In March, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales accidentally set the bitcoin rumor mill churning when he posted to Twitter that he was “playing with BTC.” Hoping to convince Wales, and by extension the Wikimedia Foundation, of bitcoin’s appeal, users began sending Wales donations of small amounts of BTC. Those donations and tips quickly added up, resulting in over 22 BTC ($12,700) being sent to Wales’ private address. Wales later posted that he had gotten the message, and that he would present the idea of accepting bitcoin donations to the Wikimedia board.
Clearly, the Wikimedia Foundation heard the demand loud and clear: Bitcoin is now accepted for donations at Wikipedia and its related projects.
Writing on the Wikimedia Foundation blog, Chief Revenue Officer Lisa Gruwell said that community interest was one of the biggest driving factors in the decision. “These requests, coupled with recent guidance from the IRS, encouraged the Foundation to once again review our capacity to accept Bitcoin.”
As Wales himself noted months ago, bitcoin may have more to gain from being accepted by Wikipedia than the other way around, as the risks of accepting a legally iffy form of currency may not outweigh the advantages. To mitigate this risk, Wikimedia has partnered with bitcoin payment processor Coinbase, allowing the foundation to instantly convert such donations to U.S. dollars. As Gruwell noted: “Since we now also have guidance on how to account for Bitcoin, there is a clear understanding of how to legally manage it.”
On their post about the new partnership. Coinbase also used the PR coup moment to announce a new program for registered non-profit organizations. Coinbase will now waive all processing fees for such groups and provide a daily transfer of funds to bank accounts free of charge. For international groups with a tight operating budget, this may provide a powerful incentive for bitcoin adoption.