The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that sponsors internet institutions like Wikipedia, Wiktionary, and Wiki-quotes, began accepting Bitcoin donations via Coinbase in late July, a little more than one week ago. During the first week, Coinbase has now announced, the site earned more than $140,000 — about $20,000 a day.
The move to officially accept Bitcoin followed several months of Wikimedia unofficially accepting Bitcoin via an address posted on Wikimedia founder Jimmy Wales’ Twitter feed back in March. At the time, Wales made a Reddit post that mentioned that he was exploring the idea of accepting Bitcoin, but was hesitant due to a paradoxical effect in which users were less likely to donate when given more diverse payment options. In other words, Wales was trying to determine whether or not Bitcoin was worth it.
Evidently, he decided that it was, and the results have been impressive. For some context, the foundation, which runs no ads and depends on public donation to continue running its (not inexpensive) digital server and editorial operations, garnered about $18.7 million in 2013, making last week’s Bitcoin haul only about 0.8% of the total. Still, there are 52 weeks in a year. Almost one percent a week, if that were to keep up, would represent a bit less than half of last year’s total. Of course, that isn’t likely: people are enthusiastic about the new technology, and may be more inclined to give simply out of that enthusiasm, but enthusiasm has its limits. As with Overstock.com, it’s likely that that revenue will drop considerably in the coming months. Still, even in that case, this high rate of revenue indicates that Wikimedia may wind up getting a significant “Bitcoin Bump,” an undeniable win for them (and for the availability of these services on the internet).
It’s a win for Bitcoin, too. The Wikimedia Foundation has a lot of social capital on the internet. They’ve been indispensable in too many term papers, too many graduate theses, and too many satisfied idle curiosities not to command a lot of respect. Being seen to embrace Bitcoin like this is major good PR for the currency, and may be a sign of things to come.
There’s a strong chance that following the foundation’s example, we’ll see more charities accepting Bitcoin in the near future. The ease of giving, low transaction fees, and support for small donations may prove to make Bitcoin a savior for many charities, and this early success helps to prove the principle.