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April 11, 2020

How Membership Dues Are Spent at the NRA (2018)

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 2018, the NRA reported total revenue of $353 million, which came from the following sources:

  • Member Dues ($170 million) and Program Fees ($23 million):  $193 million  (55% of total revenue)
  • Contributions, Grants, and Related Organizations:  $109 million (31% of total revenue)
  • Advertising:  $24 million  (7% of total revenue)
  • Royalties and Subscriptions:  $17 million  (5% of total revenue)
  • Sales of Inventory:  $6 million  (1% of total revenue)
  • Other Sources:  $4 million  (1% of total revenue)

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 ($45), 2-year ($75), 3-year ($100), 5-year ($150), 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 $170 million (compared to $128 million in 2017). If $170 million were divided by $45, then that means there were 3.8 million members. However, if an average of $40 was used (since arguably membership dues are not equal), then there were 4.3 million members. In order for there to be 5 million members, the average annual membership dues would have to be about $34.


The NRA has a 76 member board, of which 61 are males (80%) and 15 are females (20%).* Several board members (not employees) were provided compensation including:

  • $270,000:  Marion P Hammer, Director
  • $ 64,234:  Ted Nugent, Director
  • $ 75,000:  Lance Olson, Director
  • $ 28,661:  Julie Golob, Director
  • $ 13,060:  Sandra S Froman, Director
  • $ 40,000:  David A Keene, Director
  • $  5,553:  Owen Buzz Mills
  • $  2,907:  Carrie Lightfoot, Director
  • $ 15,000:  Bart Skelton, Director


Expenses totaled $355 million in 2018, which were categorized as follows:

  • $64  million (18% of revenue) :  Compensation
  • $50  million (14% of revenue):  Advertising
  • $63  million (18% of revenue):  “Additional Member Communication Expenses”
  • $52  million (15% of revenue):  Fees for Services (legal, accounting, fundraising, lobbying, investment, and other)
  • $34  million (10% of revenue):  “Additional Training and Community Services Expenses”
  • $36  million (10% of revenue):  Printing and Publications
  • $22  million (6% of revenue):  Office Expenses
  • $17  million (5% of revenue):  Travel and Conferences
  • $17  million (5% of revenue):  Other Expenses

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 $97 million). In addition, $18 million in fees for service expenses (out of a total of $52 million) are not detailed. Collectively, these expenses total $115 million and represent 33% of total revenue collected in 2018.

Compensation – the largest category -was for the 816 employees who received an average compensation of $78,400.  123 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation. The top 10 most highly compensated employees received more than $9 million (ranging from $648,215 to Craig B Spray who became treasurer beginning 9/13/18 to $2,224,427 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 2018):

$ 40:  Membership Dues

-$  7:  Compensation

-$  6:  Advertising

-$  7: “Additional Member Communication Expenses”

-$  6:  Fees for Services

-$  4:  “Additional Training and Community Services Expenses

-$  4:  Printing and Publications

-$  2:  Office Expenses

-$  2:  Travel and Conferences

-$  2:  Other Expenses

-$ 40: 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, and printing and publications.

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. In 2018, the net fund balance fell to $16 million. This decline appears to be attributable to spending more than the organization brought in (appears to be on legal expenses: $25 million compared to $7 million in 2017) and a $5 million unrealized loss on investments, and $2 million in agency transactions between the NRA and the NRA Foundation for endowment contributions and earnings. In summary, the NRA’s general fund or what some people refer to as the endowment has significantly declined over the past 3 years.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2018), click here.

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