Great American Outdoor Show - Running for NRA Board

February 9, 2020

 by: Frank Tait

I spent a day and  half at the Great American Outdoor (GAOS) show in Harrisburg PA and spoke to about 600 NRA members.  I used the same approach as SHOT, walking around and engaging people in conversation.

The feedback from the members was consistent from my experiences a couple weeks ago at the SHOT show, with a couple of new twists.

  1. People were friendly and engaging.  I stopped by anywhere that people were sitting and eating multiple times a day.  Stationary targets are easier to engage 😏.  I estimate that 90% of the people I talked to were supportive of my candidacy; Varying from the 20% at the SHOT show - only 10% were no longer members of the NRA.  The NRA has a large presence here getting members to renew and getting new members to sign up.  Most who were no longer members were due to frustration with how the organizations leadership, wasteful spending and incessant fundraising calls.  Unlike SHOT, no one reacted negatively.
  2. For the vast majority of people, this was the first time that they ever met anyone running for the NRA Board of Directors or on the Board of Directors.  I had lots of great conversations about defending our firearm rights and specific challenges with NRA operations, the most consistent challenge mentioned, other than the incessant and irritating fundraising calls was the sense that members money is not being spent wisely and that the NRA needs to be more visible standing up for our rights.
  3. Many of those, while voting members, do not vote.  When asked why, they said that they did not know the candidates and had no idea about what these candidates would do running the NRA so without knowing who to vote for, they chose not to vote.  Hopefully I got them to vote for me.  For those that brought up the point that they had never met someone running for the board and those that had never voted or had not voted in years, I suggested that they only vote for those candidates that they actually met - it always got a good laugh.
  4. About 5% of the people I talked to had already sent in their ballot.  I asked them about their strategy for voting.  Majority used a “vote for the people from my state” approach.  Others would only vote for those running by petition.  Others would only vote for those that were NOT recommended by the Nominating committee.
  5. Of those that already voted, several recognized my name and told me that they voted for me 👍. Several were not sure who they voted for, being in PA, I asked if they were from PA and if they voted for the PA candidates - that always got a YES 👍.  I thanked them for their vote.
  6. I spent 30 minutes talking to one gentleman who was involved with the NRA for many decades.  He gave me a history lesson on the Board level implications of the start of the NRA Whittington Center and how that led to the start of the NRA Foundation.  Fascinating insight on how the board dealt with a challenging situation.

My major takeaway from both SHOT and GAOS is that the NRA must do a better job of member engagement.  Outreach to members means going to where they are - not just having a booth and hoping that people will come to the booth, but actually going out and talking to people where they are.  In my career in technology, we found that the most successful strategy to understand a constituency and what their issues and challenges are is to do “first party research.”  First Party Research means going out and talking to people one-on-one or in small groups and asking open ended questions and letting the members talk.  When you have a reasonable sample size - look for the patterns in the actual words of the members.