The National Rifle Association's power has diminished over recent years, along with its employee count and overall spending, The Trace reports. Its partner nonprofit, the NRA Foundation, awards grants to law enforcement, gun clubs, and school shooting programs that benefit the “public interest.” These less explicitly political activities have boosted the NRA brand and sustained its "soft power" apparatus, a network of entities that includes gun ranges, Boy Scouts Councils, and 4H Clubs. However, since 2014, when it hit $13.8 million, NRA spending on education and training decreased annually to $3.2 million last year. The downsizing is due, in part, to an attempt to extract more cash from training by shifting to online courses, but an organization-wide retrenchment and dwindling internal appreciation for the NRA’s history are also to blame.
NRA program spending hit a high of $158 million in 2016 and declined annually through last year, when just $52 million was spent. NRA Foundation giving has also collapsed, going from a recent peak of $16.8 million in 2019 to $7 million in 2021. As spending declined, the NRA shed employees. The group had 521 employees in 2021, down from 912 in 2016. The NRA has seen a sharp drop in membership since 2018. In 2022, dues revenue sank to $83.3 million, the lowest amount in 16 years. By slashing programs and personnel, the NRA in 2020 and 2021 ended a four-year stretch of operating in the red. However, the group’s 2022 audit shows expenses running $15 million ahead of revenue, meaning the group once again operated at a deficit.