Quiet exit,” Maja Kuzmanovic

April 8, 2020; The Trace

As NPQ has said, the impact of the financial downturn associated with a COVID-19 response on a given nonprofit depends a lot upon the nature of the organization’s programming and, to some extent, its relationship to stakeholders. Some have worked quickly to transition much of their work to online venues where that is possible and appropriate. Others could not do so, and some were just in no condition going into the moment to retain their former size and shape. The NRA may best fit in the latter category.

But the leadership at National Rifle Association (NRA) doesn’t much like the optics of double-digit layoffs of staff, and with good reason. The once-robust organization’s public image has taken a beating these past few years, with a plethora of internecine struggles about their spending, accusations of self-dealing, and declining coffers of cash. Recent reports suggest those struggles continue, and the ongoing secrecy doesn’t help.

Some of you may “So what? Layoffs are dead common in this time of COVID-19.” That’s where NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre puts the blame for the current downsizing, but others told The Trace that the organization’s financial condition, which led to around 60 layoffs in recent weeks, doesn’t stem from the coronavirus. Nor, based on reports of brisk gun sales, is the problem a decline in people’s interest in their Second Amendment rights. Instead, the organization’s steady decline in reputation and fortune of the past few years seems to be a contributory, or even primary, cause.

The organization was experiencing its own fundraising downturn when the pandemic hit; but, among other funding opportunities, they did cancel their annual conference, from which they usually make millions. (Although after last year’s debacle, who knows if it would have attracted more or less of an audience had it occurred.)

An April 5th email sent by longtime board member Robert K. Brown to the organization’s chief counsel, John Frazer, and other top officials complained about LaPierre’s lack of transparency with the board. The demanded to know, since “more are rumored to be fired this coming week,” why they had not been advised and consulted. Brown’s exact words, from an email whose subject line was “what the fuck is going on?” were “Who is making these decisions…and why?” and “This lack of transparency and failure to communicate indicates incompetent and inept leadership on the part of those unnamed individuals making these decisions!”

Unnamed individuals? Why, is LaPierre still there?

This would seem like a case of organizational self-cannibalism, and that is different from the coronavirus.—Ruth McCambridge