Since 2005 I have been active on this website that was just gaining wider traction: Wikipedia. This website was working from a crazy concept: asking people to contribute knowledge, to co-author an encyclopedia without any compensation whatsoever. And somehow, it worked out just fine.
The success of Wikipedia is visible in the way students do their homework, journalists get background information, or in how students understand the context of their materials better. Wikipedia is used to settle bets and disputes, and to satisfy curiosity. Who hasn't started reading a Wikipedia article, and found themself later on a totally unrelated topic after clicking through a variety of links.
What not everybody realises, is that Wikipedia is not created out of thin air. Wikipedia is written by some 80.000 volunteers around the world, and depends on three main factors that are all crucial to its continued existance. And your help is needed, to keep Wikipedia as good as it is, to improve it even further.
1) Roughly once a year, depending on where you live, you're most likely asked for a financial contribution. These contributions make it possible that there is a (technical) infrastructure, that there is a level of community building and that the software is improved.
2) Wikipedia is a so-called 'teriary source', which means that it highly depends on the availability of information and knowledge in other sources: newspapers, research publications, books, photographs. It is crucial that there is an ecosystem of fact checkers, researchers and journalists that collect and write up information, which is accessible to Wikipedians around the world. You can help by making your publications openly accessible, by putting your pieces out there. You can help by supporting journalists, researchers and photographers working under such models - as professional or as volunteer.
3) Finally, and maybe most importantly, you're invited to contribute your knowledge to articles, by clicking the 'edit' button that shines on top of every article. If you see a spelling mistake, please fix it. If you find information elsewhere that isn't on Wikipedia yet, add it. If you see an error, help the person after you looking it up, and improve it.
Together we can upkeep the quality of Wikipedia, improve its quality, and work towards its ultimate vision: to make the sum of all knowledge available to every single human being.
Lodewijk / 'Effeietsanders'
Volunteer at Wikipedia
(this text is released under the CC BY 3.0 license)
The Hague, the Netherlands