Why do you need my donation when you have all that Google cash?

This post is designed to help you answer the question:

“Why do you need my money when you have all that Google cash?”

We’ve provided 5 different ways to answer the question, listed in order of how well they usually satisfy the person posing it. In terms of soliciting support, (1), (2), and (3) all work in decreasing efficacy. If you find yourself answering with (4) or (5), you’ve already lost.

(4) is the one most people inside of Mozilla will tell you. But it won’t inspire anyone to make a donation, won’t inspire anyone about the mission, and demeans the potential upside of what fundraising does for Mozilla both in terms of bringing new resources to the mission and growing our community. (5) is tricky and brings up all sorts of other questions, so use at your own risk.

None of the answers are prescriptive or written as scripts. Just suggestions. You can also make up your own answer: why you feel fundraising is important to Mozilla.

When answering the question, the most important thing is to be confident; you don’t need to excuse anything. More than 120,000 people gave to Mozilla in 2013. Our community understands that we’re different, that we’re tackling a huge challenge, that that challenge matters, and that we need all the expertise, time, and money we can get if we’re to win.

You can also point them to this post on why fundraising matters to Mozilla.

1.) Turn around, look up the hill.
The main thing that works is contextualizing $300M in terms of the scale of the challenge. It’s a lot of cash by itself. It’s nothing compared to what we need to do. Don’t look down the hill at the scale of other non-profits. Look up the hill at the scale of each of our competitors, much less their combined strength. Follow this up by talking about the outsized impact that Mozilla wields. How $10 in our hands goes much further because of our community, our leverage, and our reputation. Look at what Firefox did to Internet Explorer.

Strength: Fact-based and usually obvious, once pointed out.
Weakness: Risks making $10 feel inconsequential.

2.) Product vs. Program
The $300M Firefox makes is spent making Firefox. The Google revenue pays for the main pieces of software we build. There’s barely any left once that’s done. But there’s still a lot we need to do to pursue the mission. That’s where the donations and grants come in. They drive our education work. Our activism. Our protection of privacy. Our research and development. They help us teach kids to code. To get governments to respect our rights to privacy. To address the parts of our mission that Firefox can’t solve by itself.

Strength: Makes it clear where the donations go and why $300M isn’t enough.
Weakness: Most people know and like us because of Firefox. This argument underlines that their donations are not directly connected to keeping Firefox around.

3.) Money is more than money.
Money is a means of contributing. Of expressing support. Of making partnerships real. Of feeling you belong. Of getting us into rooms. It lets us build relationships with funders that help us direct and influence how billions of charitable and public dollars are spent each year. Money brings much needed resources to our organization, but it also grows our community, builds our momentum, helps us solidify key partnerships, and generally gain the energy, access, and reach we need to win.

Strength: Lots of rhetoric and poetry. You can hear the music swelling.
Weakness: Nothing but rhetoric and poetry. Easily deflated.

4.) Being a non-profit matters. And non-profits need to raise money.
Being mission-driven isn’t enough. Mozilla’s founders decided they couldn’t pursue our mission as a software company that maintains a value set. They decided that we actually need to be a non-profit. That’s the anchor that does more than just guide our decision-making, it guarantees we make the right call. And non-profits in the United States have to fundraise. It’s part of what lets you stay a non-profit.

Strength: Fact-based and a one or zero problem set. We don’t fundraise, we can’t stay a non-profit.
Weakness: Completely uninspiring. If you get here you’ve usually already lost, as it’s the least interesting and motivational.

5.) Fundraising is part of our efforts to diversify our revenue.
Saying this is risky, because the size of our fundraising program is nowhere near the scale of our Google deal. However, our fundraising has almost doubled year-over-year since 2009 to reach $12M in 2013. Wikimedia, our closest analog, makes $30M a year, which is real revenue. We’re working to match that. Large charities – hospitals, universities, big health – routinely combine large earned income programs with equally large (if not bigger) fundraising programs measured in 100s of millions a year. This is many  years away for us, but it’s a perfectly viable form of long-term revenue.

Strength: Diversification is an obvious good to most people.
Weakness: Fundraising is not a meaningful replacement for the Google deal (yet). Also highlights the dependency on the Google deal.


  1. Late last year, I tried very aggressively to get the Thunderbird project to agree to pursue their own fund raising through some sort of in-product mechanism. I got very close to achieving the consensus that I needed to move on to the next step (which probably would have been working through Mozilla financial development to implement a plan) but ultimately failed. The failure was not due to serious opposition, but more to weak project governance combined with a little foot dragging from some insiders.

    As I understand the legal issues involved in your point 4) above, fund raising for Thunderbird run through MoFo would achieve many of the non-profit legalization needs that you are seeking. Perhaps we should talk, as I keep thinking I should try again, but feel a little beaten up at the moment.


  2. What happens when I don’t agree with some of Mozilla goals and I am asked to donate (or to see advertisement in Mozilla products or anything else?) Mozilla sets its own goals then sets its own need of cash. For example I don’t absolutely need FirefoxOS so from my point of view those are wasted resources that could be invested elsewhere, instead of looking for more cash.

    1. I think #2 above applies here. Donations generally go towards the program, not the product(s). So even if you don’t care about FirefoxOS, you can rest assured that your donation is worthwhile if you support web education, privacy initiatives, and other good stuff like that.

  3. I feel like it’s pretty opaque what Mozilla is spending its money on. The Mozilla Foundation hasn’t published any financial documents since 2011, which certainly doesn’t help people to know what’s going on. (https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/foundation/documents/)

    I guess to answer “why do you need my money?” you need to say what you did with the money you had and what you will do with more money, and I don’t see anyone elaborating past “we advanced the open web, give us money so we can advance the open web some more.”

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: