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What would it take for the NMLRA to become a true "national" organization?

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Seriously. We frequently get these gushing posts from newbies who don't know the history of problems folks have with the NMLRA, and they always seem to degenerate into NMLRA bashing. (Not that I'm saying NMLRA-bashing is undeserved.) Let's flip that around: what would it take to restore the NMLRA's credibility with the many folks who aren't locals?

The NMLRA is a 501(c)(3) that the IRS categorizes as a "Fishing and Hunting Club". No surprises there. The NMLRA's Mission statement reads, "TO PROMOTE, SUPPORT, NUTURE AND PRESERVE NMLRA'S AND OUR NATION'S HERTIAGE IN THE SUPPORT OF MUZZLE LOADING THROUGH RECREATIONAL, EDUCATIONAL, HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL VENUES SUCH AS MATCH COMPETITION, HUNTING, GUN MAKING, SAFETY AND HISTORICAL REINACTMENTS". (When writing something like that, maybe they should have someone proofread it. People notice things like all the spelling problems, and that does affect community perception.)

As far as I can tell, the NMLRA has never released the results of an independent audit or financial review. I can't tell if it a review like that has ever been done. That doesn't mean there hasn't been such an audit or review, or that there has been malfeasance, but it doesn't mean there hasn't been.

It becomes more of a concern when you realize that if the NMLRA has a conflict of interest policy, they won't release it. When members are seeing the children of BOD members get hired by the NMLRA, or receive scholarships, this is a problem. And who knows if the NMLRA has any kind of document retention policy that could be used to find answers to questions like this?

Those things matter when folks are considering donating money or leaving a bequest to a charity. The NMLRA is trying to get a $1,000,000 endowment. As national organizations go, this is small potatoes (I know of a couple of larger local rifle clubs that have that much, and let’s not even consider some of the trapshooting organizations). The odds of the NMLRA reaching this goal would improve if they had policies and practices like these in place (like other reputable charitable organizations do). I know of a coupe of guys who just made $50K donations to local rifle clubs and trap clubs, but you can bet those organizations had their ducks in a row first.

One complaint I've heard about the NMLRA that I found rather amusing is regarding the practice of selling "bricks" with a name on it to pay for various improvements to the facilities. I've heard people say they'd donate money, but the only way to do so is to pay for a brick that they'll never travel to see. Yeah, I don't get it . . . but it points to the major complaint people seem to have: for the most part the NMLRA acts as a local organization, not a national organization. Everything is focused on Friendship, and on drawing people to Friendship.

The majority of current (and probably past) members don't attend the matches there, and maybe never will. (For example, with 13,000 members they only get 1,000 people to attend the matches at Friendship.) The NMLRA response has always been that folks who want something local should work to set it up locally, which isn't a bad response. . . except for the perception that the NMLRA has a pattern of taking things over, drawing out all the funds, and ending whatever the local event was. There may be legitimate reasons for this, but the NMLRA doesn't publicly provide timely answers explaining why things end. There's no excuse for it to take 2 years to get an answer as to why the NMLRA decided to end a program, but the NMLRA has never been good at communicating with members.

It would help if instead there was a public policy that laid out what it took to get NMLRA support for a local activity (e.g., a match or class): What that support would be, how long the support would last and what the criteria would be for ending that support if it didn’t go well, and what the NMLRA would get in return. Imagine that: the national organization actually working with and supporting local groups. Wouldn’t that be great?

Imagine if, for example, the other local rifle-building classes got even a tenth as much publicity as the Western Kentucky classes did at start up. But the perception is that since they aren’t even remotely close to the Friendship area, they have no chance for support. I don’t know how correct that perception is; I do know that the four years we requested info on how to get support in the form of publicity for the local gunbuilding seminar, we never received a response.

The NMLRA has a terrible reputation for ignoring the needs of members in order to focus on improving the range facilities. How much has been spent on improving the shooting facilities over the last 30 years while the organization ignored Federal law in the form of the ADA? From the outside, it looks like there is no excuse other than deliberate action to explain why the entire facility isn’t ADA compliant—and that is supported by public statements made by BOD members over the years.

We’ve heard here from Mr. Fleener that he can’t do anything about what has been done in the past, he’s focused on things now and in the future. he has a good point, but given the NMLRA’s history on this, if the BOD wants to have any credibility going forward they need to appoint an ADA compliance officer.

And why, in the day of online attendance at everything from court hearings to kindergarten graduations, is traveling to Friendship Indiana the only way to attend BOD and membership meetings? Why do members have to be there in person to vote on amendments to the Bylaws, or apparently, to read the Minutes of the BOD meetings, since those are no longer being posted online for the membership? Can't the BOD find a 10 year old kid to set it up?
 
Just what is the NMLRA doing to promote muzzleloading heritage and history? Are they working with schools, colleges, and historic sites? Offering scholarships or grants, such as Vermont does for students to build traditional muzzleloaders as an educational project?

What is the $1,000,000 endowment for? Running and maintaining Friendship? They first need to get better control over their finances. Their "no refund" policy on event and camping fees exists because they can't afford to give refunds, even if the NMLRA itself cancels the event.

Given their mission statement, do modern inlines really have a place? Personally, I can't see how, but advertising dollars talk.

There is another group, the Traditional Muzzleloading Association, which DOES try to promote and preserve the hobby. Perhaps they would be better deserving of our attention. I will be taking another look at them.
 
Just what is the NMLRA doing to promote muzzleloading heritage and history? Are they working with schools, colleges, and historic sites? Offering scholarships or grants, such as Vermont does for students to build traditional muzzleloaders as an educational project?

What is the $1,000,000 endowment for? Running and maintaining Friendship? They first need to get better control over their finances. Their "no refund" policy on event and camping fees exists because they can't afford to give refunds, even if the NMLRA itself cancels the event.

Given their mission statement, do modern inlines really have a place? Personally, I can't see how, but advertising dollars talk.

There is another group, the Traditional Muzzleloading Association, which DOES try to promote and preserve the hobby. Perhaps they would be better deserving of our attention. I will be taking another look at them.
The NMLRA does apparently support some educational activities; I think those of us who don't spend time at Friendship don't here about them because for the most part they are local to that region. The NMLRA has supported the classes at Western Kentucky, and had some part in supporting the revived Gunmakers Fair at Kempton. I'm sure those are great for the folks in the area; I'm not sure a "national" organization should limit participation and support to activities in such a limited area, but I don't know what the terms of the agreement for those activities are. And the NMLRA does have an Instructor's Course for instructors to teach basic ML and live fire.

I don't know the details of the NMLRA's plans for the endowment. Endowments are typically invested, with part of the investment income being used for operating expenses or special projects and part being reinvested so the endowment grows. For example, one of the long-term-active rifle clubs has an endowment that is currently about $1.1 million. They take out about $20k per year to help fund range maintenance, with the rest being re-invested. The initial capital remains in the endowment.

As for the inclusion of inlines etc, I think arguments can be made both ways. My issue with it is that the decision to include them was imposed rather than being discussed and voted on by the members at the time the decision was made. I can't help but wonder if the inclusion of inlines was a causative factor in the rather precipitous decline in membership.

The TMA is. . . interesting. I just checked out their website, and after a very brief overview I noted a couple things. First, the membership numbers (about 4300 as of ~18 months ago). Second, that as a member of their BOD noted in a post, the TMA largely exists as an informational group and forum. I'm not sure I know enough about the group to understand what he meant by that but will be doing some more reading to find out. Since I'm acquainted with enough of the members and BOD members, I'll probably join while doing so.

But third (and probably most important) was a statement in response to a question of how the TMA relates to the NMLRA: it doesn't, it isn't intended to supplement or replace the NMLRA, and exists wholly as a separate organization. Since the days of the ending of the joint NAPR/NMLRA rendezvous, there have been various organizations that have started with a stated purpose to replace the NMLRA . . . and they didn't last long enough or get enough membership to actually do so.

I'm not sure we need a replacement for the NMLRA, if it would actually function as a national organization.
 
I have been going there on and off since 1980. Nothing has changed much except there is about 1/2 of the membership there used to be.. There still seem to be as many shooters at the national matches though. I haven't actually fired a shot down there since probably 2004 or so. I teach in the education building now two to three times a year while the national shoots are NOT in progress.
There has been some great progress on the grounds in the past 40 years. The electric actually works. The bath houses are up to date and clean. There have been alot of shooting range improvements, the latest being a rebuilt trap range. The above mentioned education building is now up and running and finally being utilized on a regular basis.
I highly recommend going to a couple shoots before you make any judgements on what is going on down there. I have to say I'm glad I started going all those years ago.
 
The NMLRA and N-SSA have their problems. If they really want to promote muzzleloading and competition, they'd be actively looking to support more local ranges aside from the Charter Club program. I'm active in the N-SSA and a trip to Friendship is a long shot for me. The N-SSA also needs to support more ranges and both need to look at different ways to get folks involved. As is it is, the average shooter who knows of us looks at us as those old guys in funny clothes with stinky, antiquated guns. Both organizations have had a problem with upper leadership looking to how it was in the past and by that I mean how the orgs were started.

Like anything, to stay relevant, any org must evolve and take advantage of new technology and make itself available to the average person. I read in a previous post a complaint about a $50 charge for Muzzle Blasts, but be realistic, it takes quite a bit of money to publish and distribute a magazine in dead tree format these days. I have no sympathy on this complaint since you can get it free digitally. And this is a symptom of the problem- what is the average age of the membership of each organization? If it's over 65, then you better be doing lots of recruiting cuz the expiration date on any given member is closing fast and the "Boomer" generation is rapidly aging. Again- SUPPORTING YOUTH BLACK POWDER SHOOTING SPORTS is the key.
 
NMLRA is no better, no worse than any other organization. Money and power corrupt. Unfortunately it’s always been that way and always will.
If they aren’t completely open about the finances, there’s a reason. Nepotism in hiring in a membership funded organization is appalling. I wouldn’t give them a dime unless those issues are cleaned up. I wonder what the percentage of members is that live within 100mi of friendship? If you don’t there’d be little to recommend joining.
 
The NMLRA and N-SSA have their problems. If they really want to promote muzzleloading and competition, they'd be actively looking to support more local ranges aside from the Charter Club program. I'm active in the N-SSA and a trip to Friendship is a long shot for me. The N-SSA also needs to support more ranges and both need to look at different ways to get folks involved. As is it is, the average shooter who knows of us looks at us as those old guys in funny clothes with stinky, antiquated guns. Both organizations have had a problem with upper leadership looking to how it was in the past and by that I mean how the orgs were started.

Like anything, to stay relevant, any org must evolve and take advantage of new technology and make itself available to the average person. I read in a previous post a complaint about a $50 charge for Muzzle Blasts, but be realistic, it takes quite a bit of money to publish and distribute a magazine in dead tree format these days. I have no sympathy on this complaint since you can get it free digitally. And this is a symptom of the problem- what is the average age of the membership of each organization? If it's over 65, then you better be doing lots of recruiting cuz the expiration date on any given member is closing fast and the "Boomer" generation is rapidly aging. Again- SUPPORTING YOUTH BLACK POWDER SHOOTING SPORTS is the key.
This is a problem in all clubs. Kids stay indoors and play video games rather than actually experiencing real life and the boomers are aging out. Look at declining numbers of hunting/fishing licenses. The nra used to seriously support shooting sports, especially youth events. Then their leadership decided playing politics gave them personal importance/power and took a big step away from shooting and a huge step closer to power now their membership is in steep decline. If these groups want to survive they need to appeal to women and youth, both groups who walk away from old boy networks that seem to run things to suit themselves.
 
Other than complaining I suppose dissatisfied folks can always support that other national group whose sole existence is to support muzzleloading......
 
Although the organization puts alot of work into the magazine, it sucks. It always has and always will. I have been playing this game too long to find it even remotely interesting. I pay $36 and get it digitally. I often don't take time to read it at all. The only magazine that is worse is the NRA Rifleman. I could care less about the latest plastic gun. The rifleman rarely survives at my house more than 5 minutes before it's in the trash. Golly it's absolutely awful.
 
Yes, there are many issues with NMLRA. I used to be a devout member but left it years ago. I won't go into my personal complaints but will point out what I believe are some of it's weaknesses: those who control the organization do what they want with little regard for members ideas; the original mission statement, written by the founders, has been changed, at least, three times to suit the wants of those who are currently in control; BOD membership consists of almost 100% of those who live within easy driving distance of Friendship. I'll stop, I'm getting angry thinking about what has happened to an organization I used to love and support.
 
Seriously. We frequently get these gushing posts from newbies who don't know the history of problems folks have with the NMLRA, and they always seem to degenerate into NMLRA bashing. (Not that I'm saying NMLRA-bashing is undeserved.) Let's flip that around: what would it take to restore the NMLRA's credibility with the many folks who aren't locals?

The NMLRA is a 501(c)(3) that the IRS categorizes as a "Fishing and Hunting Club". No surprises there. The NMLRA's Mission statement reads, "TO PROMOTE, SUPPORT, NUTURE AND PRESERVE NMLRA'S AND OUR NATION'S HERTIAGE IN THE SUPPORT OF MUZZLE LOADING THROUGH RECREATIONAL, EDUCATIONAL, HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL VENUES SUCH AS MATCH COMPETITION, HUNTING, GUN MAKING, SAFETY AND HISTORICAL REINACTMENTS". (When writing something like that, maybe they should have someone proofread it. People notice things like all the spelling problems, and that does affect community perception.)

As far as I can tell, the NMLRA has never released the results of an independent audit or financial review. I can't tell if it a review like that has ever been done. That doesn't mean there hasn't been such an audit or review, or that there has been malfeasance, but it doesn't mean there hasn't been.

It becomes more of a concern when you realize that if the NMLRA has a conflict of interest policy, they won't release it. When members are seeing the children of BOD members get hired by the NMLRA, or receive scholarships, this is a problem. And who knows if the NMLRA has any kind of document retention policy that could be used to find answers to questions like this?

Those things matter when folks are considering donating money or leaving a bequest to a charity. The NMLRA is trying to get a $1,000,000 endowment. As national organizations go, this is small potatoes (I know of a couple of larger local rifle clubs that have that much, and let’s not even consider some of the trapshooting organizations). The odds of the NMLRA reaching this goal would improve if they had policies and practices like these in place (like other reputable charitable organizations do). I know of a coupe of guys who just made $50K donations to local rifle clubs and trap clubs, but you can bet those organizations had their ducks in a row first.

One complaint I've heard about the NMLRA that I found rather amusing is regarding the practice of selling "bricks" with a name on it to pay for various improvements to the facilities. I've heard people say they'd donate money, but the only way to do so is to pay for a brick that they'll never travel to see. Yeah, I don't get it . . . but it points to the major complaint people seem to have: for the most part the NMLRA acts as a local organization, not a national organization. Everything is focused on Friendship, and on drawing people to Friendship.

The majority of current (and probably past) members don't attend the matches there, and maybe never will. (For example, with 13,000 members they only get 1,000 people to attend the matches at Friendship.) The NMLRA response has always been that folks who want something local should work to set it up locally, which isn't a bad response. . . except for the perception that the NMLRA has a pattern of taking things over, drawing out all the funds, and ending whatever the local event was. There may be legitimate reasons for this, but the NMLRA doesn't publicly provide timely answers explaining why things end. There's no excuse for it to take 2 years to get an answer as to why the NMLRA decided to end a program, but the NMLRA has never been good at communicating with members.

It would help if instead there was a public policy that laid out what it took to get NMLRA support for a local activity (e.g., a match or class): What that support would be, how long the support would last and what the criteria would be for ending that support if it didn’t go well, and what the NMLRA would get in return. Imagine that: the national organization actually working with and supporting local groups. Wouldn’t that be great?

Imagine if, for example, the other local rifle-building classes got even a tenth as much publicity as the Western Kentucky classes did at start up. But the perception is that since they aren’t even remotely close to the Friendship area, they have no chance for support. I don’t know how correct that perception is; I do know that the four years we requested info on how to get support in the form of publicity for the local gunbuilding seminar, we never received a response.

The NMLRA has a terrible reputation for ignoring the needs of members in order to focus on improving the range facilities. How much has been spent on improving the shooting facilities over the last 30 years while the organization ignored Federal law in the form of the ADA? From the outside, it looks like there is no excuse other than deliberate action to explain why the entire facility isn’t ADA compliant—and that is supported by public statements made by BOD members over the years.

We’ve heard here from Mr. Fleener that he can’t do anything about what has been done in the past, he’s focused on things now and in the future. he has a good point, but given the NMLRA’s history on this, if the BOD wants to have any credibility going forward they need to appoint an ADA compliance officer.

And why, in the day of online attendance at everything from court hearings to kindergarten graduations, is traveling to Friendship Indiana the only way to attend BOD and membership meetings? Why do members have to be there in person to vote on amendments to the Bylaws, or apparently, to read the Minutes of the BOD meetings, since those are no longer being posted online for the membership? Can't the BOD find a 10 year old kid to set it up?
They publish a legal, technical financial disclosure in their magazine every year. The NMLRA really isn't an NRA, by way of comparison. Readers of Muzzle Blasts know how they must comply with all legal codes as to handicap accessibility, etc. They also publish a yearly mailing disclosure so we can see circulation, etc.
 
Spot on.

And I am not bashing NMLRA, I’m a member. But it is what it is.

Though after many years I don’t plan to renew.
The ONLY reason I am a member is so that one day I can go shoot up there. I have been trying to get answers on camping, qualifications/classifications and some other general issues for some years and I can only say - they have never clearly answered any question I have asked.

As an example, after numerous attempts to get some general camping questions answered - they responded - just come on up. Then I was told to be on line at midnight on a certain date when the available sites come up for grabs. I explained I know nothing about the sites and needed some details. Never got them.

If I ever become rich, I promise to buy the land, build the facilities and invite everyone to come shoot.
 
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