Our Legacy Story!
Project StoryKeeper Formed
After losing his father, then his mother to Alzheimer's soon after, Dennis Stack published a booklet with 200+ questions he wished he had asked his parents before they died. He gave the booklet, along with a cassette recorder and blank tapes, to his top clients as a holiday gift.
The response was so overwhelming he left his successful 20-year career as a wealth manager to launch Project StoryKeeper, a 501c3, to help families avoid the same fate.
Hospice StoryKeeper Program
Having the opportunity to ask his clients some of the questions in his booklet and record their stories, Dennis developed interview techniques that elicit stories reflecting the teller's core values.
With this knowledge he trained more 5,000 hospice caregivers how to use his booklet and interview process to record patient stories. Working with 800 hospices nationwide, Dennis established an industry standard in hospice for life review with a certification program.
Veteran History Project
Project StoryKeeper became a Founding Partner of the Library of Congress' Veteran History Project. Dennis worked with hundreds of volunteer students and others, who used the Veteran questions in his booklet to record veteran stories and submit them to the Project's archives.
Visiting Angels Home Care Project
To reach more seniors at an earlier life stage Dennis took his StoryKeeper Program to memory care providers, assisted living and eventually to the home care industry.
He was invited to speak to an audience of home care providers at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association's national conference. This led to a partnership with Visiting Angels, one of largest home care franchises in the U.S. Now thousands of families could hear the stories of their loved ones thanks to the caregivers who served them.
Dennis Finds a Partner
As Dennis searched for new ways to scale Project StoryKeeper, his estate attorney called to introduce him to Tom Cormier, another one of her clients. Tom pioneered the radio infotainment industry and built a national network of over 500 radio stations for his Let's Talk America show.
Having just lost his business partner in a plane crash, Tom wanted to do something to remember him by, and the estate attorney knew Dennis was the person he should meet.
The Sky Ranch Summit
After commiserating on a phone call about all that was lost, Dennis flew with his daughter, Jamie, to meet Tom and his wife, Christine, at their Smoky Mountain compound, Sky Ranch. Over the weekend the two decided to take story preservation to a global scale.
Knowing how hard it was to raise funds for his non--profit organization, Dennis and Tom agreed that raising capital in a for-profit environment could be more suitable to scale globally. To that end, they formed DenTom, llc., which was funded by the partners and prepared for future investors.
Living Legacy Project
Immediately after forming the new entity, the partners created a dba called Legacy Stories and changed the cause's name from Project StoryKeeper to the Living Legacy Project, with a mission to collect and preserve the greatest body of wisdom in history.
LegacyStories.org Archival Website
The Living Legacy Project's first priority was to build an online archive.
With friends, family and social investor funding, the construction of the LegacyStories.org web archive began in late summer, and was ready to accept members and their stories by the end of the year.
Plans were made to develop multiple channels to bring families into the platform, starting with the senior care continuum.
What We Learned
We paid a heavy price in terms of time, labor and money to learn some important lessons about human nature and the obstacles to overcome, especially with family elders who...
1. Don't like talking about themselves
2. Don't think they've lived an interesting life
3. Don't think their stories are worth hearing
4. Appreciate the value of their stories but fail to act
5. Procrastinate as life gets in the way
6. Need family members to take the time to ask
7. Don't realize they have a responsibility to pass down their stories
8. Need their hand held by family members or trusted advisors to stick to a plan (as stated in the 2019 Merrill Lynch/AgeWave report).
I-ASK Legacy Network
To provide assistance to more families the partners decided to train and deploy an army of Certified StoryKeepers to record stories and submit them to the archive.
The International Association of StoryKeepers (I-ASK) was formed, which attracted over 300 members in 5 countries in its first year. Momentum was building as more purpose-driven solo-preneurs started their own legacy practice to support the cause.
Our Near Death Experience
Just as the Living Legacy Project and I-ASK started to hit critical mass the real estate crisis hit in 2007, followed by the financial crash in 2008. Investment capital was nowhere to be found and I-ASK members found it nearly impossible to make a living with their legacy businesses. The entire project came to a screeching halt and, by any rational business standard, should've gone out of business.
Dennis and Tom both suffered devastating personal financial losses during this time but the project's mission was too important to give up on. So, they tenaciously stayed the course and continued tweaking the archive and developing new legacy programs.
Co-Curricular Community Service Learning Project
While waiting for the economy to recover, we developed and launched various community legacy projects.
One such project partnered with the V.A. and inspired a new approach to help veterans suffering with PTSD. We recorded conversations that focused on stories about lives before military service, starting shallow before going deep.
The results? Veterans were much more willing to talk about life in the military as the interview progressed, which helped clinicians get to the root of the veteran's pain sooner.
Another project worked with three geographically diverse Universities wherein students earned community service credit by pairing with elders in care communities to record the elders' life experiences and lessons learned.
The results were game changing. The elders gained a renewed sense of purpose, and in many cases the student's life perspective was changed through the interactions.
This project has proven its viability and is ready to scale across the U.S..
Salem Community History Project
Golden Adams, a Certified Genealogist and Legacy Stories partner, launched this project in his home town of Salem, Utah. Working with various community stakeholders, citizens submitted their stories of life in the community to the LegacyStories.Org archive. The project was well-received resulting in an entire library of first person experiences that document the Salem community's history.
This project has proven its viability and is ready to scale across the country and the globe.
Australia Story Circle Project
Most people are unaware that during WW2 nearly all Australian census records were destroyed, leaving precious little evidence of family history for future generations.
To capture what personal history remained from living elders before they passed, Annie Payne, Australia's Personal Historian, joined our team to launch the Australia Story Circle Project.
The project was funded by a cooperative grant from the Australian government and the leading national bank. Australia's most riveting legacy stories from across their nation are now preserved and can be heard in the LegacyStories.Org archive, thanks to Annie's work.
Faith Community Legacy Projects
Faith leaders are struggling to find new ways to engage with their community's youth. With innovative creativity, two of our team members started faith-based legacy projects.
Pat White, one of our founding I-ASK Ambassadors and Legacy Stories Partner, launched the Columbus Presbyterian Story Project in Columbus, Ohio. She and a group of younger church members recorded stories of faith from the congregation's elders and created a public library within the LegacyStories.Org archive. During regular services, the pastor would play one of the stories of faith that related to the particular gospel she would preach. The result has elevated a continuity of faith, and drew more youth to the services because of multi-media sermons.
Kathy Larsen, also one of our founding I-ASK Ambassadors, launched the Ward Legacy Project in nine local Latter Day Saints' Wards. Ward youths were trained and tasked to record stories of faith from their community elders. The recorded testaments of faith from the nine wards were submitted to a separate library in the LegacyStories.Org archive to share with the congregation as well as the general public.
RootsTech Innovation Semi-Finalist
The world's largest and most respected genealogy conference, RootsTech, is held annually in Salt Lake City, Utah. Although not our primary focus, we decided to enter the LegacyStories.Org archive and mobile app in the Innovative Technologies competition at the conference.
With hundreds of competitors, we are proud to been semi-finalists and received a coveted award.
Partnership with FamilySearch
FamilySearch is the official family tree of humankind with over 12 billion ancestor records in its vault.
LegacyStories.org was honored to be the first web application integrated into the FamilySearch database. By bolting onto this immense family tree, now LegacyStories.org members can tell stories of ancestors and directly place a link to their record.
This way whenever people from around the world search for information about an ancestor, they may see a link to a story told by a descendant, which when clicked takes the visitor to the story in the LegacyStories.org archive.
In addition, our site was added to the desktops of 55,000 workstations in more than 2300 Family History Libraries in 73 countries around the world.
Stories of the American Revolution
Connie Bradshaw, one of our Founding I-ASK Ambassadors, a Legacy Stories partner, and member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) launched a story project to archive stories told by descendants of soldiers who fought in American Revolution.
Thanks to Connie's work now anyone can listen to stories that have been documented by families with a direct line to real life experiences during the American Revolution...as told by living descendants in their own voice.
Brea Museum Legacy Project
Many local museums do not have the funding to build and house an archive for community stories.
Linda Shay, board member of the Brea Museum & Historical Society and I-ASK Ambassador didn't let that stop her.
She launched the Brea Museum Legacy Project in partnership with the LegacyStories.org archive, and began compiling first person experiences of what life was like in the community decades ago. By creating links to the archive on their website, the Brea Museum effectively built their own personal history library at no cost.
This project has proven its viability and can be duplicated in museums and historical societies across the globe.
What We Learned From
1. We found that the kind of people who desire starting a purpose-driven legacy practice are more born to serve than to sell. Because of this, we invested too much time teaching business 101 to our I-ASK members, slowing down our growth at a critical time. This lesson was a blessing because it forced us to create Legacy Labs, a video tutorial series explicitly designed for start-ups in the legacy space.
2. We were a breath away from calling it quits during the financial crash. Rather than take the easier way out, we weathered the storm and learned who our true friends and supporters were while taking the project to a whole new level.
3. We discovered just how flexible and useful our technology and archive can be as we helped create several projects in a variety of niches that otherwise wouldn't have existed.
Estate and Wealth Planning
Our first b2b legacy solutions were created for senior care providers.
As technology advanced, the emergence of robo-advisors and online financial solutions essentially commoditized financial advice, and relationship-building became the primary differentiation
With Dennis' 20-year experience as a Senior VP of Intergenerational Wealth Management, we developed legacy solutions specifically designed to strengthen client relationships and increase retention for the financial services industry.
The Legacy Stories Handbook
Up until now the StoryKeeper User Guide was the tool used to ask legacy questions. As useful as it was, the time had come for a more versatile upgrade. Hence, the first edition of the Legacy Stories Handbook was published.
In addition to a revised list of 250 categorized legacy questions, the new 8.5"x11", 32-page handbook added a family tree template, a Legacy Asset Checklist, and Legacy Letter templates to create an ethical will, and more.
For businesses, the handbook can be personalized with a company logo, contact information, personal photo, and a welcome message on the inside cover. The handbook is in its 2nd edition and we're currently preparing for its 3rd printing.
Legacy Values Plan Released
The Legacy Values Plan was the first iteration of our legacy solutions for financial advisors, and was well-received nationally. For the first time advisors and providers could add a legacy component to their practice without having to attend time-consuming and costly seminars.
The program was adopted by independent advisors as well as advisors representing national financial brands.
Legacy Café Podcast Launched
As podcasting became more popular, Tom saw an opportunity to apply his 15-year run with the Let's Talk America radio show to create a podcast totally dedicated to the topic of legacy. Just as he was setting the podcast up he was contacted by Robb Lucy, and nationally acclaimed author of How Will You Be Remembered: The Definitive Guide to Tell Your Life Stories.
Robb is a seasoned journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Co-founder of Make a Wish Foundation (Canada'), among his many other endeavors.
With his experienced interview skills, Robb became the host of the Legacy Café Podcast and Tom its producer. In powerful 20-minute audio interviews with recognized authors, nationally known experts and PhD family counselors, Robb discusses how legacy is not just about money and death but about legacies we've created and should be shared while we can enjoy the impact on others.
Legacy Talk Program Launched
Taking advantage of all we've learned up to this point, we launched a new iteration of the Legacy Values Plan, renamed the Legacy Talk Program.
The new b2b solution makes implementing a legacy program much easier and in much less time. By simply watching a 42-minute video tutorial, advisors and providers can learn our exclusive Legacy Talk interview process, including legacy questions designed to elicit a person's values system that are revealed in their legacy stories.
"When you know a client's 8 core values you'll earn 100% of their business and 4.1 introductions on average"
(Client-relationship study by Forbes contributor, Russ Alan Prince)
In addition, advisors are provided with 'tools of engagement' to give the client a path forward to continue building the family legacy...together with family members.
For client acquisition, the program includes unique 'cause marketing' materials to attract clients as Ambassadors for the Living Legacy Project.
Legacy Talk Digest Launched
Advisors and providers are extremely busy people and they don't have much time to implement new ideas or programs.
To address this issue we developed the Legacy Talk Digest to deliver our legacy 'tools of engagement' in bi-weekly emails so they can be implemented in minutes with immediate results in each new Digest edition.
Senior Living Reminiscence Program
Pat White, a dedicated Living Legacy Project Ambassador and Legacy Stories partner, launched a first-of-its kind Storytelling Project for Masonic Memory Care Communities in Ohio.
The project integrates reminiscing with singing songs of the past and recording stories about their lives in that era.
The program is being funded through grants and can be duplicated in assisted living and memory care communities across America.
Living Legacy Project Videos
To make it easier for LLP Ambassadors to introduce the project's mission, we created a series of 2-minute videos; Introducing the LLP, Preserving Legacy Photos, and Preserving Legacy keepsakes and heirlooms.
These extraordinary legacy tools of engagement are now being used by advisors and providers to differentiate and enhance their client-acquisition workshops and seminars.
Major Archive Upgrade
In advance of taking the Living Legacy Project to the national stage, all of our programs have been updated.
In addition, we recently finished a 6-month technology upgrade to greatly enhance the LegacyStories.org archive's security and main features. We are extremely proud of our development team and the awesome work they did and continue to do.
On the Agenda
With most of the heavy lifting and 12 years of R&D behind us, and several verticals seeded and ready to scale, we are excited to take the Living Legacy Project to the national and international stages.
With the many strategic alliances and partnerships we've established, we'll be selecting those with the most influence to leverage our assets and lift everyone's boat in the process.
Archiving the greatest body of wisdom in history is a very ambitious idea, requiring a network of professionals, non-profit and for-profit organizations, and everyday people whose legacy stories can change the course of history for the better.
In the end, we're building a brand new Legacy Industry that brings families, faiths, cultures, ethnicities and communities together in a meaningful way, at a time when our children need it most.
What We Learned From
2015 to 2020
1. The secret to building a legacy story portfolio is using the Weight Watchers model, where people are encouraged and coached on a consistent basis over time. Recent studies confirm our findings that the best people to perform this task are family StoryKeepers or trusted advisors.
2. What seemed like a perfect fit for financial advisors has taken a longer time for market acceptance, mainly because the vast majority of financial advisors are transactionally-minded males. Female advisors, on the other hand, see themselves as more transformational vs. transactional and are starting to put a dent in the business of their male counterparts. In the last few years the industry has begun to change to serving clients more holistically, on both the values and valuables sides of the estate equation. We have led that transition and continue to lead.
3. As enthusiastic as advisors are about our solutions, implementation is always a secondary priority. By dramatically shortening the learning curve with quick and easy implementation, we have solved this issue.
4. We're on the cusp of an explosion in legacy planning, and we're excited to see our dream of preserving the geatest body of wisdom in history become a reality. Hopefully, you'll be inspired to join us and reap the benefits of aligning with a cause that affects every family.
Pandemic Deals a Devastating Blow
As the Living Legacy Project provided more legacy-building tools and education to estate planners and senior care providers, we approached a tipping point where the legacy planning became more of a priority.
We reconfigured our tools to be more efficient and effective, requiring less time for professionals to learn how to use and deliver the tools to the families they serve.
Our first ‘enterprise’ solution was purchased by Carter Wilcoxson, Partner of CSI Financial, a true believer in the differentiating power his network of advisors experienced when using our tools.
Just as we began rolling out our enterprise model to larger firms the pandemic stopped the project in its tracks. No more in-person meetings with clients, no more family visitations in senior care communities.
In short order the financial stability of the archive and the project itself were in serious jeopardy, with our primary source of revenue supporting the archive came from our business clients.
The decision was made to pause everything until we found someone to take over the costs and management of the archive, which was very difficult in the pandemic environment.
Then one day as we thought all might be lost, Carter called to see how we were coping. Without hesitation he stepped up and assumed ownership so his advisors, their clients and site members would never again fear the site shutting down.
Needless to say, Dennis and Tom were relieved beyond measure, even though it meant they and their partners would suffer a decade-long financial loss.
No sooner did Carter take over we received a call from Chuck Napier, a big tech consultant, who was searching for something meaningful that could make a difference in the world.
He happened upon the Living Legacy Project’s website and immediately scheduled a Zoom call. There was a lot to learn and even more diligence to wade through, including forming a partnership with Carter so the Living Legacy Project, its programs and clients could benefit from the archive….a match made in heaven. .
Passing the Torch for a New Era
In March we made the official announcement and introduced our new leadership in a brief video.