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MormonStories in Financial Trouble


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Mormon Stories Podcast is truly at a crossroads. We have had our highest impact year of all time (by far) in 2023, but we have also lost several recurring donors that have not been replaced by new donors. We have also been the subject of fierce attacks that have been extremely expensive financially, and in terms of time and emotional energy.

We are currently at the point of possibly needing to reduce our efforts, unless at least a few hundred monthly donors step up to replace the donors we lost over the past two years.

 

Hmm.  He has lots to say about how "phenomenal" the growth of MormonStories has been in 2023, but then says that "donations, weirdly, have flatlined, and even decreased in this same year where we've had phenomenal success."  He shows a donations chart that shows donations peaking at about 620K in 2021, then going going to slightly under $600K in 2022 and 2023.

"For some reason I can't understand exactly, we're losing donors as we double and triple our global impact."  He attributes this to

A) MS being "smeared, assaulted, attacked, defamed, that we think has dramatically impacted, has caused donors to cancel, and it's probably impacted new people willing to donate,"

B) MS not asking frequently enough for donations;

C) People lose interest and move on;

D) People fall on financial hard times;

Donations have decreased and cancellations have increased.

I suspect most of the decrease is attributable to (C) and (D).  Lots of inflation, so lots of people are having difficulty paying the bills.  Monthly donations to MS are, I think, likely to be a low priority.

Thanks,

-Smac

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17 minutes ago, smac97 said:

See here:

Hmm.  He has lots to say about how "phenomenal" the growth of MormonStories has been in 2023, but then says that "donations, weirdly, have flatlined, and even decreased in this same year where we've had phenomenal success."  He shows a donations chart that shows donations peaking at about 620K in 2021, then going going to slightly under $600K in 2022 and 2023.

"For some reason I can't understand exactly, we're losing donors as we double and triple our global impact."  He attributes this to

A) MS being "smeared, assaulted, attacked, defamed, that we think has dramatically impacted, has caused donors to cancel, and it's probably impacted new people willing to donate,"

B) MS not asking frequently enough for donations;

C) People lose interest and move on;

D) People fall on financial hard times;

Donations have decreased and cancellations have increased.

I suspect most of the decrease is attributable to (C) and (D).  Lots of inflation, so lots of people are having difficulty paying the bills.  Monthly donations to MS are, I think, likely to be a low priority.

Thanks,

-Smac

B is maybe why people don't donate, he asks so often for donations, it's a turn off. But I guess it's a full time job for a few of them, gotta pay the bills. 

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In the story of the widow’s might, we learn that it is the faith of the individual and not the size of the donation that is the most powerful. While MS dollar-value donations are decreasing, certainly faith in the MS community has never been stronger, as John reportedly demonstrates. This should be cause to celebrate, as the mission of MS continues to go forth boldly. The joy that will be with John when the faith of the entire MS community is so strong that it can sustain itself on $10 of annual donation figures.

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1 hour ago, Duncan said:

One thing too is MS is not the only exmo podcast circus in town and they all live in capitalistic society, so Dehlin is competing with other exmo podcast people, winners and losers

I am not that familiar with the quality of his competitors, but imo it doesn’t have to be that high to be serious competition, though being first on the block and the biggest even if not the best has kept him on top for quite some time, imo.

Edited by Calm
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53 minutes ago, bluebell said:

What are the expensive fierce attacks he's talking about.

No idea. I just had a quick look at the list of episodes from the past year and there's nothing particularly interesting there.

 

There were some spikes in viewing/subscribing (see graphs below from social blade), but it looks like once the moment had passed, things started trending down again. I'm wondering if they saw the spikes at the start of the year, and overspent.

image.png.45c44e97abe6789ebf7175d74a58d791.png

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On 11/28/2023 at 6:46 PM, The Nehor said:

So….they had a minor downturn in donations? So why are costs going up? It is a podcast for crying out loud.

They did do THRIVE and events as well as the podcast, though there is nothing on their event calendar since last Feb, so seems like they shut down this past year rather than expanded.  My memory is THRIVE got retired.

That he is exceedingly vague in both details about expansions and attacks and only provided details on donors makes me wonder***.  It is not a great appeal, imo.  Does not pull on the heartstrings at all, so definitely not the moneystrings (even in my imagination where I have no clue about some of the actual outcomes of MS’s work, which is in my list of never will support until hell freezes over category).
 

***my Dehlin paranoia seems to have been again justified as the issue are not in relation to his work on religious or political topics, but more accusations of sexual improprieties and mistreatment/distespect of a female coworker as described by smac in posts below. 

Edited by Calm
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For so many out there that suffered a crisis of faith, it is probably one of the most life altering and devastating things to go through if you were a true blue believer. It affects friends, family and employment sometimes. It affects your personality and having to figure out who you are or who you want to become. It forces some to fake their identities, for me personally I still fake it to make it because all of my friends are true blue as far as I know, at least they are very active. I have a good friend that knows I'm not active and she'll try various ways to see if I'd like to go to different things in the stake since we are in the same stake. I did go to the chili cook off and trunk or treat with her. 

Which brings me to why I'm posting, Thrive was something to help those like me that still needs community. They've tried other things as well. But so often it doesn't hold for very long, and they peter out. It's not like the LDS church community that requires attendance for a temple recommend, or family expectations, or social reasons, or getting called to serve a calling and needing to show up. Or last but not least a way to worship. I think this is the best of all for sure. And I think I could do that in a heart beat but not my ward. I had a bad start when I told the bishop right up front of my faith issues. We moved from my former ward five years ago. And it sort of started a chain reaction of me being a doubt germ I believe.

I have never donated to MormonStories podcast, but have donated once or twice to what Bill Reel started years ago. He was an active poster here under the name of DBMormon. 

But get turned off when these podcasts are so anti. I like podcasts like Gospel Tangents, At Last She Said It, Inside Out. Each of these have faithful members hosting them. 

 

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2 hours ago, bluebell said:

What are the expensive fierce attacks he's talking about.

Perhaps he believes it's all the witty comebacks/defamatory statements of one Kuaku El? 

Image result for Kuaku El midnight john

Though I think it's the growing overhead costs while the average donor has neither the time, interest, nor financial resources to approach their giving decisions from charity solicitations that contain emotionally charged messages to elicit visceral responses from potential donors, hoping they will give quickly and generously, like in the past.

Edited by Pyreaux
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6 hours ago, smac97 said:

See here:

Hmm.  He has lots to say about how "phenomenal" the growth of MormonStories has been in 2023, but then says that "donations, weirdly, have flatlined, and even decreased in this same year where we've had phenomenal success."  He shows a donations chart that shows donations peaking at about 620K in 2021, then going going to slightly under $600K in 2022 and 2023.

"For some reason I can't understand exactly, we're losing donors as we double and triple our global impact."  He attributes this to

A) MS being "smeared, assaulted, attacked, defamed, that we think has dramatically impacted, has caused donors to cancel, and it's probably impacted new people willing to donate,"

B) MS not asking frequently enough for donations;

C) People lose interest and move on;

D) People fall on financial hard times;

Donations have decreased and cancellations have increased.

I suspect most of the decrease is attributable to (C) and (D).  Lots of inflation, so lots of people are having difficulty paying the bills.  Monthly donations to MS are, I think, likely to be a low priority.

Thanks,

-Smac

I agree with your assessment. Last thing on a long list of stuff for most. I have listened in off for several years and never have or will donate. Kind wierd guy but he has put out some good material on occasion.
 

How long have you been a John Dehlin fan?

Edited by Diamondhands69
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14 hours ago, Tacenda said:

For so many out there that suffered a crisis of faith, it is probably one of the most life altering and devastating things to go through if you were a true blue believer. It affects friends, family and employment sometimes. It affects your personality and having to figure out who you are or who you want to become. It forces some to fake their identities, for me personally I still fake it to make it because all of my friends are true blue as far as I know, at least they are very active. I have a good friend that knows I'm not active and she'll try various ways to see if I'd like to go to different things in the stake since we are in the same stake. I did go to the chili cook off and trunk or treat with her. 

Which brings me to why I'm posting, Thrive was something to help those like me that still needs community. They've tried other things as well. But so often it doesn't hold for very long, and they peter out. It's not like the LDS church community that requires attendance for a temple recommend, or family expectations, or social reasons, or getting called to serve a calling and needing to show up. Or last but not least a way to worship. I think this is the best of all for sure. And I think I could do that in a heart beat but not my ward. I had a bad start when I told the bishop right up front of my faith issues. We moved from my former ward five years ago. And it sort of started a chain reaction of me being a doubt germ I believe.

I have never donated to MormonStories podcast, but have donated once or twice to what Bill Reel started years ago. He was an active poster here under the name of DBMormon. 

But get turned off when these podcasts are so anti. I like podcasts like Gospel Tangents, At Last She Said It, Inside Out. Each of these have faithful members hosting them. 

 

Love this post Tacenda!!

 

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16 hours ago, Tacenda said:

For so many out there that suffered a crisis of faith, it is probably one of the most life altering and devastating things to go through if you were a true blue believer. It affects friends, family and employment sometimes. It affects your personality and having to figure out who you are or who you want to become. It forces some to fake their identities, for me personally I still fake it to make it because all of my friends are true blue as far as I know, at least they are very active. I have a good friend that knows I'm not active and she'll try various ways to see if I'd like to go to different things in the stake since we are in the same stake.

Undeniably true for some, but hardly for all.   I've had two faith crises.  One from age 7-18, and the other from age 25-29.  

(I'm using the standard definition of 'crisis'.  Something to the tune of "An impossible to maintain current status quo, increasingly demanding some sort of major crucial change."    I am not defining it as something like a plain old traumatic or stressful event that knocks people off their center.  That 2nd thing certainly exists, but you can have a lack of impending urgent immediacy and still have a crisis.)

My first crisis started at my baptismal interview, when I lied about believing.   It was resolved when I went inactive, the year I "got big enough that mom couldn't make me go to church any more".  It was a period of self-examination and no shortage of doubt.  And yes, it affected some friends and family, but usually the impact was an increase in love/sympathy/empathy.  By people both in and out of the church.  One or two churchy folks went out of their way to invite and love-bomb the crap out of me, or openly worry about my soul.

My 2nd crisis was after I gained a testimony, returned to full activity, and began researching criticisms of my faith.  It was a period of testing a very simple testimony (God and Christ are real, the BoM is true, the CoJCoLDS is true), against all the unimaginably interesting, eclectic, and sometimes quite challenging bits of history, theology, and doctrine.  It also affected some friends and family, but again not too majorly.  LDS friends/family/peers reacted with worry or immediate disinterest or they found a boost in my stories about finding successful resolutions to criticisms and problems.  NonLDS friends/family/peers largely didn't care.  One or two nonLDS folks heavy on the critical side did their version of inviting and love-bombing, or actively worry about my ability to think and reason.   It was pretty much resolved when 3 things happened:
- Dan Peterson called one of my points "salient", here on this very message board.
- My most serious battling buddy at the Reachout Trust Countercult Board, admitted to me that I may very well be a saved Christian. 
- The bottom fell out of the zealous antimormon industry, people largely stopped selling antimormon books, people stopped making a living as a traveling antimormon preacher, and Owen and Mosser's paper came out talking about how the antimormon scholarship basically sucked.  In other words "we" "won".

 

Everyone's mileage varies.   @Tacenda's story and mine are both valid.

Edited by LoudmouthMormon
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19 hours ago, bluebell said:

What are the expensive fierce attacks he's talking about.  The only expensive kinds of attacks I can think of is being sued and losing/having to settle out of court.  Is there evidence of that occurring a lot this year?

Here's what I found:

1. Jennifer Ruth Kamp filed a federal lawsuit (downloadable here) against Dehlin and Clint Martin and Keri Witback (OSF board members).  It looks pretty flimsy.  Kamp filed it pro se (without an attorney), and it really shows.  However, it looks like Kamp hasn't done anything with this, not even serving it on the defendants.  So Dehlin likely has not incurred any legal fees in relation to this suit.

Here are the allegations in the Complaint:

Dehlin01.jpg

Dehlin02.jpg

Dehlin03.jpg

 

2. Kamp also filed a civil stalking injunction action against Dehlin in February in state court in Utah (Case No. 230901037).  There was, I think, only one hearing, and it lasted 4 hours or so.  Kamp lost, and Dehlin filed a motion for payment of his attorney fees, which was denied.  I suspect this case would have taken $3-4K in legal fees.

3. Dehlin filed a defamation lawsuit against Kamp (downloadable here) in February in state court in Utah (Case No.  230900882).  This one looks like it has been heavily litigated throughout this year.  By my quick count the parties have filed around fourteen motions, each one likely requiring expenditure of attorney fees in the many hundreds to a few thousand dollars to fully brief, argue and resolve.

There may be other lawsuits filed in other states, but the above three are the only ones I could find in Utah.

I think Dehlin is the master of his own destiny here.  Only one of the foregoing lawsuits looks like it is creating extensive expenses for Dehlin, and it's the one where Dehlin is the plaintiff.  I have limited experience in defamation litigation, but my general sense is that neither lawyers nor judges like them.  Damages are often difficult to prove, evidence is hard to come by, the melodrama quotient tends to run high, etc.  Moreover, such lawsuits can result in the Streisand Effect:

Quote

The Streisand effect is an unintended consequence of attempts to hide, remove, or censor information, where the effort instead backfires by increasing awareness of that information. It is named after American singer and actress Barbra Streisand, whose attempt to suppress the California Coastal Records Project's photograph of her cliff-top residence in Malibu, California, taken to document California coastal erosion, inadvertently drew far greater attention to the previously obscure photograph in 2003.

Anyway, Dehlin can help OSF avoid legal fees by dismissing the defamation lawsuit against Kamp.  Both OSF and Dehlin individually are named as the plaintiffs, but I suspect OSF is footing most or all of the legal fees.

Litigation is hard.  It is stressful.  Expensive.  Time-and-effort consuming.  People should avoid it unless A) they have no other option, B) they have a very strong case, C) they have a legal basis for seeking attorney's fees and costs, D) the defendant has the means to satisfy a judgment, or some combination of these.

Here, Dehlin is suing a disgruntled former OSF employee.  I think he would be better of dismissing the suit, letting blowback and online gossip dissipate, and then carry on.  This would allow OSF to avoid further litigation expenses.  Instead, he is forging ahead in what is likely a quixotic legal effort, which will likely cost a lot of money and yield little or no meaningful results.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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5 minutes ago, LoudmouthMormon said:

Undeniably true for some, but hardly for all.   I've had two faith crises.  One from age 7-18, and the other from age 25-29.  

(I'm using the standard definition of 'crisis'.  Something to the tune of "An impossible to maintain current status quo, increasingly demanding some sort of major crucial change."    I am not defining it as something like a plain old traumatic or stressful event that knocks people off their center.  That 2nd thing certainly exists, but you can have a lack of impending urgent immediacy and still have a crisis.)

My first crisis had me go inactive, the year I "got big enough that mom couldn't make me go to church any more".  It was a period of self-examination and no shortage of doubt.  And yes, it affected some friends and family, but usually the impact was an increase in love/sympathy/empathy.  By people both in and out of the church.  One or two churchy folks went out of their way to invite and love-bomb the crap out of me, or openly worry about my soul.

My 2nd crisis was after I gained a testimony, returned to full activity, and began researching criticisms of my faith.  It was a period of testing a very simple testimony (God and Christ are real, the BoM is true, the CoJCoLDS is true), against all the unimaginably interesting, eclectic, and sometimes quite challenging bits of history, theology, and doctrine.  It also affected some friends and family, but again not too majorly.  LDS friends/family/peers reacted with worry or immediate disinterest or they found a boost in my stories about finding successful resolutions to criticisms and problems.  NonLDS friends/family/peers largely didn't care.  One or two nonLDS folks heavy on the critical side did their version of inviting and love-bombing, or actively worry about my ability to think and reason. 

 

Everyone's mileage varies.   @Tacenda's story and mine are both valid.

For sure, didn't mean to make it so one sided. 

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Has he ever produced audited statements?   The last info I saw several years ago, Dehlin took the majority of the donations for himself.  (And there was internal upset over the disproportionality of compensation (though I don't recall all the details.)   I'd be surprised that this far in, anyone is thinking Dehlin can't survive on 600K (or even half of that).

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14 hours ago, Diamondhands69 said:

I agree with your assessment. Last thing on a long list of stuff for most. I have listened in off for several years and never have or will donate. Kind wierd guy but he has put out some good material on occasion.

How long have you been a John Dehlin fan?

I'm not a fan.  To the contrary, I have a fairly low opinion of Dehlin, both philosophically, and of his personal behavior, of his podcast style (he's a terrible interviewer, IMO), and much of the substance of his content.  

Here and there I listen to what he has to say.j

Thanks,

-Smac

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