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June 14, 2013 / Ben Simon

Once a Mozillian …

It is with a bit of sadness and a lot of excitement that today is my last day working for Mozilla — I start on Monday at Greenpeace’s Digital Mobilisation Lab, with a specific focus on climate campaigns around the world.

I’ve had a wonderful time at Mozilla. I’ve gotten to work with some exceptional people while making the world a better place, and I’m extremely proud of how far we’ve come in my corner of things since I arrived (23x email list, 4x donations, thousands involved in Webmaker, millions in SOPA/PIPA/ITU/PRISM, and more). Thanks so much to everyone who made it possible!

And I’m very excited to start at Greenpeace. I’ve long had a nagging feeling that what I should really be doing is working on climate change — it’s such an urgent issue, and there are so many bad actors trying to directly stop any progress in fighting it, that I feel it’s important to do what I can with as much time as I can. And I love a good fight.

So, more to come on that front.

But they say “Once a Mozillian, always a Mozillian” for a reason — I’ve every intention of remaining involved in the fight to keep the web open, secure, and hackable. It’s something we all need.

April 9, 2013 / Ben Simon

Why open rates are not what you test

Something that I like to talk about when the topic of email testing comes up is the idea that open rates — while the email statistic people are often the most familiar with — are pretty much never the thing you want to be optimizing for.

Why? Simple: You don’t send an email to get people to open it. You send an email to get people to take an action (or, at least, you should!). And the fact is, worrying about open rate too much is not just misguided — it can also be counterproductive.

Here’s a great case in point from recent experience

A couple of weeks ago, for our penultimate appeal as part of our anniversary dinosaur campaign, we did subject line tests on our email.

Splitting our audience of recent donors (past 12 months) into three random test groups, we tested the following subject lines to 5,343 people each:

1) Victory Lap
2) Last chance to get your dino
3) Celebrating with all of you

Here were the open rates for each segment:

1) 49.1%
2) 40.9%
3) 45.7%

But, click rates were:

1) 3.5%
2) 3.8%
3) 3.1%

And here’s the number of donations from each segment — the action we really care about:

1) 43
2) 66
3) 53

So not only did the one doing much worse on opens win in donations, subject three, which was worse than subject one on both opens and clicks outperformed one on the metric that mattered.

It is worth flagging that the win on donations didn’t quite reach the 90% confidence level I’d like, but the broader point certainly still stands.

February 26, 2013 / Ben Simon

Email and donations training

Earlier this week I gave a training to our new development ($$, not engineering) team here at Mozilla on online campaigns (with emphasis on emails and donations).

I got a few requests for the deck, so here it is!

A few notes:

— This was put together by Matt Compton and me back in 2011 for NOI Bootcamp. I did some updating, but he also deserves some blame. That’s also the reason for the NOI theme on the deck itself. [Edit: bunches of it came from a previously developed training by Colin Holtz. Apologies for the omission!]

— Some of the stats may no longer be correct (eg: avg. reader spends 2-7 seconds on an email), but I don’t think anything in there is so out of date as to substantively matter for these purposes.

— I’ve done my best at Mozilla to practice what I preach, but there are certainly times when you can’t follow every rule. Happy to hear any feedback.

There’s obviously a lot more to cover than just what’s here, but hopefully this is helpful to someone!

January 11, 2013 / Ben Simon

2012 EOY Fundraising: Success!

Reporting back on our just-completed 2012 End-of-Year (EOY) fundraising campaign: The results were very good!

As compared to last year’s campaign, we did better this year in every way, and finished the year very well: We went from $435,791.56 total raised online in 2011, of which $205,748.20 came after November 28th (when this year’s campaign began), to $751,018.91 raised online in 2012, of which $356,242.69 came after November 28th.

EOY and Yearly FR Totals

Like last year, this success only came because we were able to get a solid ask in front of audiences who’d be interested in what we had to say. And, again, we saw that the venues which allow the most storytelling and explanation — the emails I sent to our list, and, most importantly, the standalone email to the Firefox & You Newsletter list — were the most lucrative channels, and best ways to fundraise.

Here’s a channel-by-channel breakdown, with the actual numbers in a table below:

Channel-By-Channel EOY Totals

Channel By Channel 2011 2012
FF & You Standalone Email $96,343.79 $140,067.14
FF & You Newsletter Blurb $5,525.00 $10,379.00
Snippet $51,866.00 $68,101.63
Mozilla Emails $21,544.16 $93,482.13
Misc/Unsourced $29,214.25 $30,829.89
Social $1,255.00 $3,170.00
Banners $10,212.90

Across the board, the numbers were better. What was different?

In some ways, it was just a numbers game: we were able to reach more people directly. For instance, the list has increased dramatically — we were at ~232,000 subscribers on January 1st, 2012, and closed this year around 580,000, and had a year more in which to tell our story and engage people. Additionally, the Firefox & You list has grown quite a bit.

Further helping matters, the average gift also went up, since the main thrust of this year’s campaign was T-shirts, which require a minimum donation of $30. The graph below shows both donations (blue) & average gift (red), in 2011 vs. 2012.

Donations and Avg Gift

2011 2012
Total Donations 8,428 10,221
Avg. Gift $24.41 $34.86

So where does all this leave us? I’m very happy with this campaign. It was the first time we’ve really successfully fundraised from our email list — $93,000 from 5 emails is pretty awesome, considering where we’ve so recently been, and we continued earlier successes in other channels, most notably the FF & You list and the about:home snippet.

However, there is certainly plenty of room for growth. We’ve consistently done best leading with the “Get a Firefox T-Shirt” ask, but there’s only so many times we can return to that well, and straightforward pitches around Webmaker and other initiatives have not done nearly as well.

Additionally, we continue to have fairly low conversion rates, despite efforts at page testing & optimization, which I think is mostly to do with us still needing to do more in the grand scheme of things to turn Mozilla into an organization where people expect to land on a donation page — and then want to give.

But, lots to smile about with this, and lots more to do! Thanks again to everyone who helped pull this off, and, of course, to anyone reading this who gave.

December 20, 2012 / Ben Simon

2013 Mozilla Email Program Evolution

Since mid-2011, our then non-existent email program has grown by leaps and bounds.
We’ve gone from 26,000 subscribers to 580,000 subscribers, with continued growth of 5,000-10,000 subscribers per week.

We’ve raised well over $140,000 directly over our emails in that period, with more to come in 2012 as our End-of-Year campaign finishes.

And email was a key driver of excitement and growth around the Summer Code Party and the 2011 & 2012 Mozilla Festivals, as well as in our efforts against SOPA & PIPA earlier this year.

However, I think we (I) have fallen down in a couple of key areas:

–Long-term storytelling: I think there hasn’t been a great long-run narrative; I’m not sure that if you signed up for our list in, say, June of this year, you’d really have a great sense of what we’re doing. You’d know a lot about webmaker — from Summer Code Party, MozFest, etc. — but there’s an irregularity to what we’ve been sending that I think has not done a good job of keeping up a steady drumbeat/sense of a movement.

–Trying to apply an advocacy organization model to list growth and engagement: My background has been in working with groups — from Oxfam & NARAL to Obama for America — where taking a pretty classic approach to list growth (eg, petitions and sign-on letters that capitalize on specific moments and move directly into fundraising) has been the right approach.

So I want to change the focus a bit, and concentrate on more frequent, quality content that tells the story of what we’re doing. I’m envisioning roughly weekly, fairly short emails about a single thing within the broad Mozilla/Webmaker/Labs framework that provides a way for people to engage with what we’re doing. This will be in addition to semi-frequent fundraising appeals, of course, but should hopefully give people a much better sense of why they should care, and why a donation to support this work is important.

In contrast to a regular, monthly newsletter (something which has also been proposed internally) this will allow us to keep up a steadier pace and really only send something when we think there’s truly stellar content that warrants it. Regular newsletters run the risk of getting bogged down by the format and by the felt need to shoehorn content in.
Some examples of what these shorter sends could be:

–A description of a really cool event someone put on, that makes putting on an event sound cool and fun to others
–a couple of new projects get added to Webmaker
–The Webmaker gallery launches
–Valentine’s Day Lovebomb
–Something changes about Collusion
–Firefox OS takes a noteworthy leap
–Something else Product-Y that we can offer a bit of promo to
–Awesome standalone graphics (like the Mozilla in 2012 graphic that we sent this week)
–A community input pitch at a key moment

I’m excited to see how it does! I’ll also hold a control group out of this increased volume for a couple of months, to make sure it’s actually helping.

So, as long as you don’t wind up in the control group, look forward to hearing a bit more from us if you’re on our list next year.

And if you aren’t yet, please sign up! Just go to and enter your address in the email signup box.

December 18, 2012 / Ben Simon

2012 End-of-Year (EOY) Fundraising Update

Forefox T Banner

This year’s EOY campaign has been going on for a few weeks now, so I wanted to update folks on where we are and what’s happening — as you’ll be seeing more of it in the final two weeks of the year.

The final month of the year is a crucial one for non-profits — a lot of donors wait until the last month of the year to do their giving, and audiences generally expect December to be the month when they see fundraising asks everywhere — so (like last year) we’re doing everything we can to capitalize.

There are three different asks as part of this campaign, for which we have a $250,000 goal:

Watch The Mozilla Story video and donate to support our work (with an updated version of the video from last year).

So far, the campaign is going well — we’re nearly $74,000 toward our goal.

On Nov 28, we tested all three asks to our email list to see which one we should lead with in other channels, and found the Firefox T-Shirt to be the best ask (by a little bit).

Results from 11/28 Email:

Firefox T (1/3): 122 donations / $4,205
Story Video (1/3): 168 donations / $4,170
Protect T (1/3): 72 donations / $2,522

Additionally, we held previous purchasers of Firefox T-shirts out of that test, and sent them the Story Video version the following day, which brought in an additional $3,127 from 89 donations.

All told, that email raised $14,024, making it, at the time, the best-performing fundraising email we’ve ever sent.

And we sent our second email last week, which has pulled in nearly $21,000 — besting our previous best by 50%!

There are a few things we did on this 2nd appeal which bear mentioning:

–Sent the Firefox T ask to everyone who hadn’t previously purchased one, and the Protect T to others

–Subject line tested among a smaller audience of only donors, so we could send the optimized version to a wider audience

–Versioned heavily, with customized language thanking 2012 donors specifically and nudging those who have given in previous years to renew their support.

There will be three more emails to our list as part of this campaign, carrying those principles forward, including some additional versioning (a high-dollar push and something tailored just to very recent donors at the end of the year).

Moving forward from there, we’ve had all three asks in some rotation in the about:home snippet — leaning more heavily on the Firefox t-shirt. Those snippets have, so far, raised, $21,154 from 623 contributions. 

We’ve also been in rotation with a slider on the homepage of, which will be increasing in prominence soon, along with a promo in the Universal tab.

Social media promotion began yesterday on Firefox channels (Twitter & Facebook), and we’ll also have a presence in the December Firefox & You newsletter.

And, finally, Mark Surman will be sending an email to the full Firefox & You list after Christmas. This was the single most important piece of last year’s EOY campaign, and we have high hopes for how these folks will react to an earnest pitch about our mission and why our work is worthy of support.

So, that’s what you’re seeing if you stop by, tabzilla, or about:home for the next couple of weeks.

Many, many thanks to the Engagement and Web Production teams for their help in getting the word out, and, most importantly, to the 2,230 folks who have already donated and the many more who will hopefully join them!

October 16, 2012 / Ben Simon

MozFest Contest Update and First Winner!

There are just a few days left in our contest to win a trip to the Mozilla Festival in London — enter by midnight on Saturday, October 20th, if you haven’t already! — and the first winner has already been picked!

Pulkit Sethi, that winner, is from Washington, DC. He’s a software developer and Summer Code Party participant, who first heard about the Mozilla Festival a few months ago.

In his own words:

I am super physced to be selected to go to Mozilla Festival this year. I think what Mozilla Foundation is trying to do through this event is amazing. Bringing together people from various different domains to collaborate and share their thoughts and ideas on how to educate and empower people…amazing.

Personally for me, what I am looking forward to at the festival is collaborating with others on how to spread digital literacy. When I first started using technology, dial up internet was just coming out and people were still trying to figure out how to collaborate and build the web. But now the ability to learn, collaborate, and share is easier than ever before. I think it’s important to get the next generation involved, and show them how easy it can be to not just be consumers of content, but now become the producers.

I am also really looking forward to collaborating on the intersection of journalism and technology, and getting my hands dirty with a few of the design challenges. Living in DC, I’m inundated with political news and talk all day long. I’m excited to see what ideas and tools we can create to make the processing and understanding of that information easier.

See you in London!

Pretty awesome, huh? And here are a few stats on how the contest is going overall. In short: very well.

Total unique entrants: 14,388
Total entrants via donation: 2,781
Total amount raised: $38,432

And don’t forget: there’s still time to enter for you chance to join Pulkit — and hundreds of other Mozillians — if you haven’t yet!

And if you know you want to come but just haven’t registered yet, get thee to the registration page before tickets run out!

P.S. — Apologies to folks who don’t live in France, Germany, the UK, Mexico, Canada (excluding Quebec), or the US. Legal restrictions on doing contests like this are very onerous, and even being able to do it in these six countries took quite a bit of legwork. Many of the countries where we have the biggest communities simply do not allow chance-based contests like this, others allow them only if they’re based solely in that country, and others simply have rules and regulations that were too much to overcome. We’re hopeful that if we do it again in the future we’ll be able to grow the list of eligible countries.