Academic journal article Business Case Journal

The Mormon Stories Podcast: Faith, Disaffiliation, and Strategic Vision

Academic journal article Business Case Journal

The Mormon Stories Podcast: Faith, Disaffiliation, and Strategic Vision

Article excerpt

It was 12:30 a.m. on a Tuesday night and John Dehlin was sitting at his kitchen table in front of a laptop debating whether or not to open the next email in his inbox. He glanced at the time at the bottom of his computer screen, promised himself this would be the last one for the night, and double-clicked:

   I started listening to your podcast a couple months ago. I'm sure
   you get this all the time, but I just wanted to thank you. I can't
   talk to my husband, or my sisters, or anyone, really, and I thought
   I was going crazy. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't
   found your website. Knowing that there are other people out there
   that feel the same way I do makes all the difference. How do I
   found out if there is a local Mormon Stories group near me?

The email was signed "Margie, in Portland." John leaned back in his chair and interlocked his fingers behind his head. Responding to Margie would be easy. He'd just added a tab on the Mormon Stories website with links to the Facebook pages of different local groups. All he needed to do was send her the link. He sighed, leaned back over his keyboard and was about to begin typing a reply but then decided he was too tired.

John started the podcast in September, 2005. Now, more than six years later, he could look back and see that at different times he had emphasized different organizational objectives. Initially, the purpose of the podcast had been to explore, through personal stories, some of the difficult and controversial aspects of Mormonism. Over time this emphasis had shifted to a more traditional entertainment model that involved seeking out well-known Mormon figures for interviews. Mixed in with these objectives had been his desire to help those dealing with a crises of faith, and these efforts had led to recent efforts to establish local Mormon Stories communities and to sponsor Mormon Stories conferences in different cities. Although his motivations and objectives had evolved over the years, one constant had been his dedication to promoting an environment for the "authentic self-expression and the open discussion of Mormonism" ("About," n.d.).

Earlier in the day, John had reviewed download data for his podcast for 2012. New podcasts were averaging between 70,000 and 150,000 downloads and the Mormon Stories website was receiving approximately 3,000 hits per day. Donations had grown to the point that he could afford to pay himself a salary and he had recently begun thinking about how he could transform Mormon Stories from a personal hobby into a legitimate and self-sustaining business--one that would be capable of continued growth without his participation. As a first step in this direction, he had recently set up a 501c3 non-profit--the Open Stories Foundation--and had transferred all of Mormon Stories' assets to it.

A number of questions remained unanswered, however. Although the Open Stories Foundation was a non-profit, it operated under the same constraints as any business. It had to acquire resources, convert those resources into a finished product, and then "sell" that product to individuals who valued it. Ultimately the success--and the longevity--of the foundation would depend on its ability to generate as least as much in donations (and other inputs) as it cost to generate its products (or outputs). It was essential that the organization have a clear vision and mission to guide it in this process. "If someone asked me to write a brief vision or mission statement for the Mormon Stories podcast," John asked himself, "would I be able to do it?"

As he thought about what he'd been able to accomplish over the last six years, he felt satisfied that the sacrifices he'd made had been worth it. He also felt he was now at an important crossroads. Careful alignment of the foundation's day-to-day activities with its vision and mission would allow it to make progress toward important organizational objectives, and that progress would lead to an increase in donations. …

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