Proposal for donation link in Thunderbird 31

Kent James kent at
Mon Nov 18 22:29:15 UTC 2013

There are of course many issues that would need to be dealt with to make 
this work, and management of the funds is certainly one of them. But I 
think that the main point of this thread should be "do you support using 
an in-app donation link as a mechanism to raise income for Thunderbird, 
assuming that we can setup adequate mechanisms to manage those funds". 
That is, I would like people to agree simply that 1) they believe 
raising income is important, and 2) doing so through an in-app donation 
link is an acceptable method to do so.

But concerning accountability, a year ago I tried to propose a 
management council for Thunderbird. I would propose the same thing 
again. Actually part of my motivation for raising the donation issue is 
that I think that the Thunderbird community needs to develop capacity 
for self-management, which is sorely lacking at the moment. During the 
council discussions last year, the official position seemed to be that 
the existing management structure, using the module owners group as the 
de facto management team, was working well. Although it is possible to 
use the module system to organize that management team, I don't think 
that has been done effectively in the past. Having donations income will 
force us to deal with the issue, as you point out. I would certainly 
strongly oppose having the donation income buried within the existing 
Thunderbird accounts which have been publicly opaque.


On 11/18/2013 1:57 PM, Tanstaafl wrote:
> I for one would be more than happy to donate, probably more than $10 
> too...
> One thing though... what did you have in mind as far as accountability 
> (of the uses the money is put to) goes?
> In other words, will *everything* that the money is used for be made 
> public knowledge? You know, an annual 'accounting', showing all of the 
> dollars collected, and where it all went?
> If so, and this is made formal/official policy, then I'm all for it.
> On 2013-11-18 4:49 PM, Kent James <rkent at> wrote:
>> (This is a resend after earlier copies seemed to fail)
>> As many of you know, I am a firm believer that Thunderbird needs sources
>> of income to ensure its future.
>> I would like to propose that for Thunderbird 31, we add a donation user
>> interface and mechanism that requests an annual donation of $10 from
>> users. This should be something that appears prominently once after the
>> upgrade, and users have a choice to act/postpone/or ignore (until next
>> major release).
>> My own recent experience with ExQuilla is that there are plenty of users
>> who are quite happy to pay $10 per year for email functionality. I
>> believe that we could design a tasteful donation mechanism to capture
>> this willingness from users that would be acceptable to the vast
>> majority of users, and generate substantial income. I would guess that
>> Thunderbird would earn several hundred thousand dollars per year this 
>> way.
>> The question will arise, what do we need income for? That deserves a
>> separate thread, but here are some quick comments on that.
>> 1) I don't think that we can assume that Mozilla will continue to
>> subsidize Thunderbird for the foreseeable future, as the nature of
>> Thunderbird does not mesh with their core mission of making everything
>> an HTML app. Thunderbird operations takes substantial funds to support.
>> 2) There are many ways that we could provide more substantial support to
>> core contributors that are short of providing income for living. That
>> would include providing equipment, or travel expenses to conferences.
>> 3) I believe that the major Thunderbird contributors should get together
>> at least annually for an event that is part work and part play.
>> 4) Certain important but non-development functions are difficult to
>> support with volunteers. There might be a role for contractors in some
>> of those areas, if there was income available.
>> 5) I of course am not opposed to finding mechanisms for core developers
>> to earn a living at their Thunderbird work, should the project learn to
>> develop enough income that such a mechanism was ever possible. But we
>> are far from that now.
>> Could I have some comments on this?
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