updated 1/2/2009 4:27:01 PM ET 2009-01-02T21:27:01

The nonprofit foundation that runs Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia of user-contributed articles, said Friday it has met its $6 million fundraising goal for fiscal 2008.

With about six months left in this year's campaign, the Wikimedia Foundation said it has raised $6.2 million. A flood of donations came in after the site's founder, Jimmy Wales, posted an appeal for support in late December.

The foundation said about 50,000 contributors chipped in a total of $2 million in the space of eight days, bringing the total number of donors to more than 125,000.

The money will go toward improving the software Wikipedia runs on as well as upgrading the servers and Internet bandwidth that accommodate the site's traffic. Wikipedia consistently ranks among the 10 most visited Web sites in the world.

The foundation operates the site without advertising as a matter of principle, making donations critical.

Since its founding in 2001, Wikipedia's fundraising prowess has expanded quickly. The foundation hauled in $1.3 million two years ago and $2.2 million last year.

In March 2008, the site received a $3 million gift from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to be dispensed in $1 million annual installments. Last month the Stanton Foundation gave $890,000 to make Wikipedia's editing process more user-friendly.

The Wikimedia Foundation hopes the growth in big-name donors will help improve the encyclopedia's uneven reputation for accuracy, both by showing that civic-minded institutions are willing to make an investment and by funding programs that increase outreach to new contributors.

Wikimedia spokesman Jay Walsh said expanding the foundation's Wikipedia Academies will be a major goal in the coming year. The program sends Wikimedia staff to institutions around the world for discussions with experts in different fields, partly in hopes of drawing more academics and professionals to the site.

"There's work to do in getting the word out about how Wikipedia works," Walsh said.

In a thank-you note posted on the site Friday, Wales told donors, "You have proven that Wikipedia matters to you, and that you support our mission: to bring free knowledge to the planet, free of charge and free of advertising."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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