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September 16, 2019

How NRA Membership Dues Are Spent

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. A  501 (c)(4) differs from a 501 (c)(3) in four ways:  the organization can engage in unlimited lobbying as long as the lobbying pertains to their mission, participate in political activity, endorse or oppose political candidates, and donate money and/or time to political organizations.

Contributions made to a 501 (c)(4) are not tax-deductible which means the NRA relies primarily on other sources for income: membership dues, program fees, other contributions and grants, royalties, related organizations, investment income, sale of assets, advertising, subscriptions, and other sources.

In 2017, the NRA reported total revenue of $312 million, which came from the following sources:

  • Member Dues ($128 million) and Program Fees ($19 million):  $147 million  (47% of total revenue)
  • Contributions, Grants, and Related Organizations:  $99 million (32% of total revenue)
  • Advertising:  $27 million  (9% of total revenue)
  • Royalties and Subscriptions:  $20 million  (6% of total revenue)
  • Sales of Inventory:  $13 million  (4% of total revenue)
  • Other Sources:  $6 million  (2% of total revenue)

It is important to note member dues and program fees have declined:  In 2015, member dues and program frees were $180 million representing 53% of total revenue. In 2017, this number was down to $147 million, representing an 18% decrease from 2015 to 2017.

Membership Dues

The NRA does not release exact member figures annually except to say there are approximately 5 million members. Over the past several years annual membership dues have been between $40-$45 although a variety of member dues options are available with an average annual cost lower for longer commitments.  With annual membership (regularly $45, now $30), 2-year (regularly $75, now $55), 3-year (regularly $100, now $75), 5-year (regularly $150, now $100), and lifetime ($1,500) available, it is difficult to confirm membership figures because the NRA does not release membership composition figures either.

In 2017, member dues totaled $128 million. If $128 million were divided by $30, then that means there were 4.3 million members. However, if an average of $40 was used (since arguably membership dues are not equal), then there were 3.2 million members. In order for there to be 5 million members, the average annual membership dues would have to be about $26.

Board 

The NRA has a 76 member board, of which 64 are males (84%) and 12 are females (16%).* Several board members (not employees) were provided $15,000 or more in compensation including:

  • $184,000:  Marion P Hammer, Director
  • $150,000:  David Butz, Director
  • $ 90,000:  Lance Olson, Director
  • $ 39,680:  Sandra S Froman, Director
  • $ 40,000:  Mercedes V Schlapp, Director
  • $ 32,000:  David A Keene, Director
  • $ 15,000:  Bart Skelton, Director

Expenses

Expenses totaled $330 million in 2017, which were categorized as follows:

  • $ 67 million (21% of revenue) :  Compensation
  • $ 56 million (18% of revenue):  Advertising
  • $ 54 million (18% of revenue):  “Additional Member Communication Expenses”
  • $ 34 million (11% of revenue):  Fees for Services (legal, accounting, fundraising, lobbying, investment, and other)
  • $ 33 million (11% of revenue):  “Additional Training and Community Services Expenses”
  • $ 25 million (8% of revenue):  Printing and Publications
  • $ 21 million (7% of revenue):  Office Expenses
  • $ 17 million (5% of revenue):  Travel and Conferences
  • $ 14 million (4% of revenue):  Other Expenses
  • $  9 million (3% of revenue):  Fulfillment Materials

It is unclear what “additional member communication and additional training and community services expenses are as no detail is provided for these expenses (that total $87 million). In addition, $17 million in fees for service expenses are not detailed. Collectively, these expenses total $104 million and represent 33% of total revenue collected in 2017.

Compensation – the largest category -was for the 819 employees who received an average compensation of $81,600.  144 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation. The top 10 most highly compensated employees received more than $8 million (ranging from $476,408 to David Lehman  to $1,433,977 to Wayne LaPierre.

How Membership Dues Were Spent

Using the above information, membership dues were spent as follows (assuming $40 in membership dues were paid in 2017):

$ 40:  Membership Dues

-$  8:  Compensation

-$  7:  Advertising

-$  7: “Additional Member Communication Expenses”

-$  4:  Fees for Services

-$  4:  “Additional Training and Community Services Expenses

-$  3:  Printing and Publications

-$  3:  Office Expenses

-$  2:  Travel and Conferences

-$  2:  Other Expenses

-$  1:  Fulfillment Materials

-$ 41: Total Expenses

As illustrated above, the NRA spent most revenue on compensation, advertising, “additional member communication expenses (whatever that is), fees for services, additional training and community services expenses, printing and publications, and office expenses.

Net Fund Assets

In 2015, the NRA had $75 million in net fund assets. By 2017, the net fund balance was down to $25 million – a significant decline that is probably due to a variety of reasons, including a decline in membership and and excess spending.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2017), click here.

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