’s annual fund-raising push, which this year took the form of a glaring, yellow banner begging you to donate just a few measly dollars to a worthy nonprofit website you use all the time. If you’re like most Wikipedia users, though, you probably ignored it and continued reading your entry about, we don’t know, Places With Fewer Than Ten Residents or Chrismukkah or whatever. Because you knew that, regardless of whether or not you gave money to Wikipedia, someone would give money to Wikipedia, and Wikipedia would continue to serve all your question-answering, information-gathering needs.

Of course, if everyone thinks this way, we have what is known as a free rider problem. Luckily, some people actually donate. But who? Who are these people? Are they just better people in general? We got in touch with four actual Wikipedia donors on Gchat to find out.

Donor #1: Rob Fields, marketer and curator, Park Slope

Why did you donate to Wikipedia?
One, I use it all the time. And I look at it like PBS or WBAI. It’s public media that should be supported. They don’t take ads, so I figure if collectively we all throw in a few bucks, it can continue to be free.

But you could have not donated and still used Wikipedia, and then you’d have $5 AND Wikipedia, so …
Nah. I think you can pay it forward. And I realize that I’m fortunate that $5, $10, isn’t that big a deal for me, so why not? After all, I spend about $4/day on Starbucks.

Do you ever pick up litter off the street and throw it out?
Sometimes. I’ve got kids, so I feel like I’m always picking up after somebody.

Donor #2: Eric Saber, sales (and songwriting), Upper West Side

Why did you donate to Wikipedia?
Because that banner is so annoying!
No, JK. I donated because it’s a tremendous resource that I use every day. I can’t think of a site I visit more often. I’m an information junkie and geek, and I remember back in the day when Encarta was like astounding and Wikipedia is just something I never could’ve dreamed of back then. So I think it’s an important thing to keep free.

But you could have not donated and still used Wikipedia, and then you’d have $5 AND Wikipedia, so …
Haha yes, but that’s what everyone else does!

How often do you call your parents?
A couple times a week. 

Donor #3: Meg Wilhoit, assistant editor for Grove Music Online at Oxford Uni Press, Greenwood Heights

Why did you donate to Wikipedia?
I’ve been involved with a lot of struggling nonprofits (arts-oriented mostly), and it made me realize that what they say on the site is true: If everyone would just chip in a little, it makes a much bigger difference than you’d think

But you could have not donated and still used Wikipedia, and then you’d have $5 AND Wikipedia, so …
True, in some sense. I guess, for me, being “the boss” at some of these organizations made me realize how much doing one’s job puts you at the mercy of other people. So I’m sympathetic
or even empathetic!

When someone’s trying to catch the elevator you’re in, do you ever secretly press the “close doors” button so you don’t have to wait for them?
Lol, no, though sometimes I may want to if I’m in a hurry!

Donor #4: Mario Vellandi, digital communications for nonprofits, Sunset Park

Why did you donate to Wikipedia?
Because they’ve helped me over many years for quick referencing. But more importantly, their appeal caught my eye (yellow background colored banner at the top of the page) and made it easy to donate (provided donation amounts, and easy payment options through third-party providers for [which] I already have accounts).

But you could have not donated and still used Wikipedia, and then you’d have $5 AND Wikipedia, so …
I donated $30. It was their appealing design that caught my eye, and additional keyword text that caught my attention.

When you’re walking on the sidewalk, do you ever have the urge to just slug the slow-walker in front of you in the back of the head?
No. It’s a tourist town for one, and second, I have empathy for people who are browsing store windows or are looking at their phone.

So, yeah, better people in general.