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March 10, 2017

Understanding the NRA Organizations

by Anne Paddock

When most people think of the NRA they think of the National Rifle Association of America and the Second Amendment (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”) but there are six separate non-profits that comprise the NRA:

  • NRA (National Rifle Association of America):  501 (c)(4)
  • NRA Foundation, Inc.:  501 (c)(3)
  • NRA Freedom Action Foundation:  501 (c)(3)
  • NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund:  501 (c)(3)
  • NRA Special Contribution Fund: 501 (c) (3)
  • NRA Political Victory Fund: PAC Section 527

NRA (National Rifle Association of America)

These are the big guns (no pun intended) – a 501 (c) (4) corporation at the heart of the NRA whose mission is to preserve the organization’s interpretation of the second amendment. They raised nearly $337 million in 2015 from three sources (annual membership at about $35 with a reported 5 million members), program services, and contributions and grants.

They have a 76 member board, of which 65 are males (86%) and 11 are women (14%).* The top 10 executives (all white males) with the highest compensation were paid more than $10 million in 2015. The NRA had $75 million in net fund assets at FYE 2015. Contributions to this non-profit are not tax-deductible because they engage in political activities.

NRA Foundation, Inc.

This 501 (c) (3) organization (a corporation) has 17 trustees, 13 of which are men (76%) and 4 are women (24%).* They accept contributions (which are tax-deductible). The NRA Foundation, Inc. awards grants to support firearm-related activities throughout the US for men, women, and children.

In 2015, they collected nearly $50 million ($35 million from fundraising and contributions and $15 million from gaming activities), awarded 2,900 grants totaling nearly $33 million (with the largest grant of $19 million to the NRA) and spent $13 million on advertising, promotion, management fees (no detail provided), office and administrative and other expenses.  The remaining $4 million went into their fund balance which was offset by a $3 million unrealized loss on investments. At FYE 2015, the organization  had $123 million in net fund assets.

NRA Freedom Action Foundation

The NRA Freedom Action Foundation is a corporation – a 501 (c) (3) – whose mission is to educate the public although they do not have employees, award grants, or conduct educational programs based on their 2015 IRS Form 990. Governed by 5 Directors (4 men and 1 woman), four of  whom receive compensation from other affiliate organizations, the NRA Freedom Action Foundation raised $1.2 million in 2015 and spent less than $100,000 (primarily on advertising and promotion) which resulted in their net fund balance increasing to $2.8 million from $1.7 million the year before.

NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund

Formed as a trust, the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund is a 501 (c) (3) that provides legal assistance in cases that involve the Second Amendment and “the constitutional rights of individuals to keep and bear arms.”  In 2015, the organization reported total revenue of $760,315 which is about $1 million less than the year before.  Expenses were $673,266 (of which $129,095 were grants to organizations and $441,025 were grants to individuals – primarily 40 recipients for legal assistance) leaving $87,049 at year-end to add to the fund balance which had a net fund balance of $5.7 million. This organization appears to be funded based on the legal battles and grants in which the organization participates.

They have 10 voting members (9 are males, 1 is a woman) of the governing party.*

NRA Special Contribution Fund DBA Whittington Center

This 501 (c) (3) is a trust that provides education and training in firearms through the NRA Whittington Center near Raton, New Mexico. The governing party includes 14 members, all of whom are white men.* In 2015, this organization raised $4.4 million primarily from contributions, mineral rights, and program fees at the Whittington Center. They spent $3.6 million (not including depreciation) summarized as follows:

  • $1.4 million:  Salaries, Benefits
  • $1.4 million:  Whittington Center Supplies, Maintenance, Insurance
  • $ .6 million:  Advertising, Promotion, Fundraising
  • $ .2 million:  Office, IT, Travel, Interest, etc.

At year-end 2015, the NRA Special Contribution Fund DBA Whittington Center had $11.4 million.

NRA Political Victory Fund

This organization is a non-profit exempt under Code Section 527 and files an IRS Form 1120-POL which is not made publicly available. However, as reluctant as this organization is to reveal its financial information (I went back and forth with them requesting financial and tax information and they were less than cooperative). Undeterred,  the information can be found on-line through – a website that lists the most recent financial information available (every donor that contributed over $200 and all the recipients).

According to Open Secrets, the NRA Political Victory Fund reported $21.6 million in total revenue in 2016 and spent $22.5 million (with Starboard Strategic – a private lobbying shop firm in Reston, Virginia –  the largest recipient – at $13.4 million), leaving $2.5 million on hand. No debts are reported as of year-end 2016.  98% of their contributions went to Republicans while 2% went to Democrats. Click here to read the financial information , list of donors, and recipients.

In summary, the NRA is primarily the membership non-profit organization that raised more than $335 million in 2015.  Because they are a 501 (c) (4), there are other affiliated organizations that carry out 5 key functions:

  • NRA Foundation, Inc.: makes donations to thousands of organizations involved in firearms
  • NRA Freedom Action Foundation: conducts educational programs (most funds were not spent in 2015)
  • NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund:  provides legal assistance
  • NRA Special Contribution Fund DBA Whittington Center:  provides education and training
  • NRA Political Victory Fund:  makes political contributions to candidates supporting the NRA agenda

*Based on the IRS Form 990 2015

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