2019 Open Stories Foundation Donor Update
November 23, 2019
Open Stories Foundation Donors,
As is customary, and in the spirit of continued full transparency, the OSF board and I are providing our annual foundation update – wherein we will review the OSF’s accomplishments for the previous year and our overall financial health and status.
Normally we would prefer to release this report in the June-July period (after our annual 501c3 990 report has been submitted). Please accept our apologies for the delay.
Message from the Executive Director of the OSF (John Dehlin):
OSF Podcast Success: 2018 was an exceptional year for OSF podcasts. In total, OSF podcasts garnered 6,592,897 MP3 downloads and YouTube/Facebook views in 2018. This is up from 6,244,462 in 2017. The breakdown for each of the OSF podcasts for 2018 is as follows:
Given the sheer number of excellent podcasts and YouTube channels in the global and Mormon marketplaces, we are ecstatic to continue growing in overall podcast listeners and viewership.
Two distribution channels we have invested in over the past few years are YouTube and Facebook Live. In reviewing our performance, I was somewhat stunned to discover that 652,006 hours of Mormon Stories videos were watched on YouTube and Facebook Live in 2018. To me, this statistic is mind-boggling, and we could not have done this without your support. For the number geeks out there, I am including a graph that shows total OSF podcast downloads and views since the founding of Mormon Stories podcast in 2005.
1,000 Episodes of Mormon Stories Podcast! In 2018 we reached a milestone of exceeding 1,000 episodes. The Mormon Stories podcast, of course, would not exist without our amazing set of courageous, thoughtful guests/interviewees. While we do not have enough room to thank everyone who interviewed in 2018 here, words cannot express how thankful I am for each person and/or family who agrees to appear on the podcast. Many do so at great personal sacrifice – but each interview finds its audience and makes a huge difference in the lives of listeners.
Mormon Stories Podcast Website Redesign: In 2018, we rolled out a total redesign of the Mormon Stories podcast website to increase its visual appeal, and to make it easier for new visitors to find the content they need. We are pleased with the way the new mormonstories.org looks and functions. Check it out if you have not visited in a while. Our most popular page, at present, is our list of “Top 25 Most Popular/Important Episodes.”
‘Mormon Stories Truth Claims’ Essays: In 2018, we were approached by a generous supporter (Mike Brown) who had (during his own faith crisis) authored over 30 meticulously researched and annotated essays dealing with Mormon truth claims. These essays span all of the expected topics related to Mormon church truth claims (e.g., Folk Magic/Treasure Digging, First Vision, Book of Mormon Translation and Historicity, Priesthood Restoration, Lamanite DNA, Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Masonic Influence in the Mormon Temple Ceremony, Race and the Priesthood, Tithing, etc.) and also includes a valuable Chronology of Important Historical Events within Mormonism.
In 2018 we initiated a project to edit these essays and migrate them to mormonstories.org, and to date, I estimate that 1 in 10 visits to the website involve the perusing of these new essays. If you have not yet reviewed these essays, I assure you that you will find them worthwhile. We would also highly value your feedback to help us improve the essays. Our hope is to turn these essays into a book at some point in the next year. If you know a skilled and experienced editor in Mormon history with a solid publication record who is looking for work, please have them reach out to us.
Mormon Stories Podcast Billboard Campaign: We were delighted to launch a billboard campaign in 2018 for the Mormon Stories podcast in downtown Salt Lake City. At present, we also have billboards running in Spanish Fork and Springville (Utah), and in Rigby, Idaho Falls, and Blackfoot (Idaho). I offer here a HUGE thank you to our billboard donors. If any of you are interested in sponsoring a billboard in your city or town, please do not hesitate to reach out. The monthly cost of these billboards can often be quite affordable (e.g., $500-$650/month).Mormon Stories Podcast Website Reach: As a result of all these efforts, mormonstories.org experienced a 9% increase in hits in 2018, along with 331,408 new visitors to the site – which we are super proud of. At present, mormonstories.org attracts 1,000 new visitors (on average) each day.
Mormon Stories & Faith Crisis Workshops and Retreats: The OSF organized more than a dozen workshops and retreats in 2018 to support Mormons in faith crisis. These events were held in Portland, Sacramento, Houston, Salt Lake City, Park City, Boise, St. George, Switzerland, Sweden, Phoenix, Idaho Falls, and on a cruise to the Bahamas. In total, over 500 people benefitted from these events, all of which were rated 4.9 out of 5.0 by our attendees.
Our next season of events will begin in late 2019 with a Mormon Stories Retreat in St. George, Utah, on December 6-8. Please join us if you or someone you know needs support. Scholarships are available for those who cannot afford to attend.
New OSF Office Space and Podcast Studio: In January of 2018, we moved the OSF office and the Mormon Stories podcast studio out of my home (where it had been since 2005), and into a new office space in Salt Lake City. This move has been a welcome change for both the OSF and for my family.
Featured in HBO Documentary, Believer, Starring Dan Reynolds: As a beautiful culmination of the LGBTQ research that I conducted during my Psychology Ph.D. (partially funded by OSF donors!), I was incredibly honored to be featured in the HBO documentary, Believer, which focuses on the LGBTQ suicide crisis within Mormonism. If you have not seen this documentary, I can not recommend it highly enough.
A Thoughtful Faith Podcast: A Thoughtful Faith Podcast continues to draw a steady audience as host Gina Colvin works to create a broader ecumenical conversation about spiritual formation and contextual theology. Over the last year Gina has created content that is inclusive of Community of Christ in order to refresh understandings of the LDS Restoration movement as more than the Utah/Brighamite Church.
One important feature of Gina’s social justice work with A Thoughtful Faith Podcast has also been highlighting stories of abuse. Her interviews with Tim Kosnoff (Episodes 258 and 288), who is one of the most experienced litigators in cases involving LDS Church sexual abuse cover-ups, has helped inform television news stories including an upcoming documentary by award-winning Swedish film-makers. As a New Zealander Gina continues to pay attention to the global church cross-cultural experience and she is delighted to report that Jacinda Ardern, the former LDS, Prime Minister of New Zealand has agreed to interview with her about her own faith journey – when she’s not so busy running the country.
Mormon Mental Health Podcast: Mormon Mental Health Podcast continues to provide high quality podcasts that serve to educate the public on matters that typically affect the Mormon community; whether it be issues exacerbated by a perfectionistic culture (i.e. depression, anxiety, OCD), trauma-informed issues, faith transitions, sexuality, or family/marital relationships.
- This year saw topics covered such as the experience of transgender members, how trauma presents in men, dealing with sexual abuse, research on queer clients who grow up in conservative religions, group therapy addressing sexual problems at BYU, education on marijuana use, and dangerous myths of false reporting in the wake of the Kavenaugh hearing.
- Mormon Mental Health Podcast also offers critiques from a clinical perspective on some of the policy changes and/or decisions the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints make that have a direct impact on the mental and relational health of their members. Such topics this year included: a response to the new abuse training when it comes to youth/minors, the reversal of the November 5th policy affecting LGBTQIA members and their families, new temple wording, and addressing several leadership addresses that had problematic messaging.
- Mormon Mental Health also welcomed two new hosts that will help with the production of podcasts, Jennifer White and Jeff Lundgren. Both are mental health professionals and will bring a wider variety of topics to the show at a higher frequency rate.
- Mormon Mental Health podcast also offered several interviews conducted in Spanish this year and would like to grow a more international presence with Spanish speakers.
To conclude, I can say with confidence that none of these accomplishments would have been possible without your generous support. Your donations are being directly used to provide comfort, knowledge, and validation to so many hurting people within Mormonism, and beyond. As both a podcaster and as Executive Director of the OSF, I am incredibly grateful that I can spend each day doing what I dearly love — providing support resources and building community for those experiencing or impacted by Mormon faith crises/transitions. Please know that your donations are being used to provide direct comfort to individuals and families in need, as we build community for those moving forward in their lives after so much devastation and heartache.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
– John Dehlin
Message from the OSF Board Chair (Jeremy Macdonald)
On behalf of the Board of Directors, we would like to personally thank each donor for making the work of the OSF possible. Many of our listeners and viewers would not be moving forward with grace and dignity without the vast resources the OSF provides free of charge to the world. It is our goal as a board to ensure that the OSF is continually improving, and is on strong financial footing, so that it can continue to offer life-saving, quality content for many years to come.
The OSF Board values transparency, and especially being accountable to our donors who make our non-profit possible. We are grateful for this opportunity to share with you a brief report of our finances so that you can be assured that your valuable donations are being spent in a manner that will ensure quality content for years to come.
2018 OSF Financial Report
OSF Donations and Revenue: We are grateful to report that the OSF had its most successful year for donations and revenue in its eight-year history. In total, the OSF received $480,173 in total revenue in 2018, up from $454,810 in 2017.
- 77% of our total revenue came from podcast donations
- 14% from event-related revenue
- 8% from direct donations to the OSF
Donations to the Mormon Stories podcast, our billboard marketing campaigns, and the ‘Truth Claims’ initiatives represented 80% of total podcast revenue at $298,748. For a summary of OSF total revenue over time, please see here:
We can not thank you, our dear donors enough for your continued support, which has made all of these accomplishments possible.
Change in OSF Podcaster Compensation: In 2018, the OSF’s board of directors made the decision to change our podcaster compensation model to ensure that our talented podcasters were treated more equitably, and to incentivize our podcasters to continue to offer the exceptional content we have all come to rely upon. Starting in 2018, we began to compensate podcasters based on a percentage of the revenue they bring into the organization. Our podcast hosts are now paid 80% of the revenue they contribute to the OSF, with the exception of the Executive Director.
Change in Executive Director Compensation: As reported in 2018, the OSF board decided to change our Executive Director’s compensation structure so as to keep him producing quality content, and taking care of the priorities we as a board have given him. We conducted a salary survey of like positions in the marketplace and of the compensation models that are used by successful organizations to retain quality individuals in key roles and perform required job duties as established by the board. This salary survey included such elements as essential job duties, necessary levels of education, and performance measures. After this study, the board decided to change the compensation model of its Executive Director from a standard “salary plus bonus” structure towards a new structure which is more aligned with Industry standards and the many critical roles the Executive Director performs, including institutional development, organizing and presenting at conferences, as well as his podcasting responsibilities.
Under this new structure, the Executive Director’s compensation is based upon the following components:
- Executive Director: A base salary for performing the duties of the OSF Executive Director: $75,000 in 2018.
- Mormon Stories Podcast Host: Variable compensation for hosting the Mormon Stories podcast equal to 75% of any contributions received directly from the podcast (subject to a maximum compensation of $125,000).
- In 2018, the remainder of the Mormon Stories podcast donations funded our billboard marketing campaign, the ‘Truth Claims’ essay projects, and general OSF operations.
- Mormon Stories Faith Crisis Workshops/Retreats: A fixed fee paid for each event John leads for OSF. This fee is consistent with the fees paid to other professionals of John’s education and experience level who participate in these events.
- Performance Bonus: A Board-awarded a performance bonus for the attainment of certain goals which are aligned with our strategic vision.
- Health Insurance, and
- Retirement: An SEPP-based retirement plan ($5,000 in 2018).
In 2018 total compensation for the OSF Executive Director was $201,982 in addition to an SEPP-based retirement benefit and health insurance plan ($25,326). This amount matches the board’s previously published 2018 forecast.
OSF Podcast Staff: We bade a bittersweet farewell to long-time Mormon Matters podcast host, Dan Wotherspoon, who left the OSF this year to launch his own independent podcast, Latter-Day Faith. Dan is a dear friend and a wonderful human. While we miss our collaborations with Dan, we wish him success in his new venture.
We are grateful that Gina Colvin (A Thoughtful Faith) and Natasha Helfer Parker (Mormon Mental Health) remain as podcasters within the OSF family. Both of these women are incredibly important voices within the broader Mormon and Post-Mormon communities, and it remains an honor to have them on our team.
OSF Staff: As a difficult part of our strategic planning process, it was determined that our staffing requirements needed to change to be more efficient and cost effective given our new direction and strategy. We are and will always be grateful for the dedicated individuals who gave so much to help the mission of OSF in 2018. We regret any rumors or innuendoes that have circled the realignment of our staffing needs. To be direct, the decision to reduce our staff in 2018 was solely a business decision, and had nothing to do with the efforts, professionalism, and goodness of our former staff. The hardest part of running a non-profit is when business decisions interfere with relations between people of goodwill. We wish nothing but goodness for the former employees who were affected by these decisions.
We also remain grateful for the tireless work of Cody Layton who continues to handle all audio and visual production for the Mormon Stories podcast. Cody is a consummate professional, and we would not be where we are today without Cody.
Looking Forward: 2019 Initiatives
New Podcast! We are thrilled to have launched a new podcast in 2019: Gift of the Mormon Faith Crisis. This podcast is co-hosted by Natasha Helfer Parker, Margi Dehlin, and John Dehlin. It is intended to provide Latter-Day Saints experiencing a faith transition with over 60 (and counting) hours of free content and coaching. If you or someone you love is in need of support through an LDS faith crisis, we highly recommend this new podcast.
OSF Board Update: The OSF Board of Directors is incredibly excited about the changes and initiatives already underway for 2019 and beyond.
As part of our strategic planning efforts, we identified the need to limit the terms of board members to ensure new ideas were flowing in and to decrease the chance of burning out individuals due to the demands placed upon board members. As a result, we want to extend our heartfelt thanks to board members Craig Woodfield, Kim Turner, Steve Holbrook, and Nadine Hansen for their incredible dedication and service over the past few years – most of whom served longer than their two year obligations. Some members had reached the end of their terms, and some decided to step down for personal reasons. Craig, Kim, Steve, and Nadine — we could not have survived the past these years without you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
We are pleased to announce that Keri Morgan Witbeck and Clint Martin have joined the OSF board of directors – both of whom have considerable financial accounting experience in the commercial arena, but more importantly, are lovely, intelligent people of high integrity. Jeremy Macdonald is remaining on the board to support this transition and will step down once the transition is complete.
New Accounting Firm and Legal Counsel: We are grateful to the accounting firm, Allred Jackson, and specifically to Ryan Bell for handling the OSF’s accounting and IRS reporting for the past several years.
To keep accounting services close to the OSF offices, in 2017, we decided to search for a local accounting firm specialized in non-profit organizations. We were delighted to find Justin Shaw (CPA at Shaw & Co.), who has been handling our accounting and IRS reporting since January of 2018. We are also appreciative to report that earlier in the year, the OSF hired attorney Aaron Garrett of Nonprofit Legal Services of Utah to conduct a legal compliance audit of the OSF’s human resource policies, operations, and practices
To date, Mr. Garrett’s efforts have included the following:
- Reviewed and enhanced OSF bylaws and governance procedures.
- Conducted an independent review of John Dehlin’s compensation package as Executive Director.
- Drafted a co-leasing agreement for John Dehlin’s private coaching practice.
- Drafted a marketing agreement with the THRIVE initiative.
We are grateful for Justin and Aaron’s work, which helps us maintain high standards for the fiduciary responsibilities of the OSF.
A Final Thank You: We hope you have valued this update; part of our longstanding commitment within the Open Stories Foundation to organizational transparency. We also hope that you feel our sincere gratitude for your role in helping us fulfill our mission: To promote understanding, healing, growth, and community for people experiencing or impacted by religious transition.
It has been a sacred honor to serve you and the broader Mormon and Post-Mormon communities over the past 14 years. We remain steadfast in our promise to continue serving this community for as long as we are able.
John Dehlin, Executive Director
Jeremy Macdonald, Board Chair
Open Stories Foundation
P.S. Please send any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: 11/23/2019