John Markoff of the New York Times has a good piece on ‘hybrid’ organizations of which Mozilla is a good example.
They’re often referred to as “social enterprises” because they pursue social missions instead of profits. But unlike most nonprofit groups, these organizations generate a sustainable source of revenue and do not rely on philanthropy. Earnings are retained and reinvested rather than being distributed to shareholders.
The new companies, like thousands of Silicon Valley start-ups before them, typically begin as small groups of intensely motivated people dedicated to the goal of building a product or service.
The best-known examples are efforts like the Mozilla Corporation, which maintains and develops the Firefox Web browser, and TechSoup, an organization that was started two decades ago to connect technology experts with nonprofit groups. It now distributes commercial software to nonprofit groups in 14 countries. (Mozilla’s mission is to preserve choice and innovation on the Internet, which it considers a social good.)