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Charity Commission approves promoting Wikipedia as a charitable purpose

Charity Commission approves promoting Wikipedia as a charitable purpose
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Charity Commission approves promoting Wikipedia as a charitable purpose4

Governance | Vibeka Mair | 7 Nov 2011

Wikimedia UK, the UK membership organisation which supports Wikipedia, has set a precedent by gaining charitable status in the UK under the new charitable purpose of promoting “open content” such as Wikipedia.

Until now, the promotion of open access to content and users-generated and –enriched content has not been recognised as a charitable status by the Charity Commission.

Lawyers Stone King, which represented Wikimedia UK in its application to the Charity Commission, said it was delighted that the Commission had made this “bold and wholly justified step” that acknowledges the profound contribution that properly managed and regulated open content makes to society.

“The decision reflects the Commission’s acceptance that charities can operate for charitable purpose other than those expressly set out in the Charities Act 2006,” said a spokesman. “ And that more comfortably fit under the heading ‘objects of general public utility’ famously proposed by Mr Samuel Romilly and others in the 19th century.”

However, while accepting Stone King’s application on behalf of Wikimedia UK, the Commission has been at pains to point out the publication of information useful to the public and promotion of open content are not inherently charitable activities.

Wikimedia UK recently appointed its first chief executive Jon Davies, former chief executive of charity Family need Fathers, and it will open new offices in central London on November 14th.

On the 14th, Wikimedia also launches its annual global fundraiser aiming to raise £1m to support Wikipedia and its sister projects

Going forward, Wikimedia UK plans to work with a growing range of major organizations, including the British Museum and British Library.

Roger Bamkin, chair of Wikimedia UK said, “Achieving charitable status is the culmination of hard work by the Board and by Wikipedian John Byrne and board member Steve Virgin. John, in particular, has worked tirelessly with the volunteer community to create the most persuasive case and to recruit the best legal team to present it.

"Wikimedia UK is anticipating another successful year of outreach and believes we will build further upon the time, dedication and effort of a wonderful group of volunteers in the Wikimedia community. We would like to thank the charity team of Stone King LLP for their outstanding work, and understanding of our unique activities.”

 

Gregory Kohs
CEO
MyWikiBiz
7 Nov 2011

Because the Wikimedia Foundation spends only 46 cents of every revenue dollar on the program services it is chartered to uphold, I cannot think of a worse avenue of charitable "expansion" than this Wikimedia UK puppet organization. More and more waste and overhead seems to be annual mantra at the Wikimedia Foundation, but it never sinks in among the gullible donating public.

Nihiltres
Wikipedian
13 Nov 2011
Response to [Gregory Kohs]

Will I have to debunk this nonsense everywhere you post it? Gregory Kohs has been going around on the Internet spouting this "46%" figure that's nonsense.

His 46% figure is based on program service expenses over revenue, which is a silly figure to use, rather than program services over total expenses. Most of the remainder goes to an operating reserve (i.e. hasn't been spent yet). If you look at the sane figure of program service expenses over total expenses, the Wikimedia Foundation spends 75% (fairly normal). Kohs is cherry-picking a number skewed by sensible precaution for an organization funded entirely through donations.

***Further content removed as breach of community standards***

Tom Morris
7 Nov 2011

Just to be clear, the Wikimedia Foundation (a US 501(c)(3) non-profit) are hoping to raise a lot more than £1m (last year, the Foundation raised about $15m). The fundraiser is a joint operation between the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia UK, and £1m is the goal for Wikimedia UK.

Richard Symonds
Office Manager
Wikimedia UK
7 Nov 2011
Response to [Tom Morris]

Well said Tom - the £1m is just from the UK.

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