Wikipedia users may no longer have to see founder Jimmy Wales' pleading face on every page, as the online encyclopaedia has celebrated raising $20 million in donations.

In recent months, Wales has appeared at the top of every page, along with a message explaining that the site requires donations from its users to survive as advertising is not used to finance the company.

"Our annual fundraising campaign reached a successful conclusion today, having raised a record-breaking USD 20 million [£12.8] from more than one million donors in nearly every country in the world," Jay Walsh said on the Wikimedia Foundation blog.

"It is our most successful campaign ever, continuing an unbroken streak in which donations have risen every year since the campaigns began in 2003."

Wikipedia claims that its websites are visited by more than 470 million people every month and according to website ranking company Alexa the user-generated encyclopaedia is the sixth most viewed website on the internet, ahead of Windows Live, Amazon and Twitter.

The website is the only major site to not rely on advertising for revenue, a model which should theoretically be hard to maintain.

Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said: "Our model is working fantastically well. Ordinary people use Wikipedia and they like it, so they chip in some cash so it will continue to thrive. That maintains our independence and lets us focus solely on providing a useful public service.

"I am so grateful to our donors for making that possible. I promise them we will use their money carefully and well," Gardner added.

Wikipedia is the largest encyclopaedia in human history, with over 20 million articles in 282 languages; more than 100,000 volunteers work to ensure that Wikipedia and its 10 sister projects continue to thrive.

The money raised will go towards paying for new servers and other hardware to "develop new site functionality", expand mobile services, to provide legal defences for projects and support the many volunteers who update and maintain content on the site.

Walsh added: "The number of Wikimedia Foundation donors has increased ten-fold since 2008 and the total dollar amount raised in the campaign has risen to over $20 million from $4.5 million...the Wikimedia Foundation's total 2011-12 planned spending is 28.3 million USD."

The bulk of this money is raised from the annual appeal for donations and through grants from institutions such as the Sloan Foundation.

Wikipedia will celebrate its 11th birthday on January 15.