NRA Board Meeting January 8-11 

January 13, 2020

by: Frank Tait

Key takeaways:

  • The Board meeting was genuinely welcoming of members and members were and are encouraged to attend the Board committee and Board meetings.
  • Committee meetings were open and apart from legal matters (which must be in executive session to maintain legal privilege) and the budget, all other meetings and topics were open.  Board members were friendly and engaging - I had many extensive one-on-one conversations with board members and staff.  I was asked to contribute in several committee meetings and did so happily.
  • The NRA is far more active in standing up for our rights (particularly in Virginia) than the average member is aware - the new initiatives with the Digital Media team are an outstanding beginning will be critical in getting the pro rights message out.
  • We are in a war for our rights and for our Association from "Weaponized Government." 

The NRA Winter Board of Directors meeting was a breath of fresh air compared to the Fall Board of Directors meeting.  At 9am Wednesday, Eric and Michael from the NRA staff welcomed me and were extremely helpful, getting me situated with a visitor pin (since I am a candidate for the Board of Directors) and an agenda for the 4 days of the board meeting. The second picture shows the NRA members that attended the committee meetings and the board meeting.

The By-Laws committee was first up, so I started there.  The meeting had already started, but when they broke, I was approached by multiple board members who were eager to share that they were taking the members petition addressing board attendance very seriously.  They invested many meetings and consultation with NY legal counsel to make sure that they could appropriately address the intent of the members, be in compliance with the existing discipline processes in the By-Laws, be in compliance with NY non-profit law and make sure that this did not give any ammunition to the NY AG and their biased attack on the NRA. Kudos for a job well done by the committee for their hard and effective work, the NRA board of directors for adopting this policy and respecting the will of the members and for Save the Second for the petition initiative.  The third picture is the newly adopted attendance policy.

I went to the NRA Foundation Investment, Audit and Finance Committee meetings.  I'm a GASB accountant by education, so I get this. The foundation's investments are well managed, appropriately balanced between equity and bonds and are returning above market returns (almost 19% return) to fund programs. The Audit committee is on top of the annual audit and are properly preparing how to address the recent regulatory changes that affect revenue recognition (606 and 2018-08 right of return on assets for the bean counters out there) and the external auditors (Aaronsen) are professional and competent and are addressing items like the allocation of cost between entities.  The finance committee was open for all but the budget. Reports for 2019 were that revenue was within 2% of budget and expenses were within 2% of budget.  That implies a small miss, but well within reasonable performance for a tumultuous year. Membership is solid at 5 million and the Friends of NRA dinners continue their strong performance. 

The NRA Foundation meeting, Grassroots and State and Local Affairs meetings were very informative. In particular the work being done to get the NRA message out to voters and getting members engaged with legislators to promote candidates that support our rights to engage with legislators to support pro rights legislation and to speak out against anti rights education is impressive.  We also got a clearer picture of what is actually going on with programs like the new NRA On Campus engaging college students at 17 colleges and growing and an update on School Shield that show over $1 million paid out in grants in 2019 and the training program being nationally recognized as continuing Law Enforcement training and clearly refuting the recent biased articles in the Trace.  

I was shocked (in a good way) at the number of things NRA is doing to support our rights that were reported in the Legislative Policy and Legal Affairs committees.  The NRA is far more involved in more areas defending our rights across the country and across the spectrum of activities that the NRA supports (hunting, conservation, environmental, etc.) than I was aware.  I thought I was an informed member - I am much better informed now, but WOW I was missing a ton. I was particularly impressed with how the Legislative Policy, Legal Affairs, Federal Affairs, State & Local Affairs and International Affairs interact and anticipate and plan for where there are opportunities to advance our rights and where we need to be prepared to defend our rights.

The NRA is doing far more than our members are aware.  It is a communication challenge.  I think a way to understand it is to liken how the NRA communicates to how President George W Bush (43) and his administration worked hard but did not communicate well.  In contrast President Trump (45) is a public fighter - taking the message to the people.  Wayne LaPierre rightly pointed out that the NRA made the difference in electing President Trump in 2016, to be successful we need to be communicating more like President Trump - proactive, aggressive and speaking directly to the people.

The Public Relations Committee showed the new NRA Digital - where a One NRA approach is bearing fruit.  The NRA has traditionally been reactive to situations. We are still reactive, but with a much shorter response cycle with a "war room" approach leveraging an increasingly growing group of impressive digital assets to engage members and the public. The NRA has traditionally been a "pull" marketing approach where members must reach out to NRA to get what they need either by already knowing who or where to reach out.  In this digital age, we need to keep advancing to more of a "push" model where relevant information is being pushed to members as it is created.

Wayne LaPierre was in the Public Relations and the Outreach committees and spent time reviewing the "weaponized government" that our association is facing, the assault from the NY Attorney General (AG) in particular.  He stated that the impact in 2018/19 was about $100 million in terms of cost and lost revenue including taking $80 million out of the budget.  The first amendment lawsuits that are supported by the ACLU are having a positive impact.  They caused 18 blue state AG's to hold off on doubling down to see how the NY AG process unfolds.  We are in a war.  As Donald Rumsfeld said, "you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want or wish to have at a later time."  The same is for our leader.  While I believe the board is long overdue to take up succession planning, we need to support our leader as we battle on multiple fronts in this war, particularly the biased attack from New York Governor and AG.