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Mozilla kicks off annual fundraiser on Firefox's home page

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 3, 2015
Asks for donations to fund non-profit's education and lobbying efforts.

Mozilla donate
The Mozilla Foundation's plea for donations is also prominently displayed on the Foundation's homepage. Credit: Mozilla

Mozilla Foundation has kicked off its annual fund-raising drive by placing the pitch on the home page of Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox browser.

The non-profit runs a drive each December -- this is the fifth straight year -- to finance its education, research and public awareness campaigns and projects. The money raised does not go toward expenses incurred to develop and maintain the Firefox browser or Firefox OS. Mozilla relies on contracts from a variety of search providers, including Yahoo and China's Baidu, to fund Firefox.

Mozilla Foundation is the umbrella organization that oversees Mozilla Corp., the for-profit company that actually produces Firefox, Firefox OS and other software and services.

When users launch Firefox this month, they may see a pitch on the browser's start screen, which normally is a stark display of a search field and a few tool icons. The fundraising message does not appear on everyone's Firefox home page, nor does it show every time the browser is launched.

"Dear Firefox users: every donation helps Mozilla stay true to our non-profit mission to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web," the screen states. "If everyone reading this chipped in $3, we would be supported for another year. Donate now."

After clicking through to the donation page, users see choices ranging from $3 to $20 -- with $10 pre-selected -- and will be asked to enter their credit card or PayPal account information. Mozilla also accepts donations in Bitcoins.

"The funds we raised last year helped us educate and rally people around pressing issues like net neutrality and mass surveillance reform in 2015," said Mark Surman, the executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, in emailed answers to questions. "Funds from our community of supporters also helped us create curriculum to teach skills like privacy, security, HTML, CSS and more."

According to Mozilla's 2014 tax return and financial statement -- both released last week -- the foundation recorded $12.6 million in contributions, an increase of 82% over 2013. Disregarding the large grants Mozilla received from givers like the MacArthur Foundation ($2.4 million) and the Knight Foundation ($2.1 million), the non-profit collected about $4.1 million from smaller fry it wasn't required to identify. ("Small" was relative, however, since by tax law Mozilla did not have to name contributors who gave less than $251,000.)

Surman claimed that 380,000 individuals donated to Mozilla last year, a tripling of the number who gave in 2013. If there were no donations in the hundreds of thousands range, that meant the average donation was $10.58, close to the default that the foundation sets from the home page pitch.


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