Stephen Gutowski rips off the bandage and shows us that NRA membership hasn’t just been stagnant, it’s actually been shrinking.
In 2013, Lapierre first announced the group had reached five million members. He said the group had added half a million members in the previous six months alone. He then promised to double the NRA’s numbers.
“By the time we’re finished, the NRA must and will be 10 million strong,” USA Today reported Lapierre saying at the group’s 2013 annual meeting.
Eight years later and the membership has not just stagnated but shrunk. While the Census shows the population grew by about 3.8 percent over that period, the NRA membership has apparently shrunk by about 2.2 percent.
Reports that the NRA had “just got out of the pool” reminded unconfirmed at this time.
This sounds bad, and it is. However, it’s not surprising. When I attended my first NRA Annual Meeting, the corridors of the Phoenix Convention Center were festooned with banners, each of them showing off a different demographic or celebrity who stated “I Am The NRA.”
Flash forward to Atlanta in 2017, and the banners in the meeting hall showed paid NRA spokespersons along with NRA leadership itself extolling the virtues of CarryGuard, a half-baked money-grab disguised as a concealed carry legal plan that may wind up to be the straw that broke the NRA’s back. The message of inclusion and expansion was gone, and now today my inbox is filled with offers for a wine club and insurance and very occasionally, pleas to call my local state rep about one bill or another.
I’m okay with that last one. After all, the NRA is (or rather, can be) an effective grassroots lobbying organization. However, let’s face facts. For over 10 years now, the NRA’s primary messaging has been “Give us money, they’re a-comin’ for yer guns.” Okay, fine, let’s say they actually ARE coming for our guns. What have you, the NRA, done to prevent that from happening? What value am I getting for my donation? Why should I give to you right now, except out of habit?
Way back, when I did digital marketing for a huge faith-based non-profit, we had a simple, effective method for fundraising:
- Here’s what we’re doing
- Here’s how it’s changing people’s lives
- Help us do more
It worked (boy howdy did it work) because it was relatable, personal, and it showed that we knew what we were doing.
When was the last time, if ever, you saw a NRA fundraising scheme using that template? When was the last time you saw anything other than “THE DEMOCRATS WANT TO TAKE AWAY YOUR GUNS!”? Negative messaging to a shrinking audience results in negative outcomes. Want a positive outcome? Make positive messages that grow your audience and show how our donations are affecting people’s lives. The NRA used to be good at that sort of thing. I hope they will be again, and soon.