Let’s speak up about Mozilla’s public benefit status

April 23rd, 2010

Last weekend I had an extra half day in San Diego while waiting for a gymnastics meet (entry level boys competition) to start. I had an experience that makes me feel even more strongly that we should be telling everyone we touch that Mozilla is a public benefit organization, existing to build the Internet as a global resource; open, accessible and “hackable” by all. I’d like to see most or all Mozilla websites make this clear, and I’d like to see our products make this very clear as well.

At the hotel I saw a brochure for “Quail Botanical Gardens” in a rack with brochures featuring San Diego’s many visitor attractions. I love gardens so I took a look. It sounded potentially interesting but I was also wary of finding a “tourist trap” where someone has planted a few basic plants and is trying to find newbies who will pay to see them. So I went poking around their web site.

The first thing I noticed after the photos was the statement, “The mission of the Garden is to inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature.”

“Hmm,” I thought, “that sounds a lot like a non-profit mission statement.” It soon became clear that this is the case – the garden is a non-profit organization. My worry about the tourist trap immediately decreased, and I felt better about the chances of something worthwhile coming of a visit. Non-profit organizations can make mistakes. They can be boring and ineffective just like anything else. But the chance that the whole thing was just something dumb designed to get people there to extract money felt much, much lower.

As it turns out, the garden is great. Lots of bamboo, subtropical fruit, cactus and other fun items, and I’ll go back next time I am in the San Diego area.

6 comments for “Let’s speak up about Mozilla’s public benefit status”

  1. 1

    Tony Mechelynck said on April 24th, 2010 at 2:59 am:

    OTOH, zoological and botanical gardens have been maintained by non-profit organizations for so long that I don’t think people would be wary of non-profit zoo/bot gardens. OTOH, what concerns software for personal computers, Micro$oft’s I-win-your-dough (a “tourist trap” if there’s ever been one) seems so well entrenched as “the” model that, alas, many people won’t be aware, or at best will be wary, of anything else.

  2. 2

    David Boswell said on April 26th, 2010 at 7:53 am:

    I came across some research recently that goes into more about this feeling around non-profits:

    Nonprofits Are Seen as Warm and For‐Profits as Competent: Firm Stereotypes Matter

    The abstract is interesting — it says people perceive nonprofits as being warmer than for‐profits but as less competent, although if a non-profit promotes credibility discrepancies in willingness to buy disappear.

    That’s all to say that I definitely agree with you — we should be much more up front about our mission as well as talking about what we do and what we make to promote that mission.

  3. 3

    MArtin said on April 26th, 2010 at 1:22 pm:

    Nice story – I like analogies. When I read it I thought : not Microsoft is the problem – its Google (Chrome). Because everybody knows that Microsoft is a money-eating monster. But Google seems (!) to be like a non-profit organization. Everybody can use everythink for free – Ok, as I said – it seems so.
    So If you say : non-profit, you have to say that this is more than “getting no money”.
    Good luck and some more nice days in the garden 🙂

  4. 4

    Pingback from A Mozilla Mission Statement « davidwboswell

    […] Earlier this week Mitchell posted about the importance of talking more openly about Mozilla’s public benefit status. I think that’s a good idea, but it’s been hard to do this since there hasn’t […]

  5. 5

    Kevin said on April 30th, 2010 at 10:04 pm:

    I agree with you. It’s a nice garden indeed. I hope I can visit that garden some day in the future. I am learning painting now. I hope I can go over there to paint some oil paintings.

  6. 6

    Pingback from Joining Mozilla – Paul Osman

    […] and I continue to encourage people to check them out. In the end though, the idea of working for a public benefit organization was just too good to pass up. Mozilla is an organization that I’ve always had a profound […]

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