The Wikimedia foundation, a nonprofit that hosts Wikipedia and our other free knowledge projects, recently announced that Amazon made a $1 million gift to its endowment fund. This donation makes Amazon one of Wikimedia's largest corporate contributors. 

"The Alexa team shares a similar vision with Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation: To make it easier to share knowledge globally," Amazon said in a recent statement.

According to the Wikimedia foundation, donations to the endowment make Wikipedia more resilient by helping to safeguard the encyclopedia's "lasting independence from influence, and [ensuring] stability in times when individual donation patterns are uncertain."

If we probe a little deeper, there are major lessons to be learned from Amazon's recent donation.

A matter of trust

It makes a lot of sense that Amazon would make such a large donation to Wikimedia. After all, Amazon Alexa, the company's popular smart assistant, freely leverages Wikipedia to answer countless questions for millions of users per day.

But smart home assistants like Alexa create a sort of disconnect between information source and end user.

"If you overuse something and you don't give back to it, you can harm it," said Wikimedia's Chief Revenue Office, Lisa Gruwell in a conversation with TechCrunch.

"In the case of Alexa and Siri, our content gets intermediated," Gruwell continued. "Wikipedia works because people can contribute to it, people can edit it. Also, once a year, when we ask people can donate. When they get their information not from us--but Wikipedia content through something like Siri or something like Alexa--that opportunity to either contribute back as an editor is broken, and that opportunity to contribute, to donate is also broken."

As recently as six months ago, Wikimedia expressed that they'd like to see more companies who were using Wikipedia to give back.

"Wikipedia's content [is] freely licensed for reuse by anyone and that's part of our mission: that every single person can share in free knowledge," wrote Wikimedia executive director Katherine Maher in a statement. "We want people all over the world to use, share, add to, and remix Wikipedia. At the same time, we encourage companies who use Wikimedia's content to give back in the spirit of sustainability."

Techcrunch reported that Google was by far Wikimedia's top corporate donor last fiscal year, and that Google contributed further by matching employee donations, as did Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft. 

Amazon was conspicuously missing from that list--but with this recent gesture, the company seems ready to make amends. 

I see Amazon's donation as very emotionally intelligent. By offering practical help, Amazon isn't just saying they appreciate the service Wikipedia provides, they're showing it. This, creates a contract of trust between Amazon and Wikimedia, a foundation that can be further built upon.

"We are grateful for Amazon's support, and hope this marks the beginning of a long-term partnership to supporting Wikipedia's future," said Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia.

Remember, no man (or company) is an island. Identify the relationships that help you to thrive and find a way to show appreciation. Be willing to pay for products and services that provide value, rather than force suppliers and partners to nickle and dime you (or others). 

Doing so will lead to mutual respect that goes a long way in building quality relationships--and in sustaining your business.

Published on: Sep 27, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.