Mozilla kicks off annual fundraiser on Firefox's home page

Asks for donations to fund non-profit's education and lobbying efforts

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.

Last year, some reports tied the December fundraiser in Firefox to Mozilla's just-issued financials -- revenue was flat in 2013 compared to the year before, and expenses were up dramatically -- which forced Surman and Denelle Dixon-Thayer, who leads the Mozilla's business and legal affairs, to deny any linkage.

"Some articles have stated that our search revenue is declining and suggested there is a link between our search deals and our philanthropic fundraising campaigns," Surman and Dixon-Thayer wrote at the time. "Neither thing could be further from the truth."

In 2014, the Mozilla Foundation's revenue -- exclusive of the search deals that went to Mozilla Corp. -- was $19.3 million, a 44% year-over-year increase. While the bulk came from donations, $6.1 million was from payments by Mozilla Corp. to license trademarks, notably that for Firefox, which the foundation controls. The organization spent the largest amount, $8.7 million, on salaries and employee benefits and other compensation, an increase of 41% for that line item over 2013.

Firefox users who want to donate to the Mozilla Foundation -- and who do not see the plea in their browser -- can do so from this website.

Firefox home page donation pitch Firefox

Firefox's start screen may show this year's virtual 'beg-a-thon,' an annual effort that the Mozilla Foundation runs in December to bring in money for lobbying and educational projects.

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