Claws Mail donations: what are they for, what aren’t they for?

First of all, happy new year to everybody !

I’d like to talk a bit about the donations one can make to the Claws Mail project which I’m part of since approximately 12 years now, and tell a tale of something that luckily happened only once.

There are three kinds of donations possible for the Claws Mail :

  • One can opt to donate a certain amount of money via Paypal, from the Claws Mail Donations page.
  • One can opt to buy geeky stuff like T-shirts or mugs from our Cafepress store.
  • And the third one I added when I was really discouraged with maintaining the Windows port, a platform I don’t use: a specific Windows port donation. The amount of money donated is up to the donator, as well as for the normal donations.

We don’t really know yet what to do with the money that’s been donated over the years (and which amounts to €1573 since the first donation in 2006, for the sake of transparency, plus about €200 for the Windows port, and $120 from Cafepress). We plan on doing another meeting someday, and probably use it towards the travel expenses, hotels, food or booze. Probably booze. ;-)

We’re really grateful to everyone who makes a donation to us, each donation makes us aware that our little piece of software helps people in their everyday lives enough to go out of their way and give us something back.

In the same way we’re very grateful for every reply on the user mailing-list, where our community is very nice, helpful, and the flame wars very rare. (There are people on our mailing-list that have been subscribed for longer than I have ever been, they don’t have any questions to ask since years but stay just to help others. Their answers are invariably helpful and I find that this is great to have this sort of community). This was off-topic but I wanted to say it since a while.

So this is how we regard donations: a sort of “thanks” – and until now, that was the case for most people. Sometimes donations come from unknown people, sometimes I recognize the name of a new user, sometimes I recognize the name of long-timers.

But recently, in September, I woke up to three emails:

  • Notification of a €5 donation from John N. – Paypal
  • A Facebook friend request from John N.
  • A personal email from John N.

Let me quote the personal email, because it’s worth it:


Dear Colin: I am sending this email because when using claws-mail I have not even been able to send one message and I must let you know that I am frustrated.I continualy get error messages that pop is starting up prior to sm something da da da… I have no problems like this with either outlook or Gmail.The reason that I am wanting to use Claws is due to privacy issues.I am now using Tor for most of my web surfing and other investigating work which I do.please send me a phone# that I can use to speak to to someone of my issues.

I thought it was very possible that the sender was completely unaware of how things are in the Free Software world, so didn’t think too much about it and just replied with basic help for the first idea that the misquoted error message made me think of, and pointers for getting more help if needed:

Hi John,

It seems that your email provider wants you to authenticate using POP
before attempting to send using SMTP, is this it?
If so, you can probably make it work by checking the “Authenticate with
POP before sending” option, which is located in the account’s
preferences, in the “Send” section.

Hope this helps !

If you have other questions, you will probably have better and faster
replies on the mailing list, where there are a lot of users who know
Claws Mail inside and out ! You can subscribe there:

Also, thanks for your donation, in the name of the whole team, it is
appreciated :)

And that was it. I never read from him on the users mailing-list, so I thought my reply was probably enough to get him unstuck.

Until three weeks ago, when I received an email from Paypal, stating this payment was unauthorized and that the card holder asked his bank to cancel it. Which I found pretty unbelievable. Probably my reply was not helpful enough and John N. thought he was buying a service, then he got disappointed by the service, but instead of asking me for a refund — which I’d have done, because I wouldn’t care, people make donations to us, and if they change their mind, we have nothing against it! As stated earlier, none of us rely on donations to live or anything – luckily! — instead of asking for a refund, this person filed a formal complaint with his bank that his card had been fraudulently used!

The difference between a refund and a fraudulent use complaint, I learned, is that Paypal forwards the bank’s charge of €16 to us (which I can understand). So this cost us €16. Way to go, isn’t it!

So, just out of principle, I did refuse the refund at Paypal, included screenshots of John N.’s emails and friend requesting (!) and also my reply. This makes it difficult to believe that a thief would have used this person’s card to ask for hotline help using the same person’s email address and Facebook account. This doesn’t prevent Paypal from getting these €21 back, but this does make them pursue the matter with the bank. (And I hope this person will get some sort of trouble with his bank for filing wrong claims. I know he won’t be punished for believing Free Software developers may be his personal slaves).

(Update from March 13th, 2014: we got the original donation back, but not the bank’s processing charges)

So, in case anyone else wonders, no, the Donations page is not a way to get custom work (hotline or not) done, this is, as stated, just a thank-you :-) – (Contracting one of the developers for custom work may be possible, for example I may consider it, but not in this manner)

Luckily, this happened only once out of 88 donations, and to the the rest of the 87 donators since 2006, again, in the name of the whole team, heartfelt thanks!


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I think it’s important to mention that donations are used for the web hosting fees – it’s not just about meet-ups and drinking! :)

If we did rely on donations to live then we would all be dead long ago! :)

Personally, I don’t think any custom work for a fee should be permissible. Any such work would build upon what was already there, so there’s no way a single developer should get the dough. That would quickly get complicated, so in my opinion, there is no option to buy features.

As for requesting the return of a donation, hmm, I don’t think so! If you’re not sure about making a donation then don’t make one. If you do make a donation then consider that money lost to you. Whoever heard of requesting a return of a donation??

As for John N., what went on in his mind is a mystery to me and will remain that way. :)


That’s another reason:
– not to use Paypal
– not to add people I’ve never met in real life as friends in social sites
– not to answer private mails about things that should have been sent to a public mailing list

To be fair I’ve answered some private mails in the past and probably will answer some more (self-imposed rules are to be broken from time to time), but now I try to always follow the rule :-)


Hi Ricardo!
Well, I don’t do 2, never, and I do 3 but the least possible, telling to use the ML, because I don’t want to leave a personal email unanswered.

Regarding 1, what else could we use? Btw, I don’t find Paypal’s behaviour abusive on this issue, anyway, this is common practice.

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