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Thunderbird Is Thriving: Our 2022 Financial Report

A few years ago, Thunderbird was in survival mode. Our dedicated core team, passionate community of users, and generous donors kept Thunderbird alive during some difficult times. Then, just last May, we happily reported that Thunderbird’s financial outlook was steadily improving: our 2021 income had increased by 21% over 2020, and by more than 100% over 2018. 

But we are not content merely surviving. Our mission is to build the best email client and personal information manager available. To build professional software that puts your privacy first. To craft an experience that boosts your productivity, compliments your daily workflow, and meets your customization needs. And to expand the Thunderbird experience to Android and iOS. And to do all of this transparently, guided by the values of free and open source software. 

Donations In 2022

Last year, our mighty donor base – representing approximately 300,000 daily users – contributed a total of $6,442,704 in donations to the Thunderbird project. (Note: user donations represent more than 99.9% of our annual revenue.) Our 2022 donation income was a bright, assertive sign that you also believe in that mission, and you also want to see Thunderbird thriving. Not just in 2023, but decades into the future! 

Year-to-year donations to Thunderbird: 2017 through 2022.

This is nothing short of outstanding, and we are tremendously grateful for the generous donations of our users. Below, we’ll talk about what this enables us to do in the future, and how we spent some of that income in 2022. 

Before we discuss that, you might be wondering what we did differently to generate such a significant surge of support last year. 

At the end of 2021, we decided to make a bigger investment in communicating with you. That meant more frequent blog posts and newsletters, daily engagement across our social media channels, and expanding the number of places we interact with you (like our relatively new Mastodon account). 

Donations by month, comparing 2021 and 2022.

We also attribute this amazing uplift to the release of Thunderbird 102, as well as a first-of-its-kind, in-app donation appeal at the end of year. 

In short, we learned that projects like ours can benefit greatly from simply asking for donations, while simultaneously explaining how those donations will benefit the project – and ultimately, how they will benefit you. So let’s talk about that! 

Thunderbird’s People And Thunderbird’s Future

The heart of Thunderbird is obviously its people, and we invested heavily in personnel last year. We began 2022 with 15 core staff, and now employ a team of 24 in these roles:

The breakout growth we enjoyed last year means hiring even more talented people to vastly improve the Thunderbird desktop experience. This past year we expended significant effort to dramatically improve Thunderbird’s UX and bring it in-line with modern expectations and standards. In 2022 we also laid the groundwork for large architectural changes for Thunderbird on the desktop. These changes address many years of technical debt that has limited our ability to add new features at a brisk pace. This work will largely pay off in our 2024 release, however it does power some of the improvements in the 115 “Supernova” release this summer.

But we’re also building beyond the desktop, to provide you with a truly cross-platform, synergistic experience. Last summer we invested in the K-9 Mail Project, which is being steadily improved in its transformation to Thunderbird on Android. And yes, we’re almost ready to add an iOS version to our roadmap! Later in 2023, we’ll hire an iOS developer to begin creating the foundation for Thunderbird on iOS. 

Thunderbird is also expanding beyond the core experience you already use. We’ve been exploring additional sources of revenue in the form of new tools and services to increase your productivity. We’re planning to introduce some of these, in Beta status, later this year. Rest assured that we have no plans to charge money for the powerful Thunderbird experience you enjoy today (nor do we plan to remove features and charge for them later). 

Total Spending In 2022

The Thunderbird Project’s total operating expenses for 2022 was $3,569,706. While personnel is where most of our money is spent, there are other areas crucial to Thunderbird’s continued operation. Here’s an overview of our total spending in 2022:

A pie chart showing spending percentages for Thunderbird in 2022.

Professional Services are things like HR, legal and tax services, as well as agreements with other Mozilla entities to provide technology infrastructure and operational resources.

The remaining items help us to run the business, such as the services and technology we use to communicate and manage operations, insurance, bank and donation processing fees. 

Closing Comments

The state of Thunderbird’s finances is strong. But that doesn’t make our team complacent. We are careful stewards of the thoughtful donations we receive from you. We don’t just use it to enhance features; we invest it strategically towards ensuring long-term stability and viability of Thunderbird. Having healthy cash reserves ensures the long-term sustainability of Thunderbird, even during periods of economic instability.

Your ongoing financial gifts have enabled Thunderbird to go from surviving to thriving. But as it has been since 2003, Thunderbird’s future is in your hands. Please continue to donate, and we will continue to build software you can be proud of. 

Thank you,

Ryan Sipes
Thunderbird Product and Business Development Manager

42 responses

aninteresteduser wrote on

> Last year, our mighty donor base – representing approximately 300,000 daily users – contributed a total of $6,442,704 in donations to the Thunderbird project.

Just to be clear, that’s 300,000 users who have donated $6.5M in total? I’m interested in what the average amount of money donated per user is; assuming there’s not one guy who donated $2M.

If so, that’s incredibly impressive for a free software project.

Jason Evangelho wrote on

You’re correct! Our average donation amount in 2022 was about $21 USD.
And yes, it’s a significant achievement and we’re eternally grateful to our donors.

Wow! wrote on

Thunderbird donors are getting excellent value for money. I am particularly impressed at how little was spent on marketing/comms compared to the impact it had. Well done!

Marcel wrote on

I asked myself the same questions but more than the average I’d interested in the median and the distribution. Does TB also have a few mega-donors?

Jason Evangelho wrote on

Here’s a pretty numbers-heavy reply that answers this:

Rolf wrote on

Interesting summary and average amount, sadly no drilldown of the totals shown. What did the top 3 donors donate, and who were they?

Jason Evangelho wrote on

Hi Rolf, let me ask our Donor Care team about this and we’ll try to get back to you. But for privacy reasons, we will never disclose the identity of donors unless they explicitly ask us to.

Jason Evangelho wrote on

Hi Rolf, as promised I have some substantial answers for you.
-Our top 3 donors last year gave 3000 EUR, 2500 EUR, and several that gave 1000 (in both Euros and US dollars)
-We had ~76 donations last year that were $500 USD equivalent or above (these were made by individuals or small businesses that use Thunderbird, and totals less than 1% of donations)
-Donations higher than $100 USD (or equivalent) were only 5% of total donations.
-43% of donations in 2022 were between $5 – $20 USD.

In our view, we don’t have mega-donors. We have normal, awesome people 😀

W wrote on

This is beyond awesome! (happy donor)

Also… I think curious point – in case of Thunderbird donations go directly to Thunderbird and it’s development. One would wonder if Firefox would get same/similar level of funding if the donations were to get to the browser directly instead of Mozilla Fundation…

Dan wrote on

First, great work!

One question–as I understand it, Thunderbird was moved out of Mozilla Fndn (non-profit) and into MZLA Technologies (for-profit) so that various other deals could fund it instead of donations. Given that 99.9% of revenue is from donations, could it be moved back to Mozilla so that (US) donations are tax-deductible? I’d give more in that case and various folks might be eligible for employer matching.


Rogach wrote on

> I’m interested in what the average amount of money donated per user is

Answer to this can be computed from the numbers in your comment (“that’s 300,000 users who have donated $6.5M in total”). 6442704 / 300000 = 21.47568

What you are actually interested in is the median of the donations.

SL wrote on

I appreciate Thunderbird and I am hopeful that its newly full coffers will mean that some long-standing bugs will get fixed. (The bugs I have in mind have to do with spell checking, filters, ‘ghost’ emails – and more.)

Here is a comment about grammar. Your post says: ‘This work will largely pay off in our 2024 release, however it does power some of the improvements in the 115 “Supernova” release this summer.’ Commas cannot conjoin clauses that could stand on their own as separate sentences. Violation of that rule can cause unclarity (about how clauses interrelate). Were the word ‘however’ a conjunction then your sentence would be fine. Yet, ‘however’ is not a conjunction.

Jason Evangelho wrote on

I always appreciate good grammatical advice, thanks!

WuJJ wrote on

I feel you meant to ask median, since average is just total divided by user count. $21 per user feels unreal even if we assume that’s 300K users from developed countries. There are probably corporate donors or few people donated a whole lot.

Else wrote on

Hopefully some of that money goes towards Integration with MS Exchange via EAS; OWA and Graphql.
We need a drop-in replacement for MS Outlook.

Matthew wrote on

Here’s some: meaning was conveyed clearly and without confusion; ignore gramaticians, most of whom would have to look up in some arbitrary rule-book whether I’ve used my semicolon (or my “whom”s (or parentheses)) correctly.

Oh and, here’s an abused Oxford Comma. Just ‘coz.

nixCraft wrote on

I think Thunderbird is an excellent email client, and I’m happy to hear that it’s now sustainable. I appreciate all the hard work put into it. Thank you!

Jason Evangelho wrote on

I know you! Thanks so much for the uplifting comment, Nix!

Thierry wrote on

This is absolutely amazing, when I read your article, I was very surprised. I use Thunderbird for such a long time, I quited twice but also came back ^^
So BRAVO !! I hope now you will really make it more intuitive and that I will be able to use it on my Android phone ?
See you ! Thierry

ADRN wrote on

Sustainability for open projects through “pay what you want” subscription (in other words, “donations”), yaaaay!
Now Firefox just needs to take inspiration and do the same, and abandon their noxious search engine & ad business. I _would_ pay for FF, _if asked to_. 😉
No such thing as a free service, ain’t it!

Oliver wrote on

Thank you very much for the information! It feels good that there are more and more people who not only use TB, but are able and willing to “pay” for it.

I look forward to continuing to do both in the years to come! I’m having fun listening to the 2nd Thundercast right now!

Iyas wrote on

I am thrilled with this news!

I’ve been a daily Thunderbird user from 2008 and I wish it will continue for years to come.

Keep up the good work!

Gian Bertelli wrote on

I am very pleased to learn that your fund raising campaign has been so successful. I have used Thunderbird since I first had a desktop PC before Windows 7.

Just one question I would like to ask. I have just had my present PC upgraded to Windows 11. Perhaps not such a great idea; I am having great setting my primary Thunderbird password. This has not completely stopped me using the mail service but I have keep deleting the request to supply the password. Your help would me appreciated. Thanks

Jason Evangelho wrote on

Hi Gian, the solution to this MIGHT be to check the box that says “Use password manager to remember this password” when that prompt appears to enter your password. However, I may be misunderstanding your question. The best place for your to get help is from our Community Support website here:

HEINZL, Johannes wrote on

Dear Sirs
Thunderbird should stay alive because you are independent already since for ages and you service is great – thank’s a lot.
This is the reason that I’m an average (according your statistik above) donator 🙂
With best regards
johannes heinzl

Francesco A. Tamburrano wrote on

I am very happy with Thunderbird, I note the frequent corrections offered as replies to user’s requests. This encourages contributions from users who are grateful and trust arganisation, technical competence and perceived honesty of it’s employees. Since I use Th. privately, for personal matters, I cannot afford a large contribution, but I feel that I will continue with my modest one despite I see you are in a fair financial situation.Continue w/o extravagancies as it seems you always did, and do not add too many features which would render heavier and slower its use, especially small private users like me in Italy. Greetings!

Francesco A. Tamburrano wrote on

I am happy with Thunderbird. Responsivness to user’s requests encourages contributions from grateful users. Continue as you always did, and do not add too many features which would render its use heavier and slower, especially small private users like me in Italy. Greetings!

Albrect X. Quantinius wrote on

Great news and thanks for the reports. I’m a TB user since Eudora folded in 2010?? ish and a paying contributor for the past 5 years. I dl all my email [ I have over 20 accounts] to my home PC and its system and it was easy to port and continue on, I have a collection of unbroken email in my archives spanning from 1983 starting with my Compuserve account.

TB has made it easy to have many accounts, compile, organize and collect them, but its not so easy to search through it given the limited search capabilities.

More power to you and glad your income has overcome the stresses of the economy.

May I request that TB put some thought into a better search engine, one with grep like capabilities, or at least, like the popular shareware “Everything” ? Thank you.

Dennis wrote on

If I want to increase my monthly financial support where do I do it? 300,000 people love Thunderbird enough to support it’s growth. Do you have an estimate of how many people use this amazing software? Cheers to the team.

Jason Evangelho wrote on

Hi Dennis, thank you for helping Thunderbird thrive with your monthly support. We truly couldn’t do this without people like you. Please visit this page to get in touch with our Donor Care team:

Miles wrote on

Awesome post. Thank you Thunderbird team for the transparency and for your work on this excellent software!

Brian wrote on

Well done Thunderbird team. This report too is well thought out. I think people are always interested to know how their money is spent even if it’s not a huge amount on average for each person.

Mike Richardson wrote on

I’ve been a Thunderbird user since before it was Thunderbird (strangely, I can’t remember what it was called then, but, since there is another user above who has been using since 2008, it’s been a long time!) I use T-bird fronted with MailWasher so I never have to worry about what email is stored on my computer. I don’t plan to change as long as both are around. I’m also one of the (very low level) contributors, and will continue that as long as I can.

Jason Evangelho wrote on

It was very briefly called Minotaur! But you may have used it under the name Communicator as part of the early Mozilla suite.

Igor wrote on

Thank you to all of you for everything you do. You have allowed millions of people to be free. Thank you again.

Ronald B. Schoenhardt wrote on

You folks are doing a great job!

Marcos wrote on

Great, just great.
I’m a long-term user, since it came out, first for personal usage, and in recent years, for heavy professional usage. I just complemented it with a few plugins (such as nostalgy++, )I have no major complaints, I can only say good things about TB….
Long life TB!, hope it stays true to the principles that made you great, and you don’t fall into the traps that kill great SW (change for the sake of change, change UI trends every year, etc etc)

PaulW wrote on

Good to hear that Thunderbird is surviving 🙂

I’ve been trying to get clients who use it, to donate; but it is a bit of a up hill battle as the donation isn’t tax deductible in Canada (as far as I’m aware).

Maybe have a website option to buy Token Thunderbird seats at a fixed price… say $21 USD? Not sure how different tax laws would work (for Thunderbird and with the different countries where users are located relating to collecting tax)


julien_d wrote on

This blog post just made my day 🙂

How awesome it is to see that people care that much about a free and open source email client. Thank you to all the donors!

Also, thank you to the TB team in landing Supernova this summer.

Best regards,

Ron Tarang wrote on

I have been and am an ardent supporter of Thunderbird for decades now.
I watched Alex’s video about the coming Supernova Release in July and tried to reach out to him but couldn’t find a way to do so to offer an idea to bring in more $$$ for support.
Then I ran across your report and thought OK I’ll sent it to you to pass on to maybe Ryan Sipes?
You mention above that:
“> 43% of donations in 2022 were between $5 – $20 USD.
In our view, we don’t have mega-donors. We have normal, awesome people ”
My idea is I saw Alex wear a ball cap with the Thunderbird insignia and thought that is a cool looking cap.
Why not sell those caps for $29. or $39. USD and many, many of your normal, awesome people will buy it.
I know I would! We T-Bird users would love to wear one of those caps that Alex was wearing in the video.
Do an e~mail blast out announcing the new Supernova version this summer and offer the Thunderbird cap.
Price the Thunderbird cap at ‘cost + $20 USD’ and let’s raise a lot of support money for the Thunderbird Team that deserves the funding.
We all are super charged about the upcoming NEW Thunderbird this summer!
I love Thunderbird and always have like millions of others do as well,

Jason Evangelho wrote on

Hi Ron! What if I told you we already have those caps (and mugs, and shirts, and more) for sale? 😉

Your suggestion is awesome, and in the interest of transparency I’ll share this: we decided to sell all the Thunderbird merchandise at cost for now, so as not to burden people with unnecessarily high price tags. We wanted them to remain affordable to the community. This means that the Thunderbird project doesn’t make a profit from any of these items sold on Spreadshirt. For now…

I can envision a near future where we sell certain limited edition designs for a higher price, though, effectively implementing your idea. Thanks so much for showing your support!

Peter Mason wrote on

I’ve finally donated and the thank you email brought me here.

I really appreciate the transparency and thoroughness of this report. I’m sorry I’ve left it so long. I’ve signed up to the newsletter and am in the process of figuring out how to host a matrix server, so will be able to join the Mastadon channel when I do.

There are many great open source communities that are patient and tolerant with those of us who will never be able to get our heads round coding properly. I have had wonderful experiences with Nextcloud, KDE and Kubuntu communities, showing me how to sort out my ham-fisted computer usage and making me feel welcome. I’ve noticed that the ones that put the effort into communicating in a simple, non-jargonny way, are the ones who support the most successful projects.

Thunderbird is essential to me. I have to use Outlook at work and it’s like cycling with square wheels, and being criticised for going slowly at the same time. I am truly grateful to the TB volunteers and to the employed team for making a client that is complex enough to do everything well (the Nextcloud integration is flawless these days, as far as I can see) but simple enough to become familiar and easy to use in a matter of hours.

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