Mozilla, Pitch Geek

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.


Engagement Team Anthology

2014 marks the launch of a new Mozilla Foundation engagement team. We gathered in Vancouver last week to meet each other, build new systems, and plan the year. We asked everyone to author a post reflecting on 2013’s success and the challenges they hope to take on in 2014.

Amira DhallaYear of new. Year of change. Year of focus.
Bobby RichterTwenty Fourteen
Erica SackinEngagement Work Week
Erika DrushkaI think of myself as a translator.
Geoffrey MacDougall2014
John BevanOnwards!
Lainie DeCoursyHelp! (How I fit in)
Lynn Melander MooreAnticipating Workweek
Mavis OuJoining the Engagement Team
Megan Cole-KaragoryHello, Vancouver
Melissa RomaineEngaging in 2014
Sabrina NgGet Ready to Engage!
Sydney MoyerOh Canada Workweek


Quick Update on MozGear Store!

The foundation development-as-in-fundraising team have been working to set up a public-facing Mozilla gear store. Our current hope is to have it live for mid-December 2013.

TL’DR: The vendors have been reviewed and selected (Treehouse and Shopify), the business plan is almost done, the cost expenditure has been approved, and the 3rd-party vendor bugs for Shopify and Treehouse are almost through legal, security, and privacy. We are also in the process of hiring a contractor to help us with the launch and integration work, so if you know any e-commerce experts, please let us know.

Please reach out to @taliesan or @benrito if you have any questions!

Mozilla, Pitch Geek

Rethinking Small Dollar Fundraising

As a non-profit, Mozilla has access to four types of revenue: grants, gifts, donations, and earned income. Our earned income streams come through Firefox, which leaves the other three – grants, gifts, and donations – to be driven by our fundraising strategy (the focus of this post).

So far, and while we can always get better, we’re pretty good at securing grants. We’ve built meaningful working relationships with large philanthropies and government agencies, which contribute approximately $5M each year to Webmaker, Open Badges, and our policy work.

We don’t have a major gifts program (as yet; more on this later in the year).

And, while we’ve spent a fair amount of time building a small dollar donations program, it’s definitely not what it could be. Last year, we generated around $750K from e-mails to more than 500K people and an end-of-year presence in the main Firefox channels.

There are many and valid reasons for this result. Fundraising as a large-scale social enterprise is challenging and I believe we’ve done well to get where we are. But given our reach and the importance of the Web there is massive room for improvement.

NOW: Help us get better at fundraising. Tell us what you think about Mozilla, our mission, and our fundraising.

Solving Small Dollar Fundraising
Building an effective small dollar program is important for several reasons:

  • It’s the most stable form of revenue available to the Foundation: small amounts of funding from a large and diverse group of donors;
  • It mitigates risk by distributing external dependence and increasing revenue diversity; and
  • It’s a meaningful contribution path for a large number of Mozillians who don’t have the time or capacity to code.

Grants and (eventually) gifts will always be crucial to the health and growth of Mozilla. They allow us to work with amazing partners, test new ideas, and launch new products. But building a sustainable small dollar program is our top development priority for 2013.

Enter the Study
Good fundraising – like many things – involves constantly questioning and challenging assumptions. We’ve used the first part of year to hold conversations to gain perspective and input from the Mozilla community: people who care about our mission and want to help it succeed.

We’ve asked what people think about Mozilla. Why they have chosen to become involved. Whether they think being a non-profit is central to what we do. Whether fundraising should be a part of that. And, if yes, how we can make it more effective. (Get involved and be heard.)

The Story So Far
The discussions have been amazing. We’re learning a lot about Mozilla and why our community and staff devote their time to the cause. And we’re also seeing themes emerge around how people view Mozilla, our mission, and our fundraising:

Being a non-profit matters. It’s the foundation of our brand, what differentiates our products in the market, and the source of a lot of pride. Not having external shareholders is empowering. But people resist being identified as a charity. The sense is that ‘charity’ carries connotations of need and behaviours that don’t apply to Mozilla.

Tension between being ‘mission-driven’ and ‘product-driven’. There’s a healthy, though challenging, day-to-day tension between the ‘why’ of our work, the mission, and the ‘what’, shipping products. That tension is surfacing more as we enter new markets with different operating cultures. And in terms of fundraising, the tension impacts decisions like whether to direct site traffic to fundraising or product marketing campaigns.

Fundraising has been a black box. Very little is understood about how or why we raise money. Most of the participants in the study wanted to learn more: to have a chance to engage and help shape our fundraising. So we, as the development team, need to get better at sharing our work. (This post you’re reading and this post and these posts and this dashboard are our first attempts to fix this.)

Donating is considered a more accessible contribution path than coding. Mozilla’s competitive advantage is and has always been its community. We don’t have the financial strength or employee base to go head-to-head with our competitors. When we win, it’s because of the people who contribute to our work. As our mission gains importance – as more things move to the Web – we will need to attract contributors from outside our usual channels. People who don’t code, but have other sources of expertise that can advance the mission (see the groundswell of educators gathering around Webmaker). Donating is seen as an easy yet meaningful way to become a Mozillian.

Online fundraising isn’t the only way to raise money. To date, small dollar fundraising and online fundraising have been synonymous. But as we scale Webmaker events around the world, as we get more people into more rooms, and as ReMo continues to grow and kick ass, we increasingly have opportunities to raise money in-person. We need to look away from the Lost Ark of online fundraising to new ways to engage directly with donors.

Donors want to know where their money goes. In line with trends across the non-profit sector, people want to understand the specific impact of their donations. Crowdfunding, social media, and micro-lending platforms have led donors to expect a direct relationship with the recipients of their support. We can do more to draw the line between a $30 donation and a scientist, teacher, or teenager learning how to express themselves on the Web. (We also need to get our act together around an annual donor report, most likely as a fork of the yearly State of Mozilla.)

We should be good at being a non-profit. One of the most interesting themes was the sense that if we’re going to be a non-profit, we should be good at it. That we should leverage all the advantages – volunteers, movement building, partnerships, activism, fundraising, etc. – that come along with it. Not at the expense of our strength – building meaningful products – but as a way of pursuing our mission and expressing our brand.

The study is also surfacing a healthy amount of skepticism:

  • “Why do we need my $30 when we have all the Google revenue?”
  • “I delete all those e-mails. I don’t think they’re effective.”


  • “Doesn’t everyone get paid from the Google deal?”
  • “Why do we even have a Foundation?”

And resistance:

  • “We shouldn’t be asking people for money. It’s annoying and unnecessary.”
  • “We need people closing bugs, not giving money.”

Perhaps the best finding so far is that many of the people who work for Mozilla also donate to the mission. This means that the people who experience Mozilla on a daily basis continue to believe in the organization and its work. As a fundraiser, I know that one of the first things major donors ask is what percentage of employees also donate to the mission. So we’re in good shape.

What Next?
We want to talk to more people. But as we can’t take everyone to lunch (sadly!), we’ve put together a survey. Please take 5 minutes and let us know what you think about Mozilla, our mission, and our fundraising. This is your chance to help us rock. We hope you’ll participate.

What Will Happen From There
In early June, we will:

  1. Post the final results and analysis of the study;
  2. Use the results to shape a new fundraising strategy; and
  3. Work to engage every Mozillian – including you – in what we hope will be our most effective end-of-year campaign ever.

So far we’re thrilled at the number of people who actually want to step up and help Mozilla raise money. The challenge is on us, as a team, to make sure you can and to do so with pride.

Mozilla, Pitch Geek

Minimum Viable Partnership

How to actually start working together.

Minimum Viable Partnership Model

Technology start-ups talk about Minimum Viable Products. The term refers to a product that has “just those features that allow [it] to be launched, and no more.”

This is also a useful concept when it comes to partnership. When working with a new partner, there’s a damaging tendency to try and figure everything out in advance. To launch planning efforts, seek consensus, and gain clarity on outcomes. To set up process barriers to getting underway.

Extended planning kills momentum, but effective planning builds trust. So what’s the balance? How do you move forward and actually get started?

You need three things:

Big, Shared Ambitions
An exciting, shared vision of what becomes possible if you work together. It doesn’t have to be clearly defined. It just has to provide motivation and establish the emotional tenor.

Raw Material
(i) A rough sense of what’s needed (funding, staff time, distribution channels, etc.);
(ii) what each of you bring to the table; and
(iii) trust in your teams to put it together.

Immediate Next Steps
The three things you need to do when you leave the room. Tangible, practical steps to get started. And a plan to reconnect once they’re achieved.

Everything else is wasted effort.



This project represents a massive amount of work by a large number of volunteers in the wee hours of the morning. Had the idea at 11am the day of the speech. Was implemented by the following morning. Refined and polished over the next few days.

The impact on news media and online will be huge. Check it out.



Meet Steve.


This is Steve.

Steve is unique.

He is the manifestation, the entirety, the avatar of all that is right and good and true in the open world.

The people. The sharing. The freedom. The hacker ethos.

All of it.

Steve is pretty awesome. And effective.

He saved the open web from destruction. What else can he do?

Can he fix education? Can he rescue journalism? Can he crack open video? Can he tear down monopolies?

This is Steve’s quest.

Welcome to Drumbeat.