The NTA 100% Mandate
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The NTA and their 1OO% mandate
by Bob Blaschke
If you are a current National Taxidermist Association member, you have received information from them on their decision to achieve 100% NTA membership within each state affiliated association. Unfortunately, only about 2000 of the 100,00 taxidermists within the United States belong to the NTA and have been kept informed on the issue of this mandate. For the majority of us, our information on this mandate is based solely on secondhand information. None of the major taxidermy publications have printed articles on this topic, and state association newsletters simply do not reach enough of us to inform us about the merits of this mandate.
If you have access to the world wide web and WASCO's Taxidermy Net site, you may have read any one of several posts related to this 100% mandate. Many of these posts have gotten quite heated and I honestly suspect more than one friendship has been strained by these internet arguments over this mandate. If you have not visited the WASCO site, check it out and after arriving at the forums, use the search key and type in 100% or NTA, then pick a post, get some refreshments and begin reading.
Getting to these 100% NTA posts, is as easy as going to;
Then choosing "Taxidermy Net Forums'
Then clicking on the "Search" button
Then type in 100%, or NTA
During the winter of 2000, several postings were placed on the WASCO internet site about this mandate. I readily admit I jumped right into these arguments, with the belief that I was defending state associations, that work so hard to attract their members. I felt from the beginning that an increase of $50 in the WTA membership fee would only harm the association. I still believe that state association's would suffer as, certainly they would lose some of their members.
Using a set of numbers loosely based on the WTA membership, if there are 300 members at an annual fee of $30. The association will collect $9000 from it's membership. Under the NTA mandate the WTA would now charge it's members $80 each year, to belong to the WTA. If all 300 members renewed, the WTA would still receive the $9000, but now the NTA would receive an extra $15,000 from the Wisconsin Taxidermist Association members.
My concerns are not about the money the NTA could receive, but rather about the money the WTA may lose. Keeping 300 members as the base, lets be optimistic about the renewal rate and say only 200 members agree to joining the NTA in order to remain a WTA member. The WTA would now collect $6000 in yearly dues where as the NTA would still collect $10,000. The bottom line is that the WTA banking account severely drops, while funding to the NTA swells. The harm to the WTA budget could be even worse, should it lose more than one-third of it's members.
The real harm, however is not about the money the WTA could lose, it is about the number of WTA members who either choose to leave, or who can not afford to stay in, the association (at these higher yearly dues). Whether the WTA loses 100, 200, or even just a handful, the point is, the association works too hard at attracting it's own members, to lose any at the expense of this NTA 100% membership mandate.
So again, when I argue against this NTA 100% mandate, I always do so with the belief that I am fighting for the WTA (and all other state taxidermy groups) rather than fighting against the NTA. Believe me, other visitors to the WASCO internet site, see me as an anti-NTA voice. (Recently that is beginning to change, as other taxidermists across the country have now got involved, speaking out against this 100% mandate.)
So why did I wait so long to write this piece? Honestly I hoped that the NTA would see the wall (before walking into it) and drop this idea of a 100% mandate. The postings on the taxidermy.net forums slowed and the topic seemed to be fading. Then early this year, the forums heated up again, as the NTA announced its' plans to forge ahead with their 100% mandate plans. I then decided that I needed to research this topic and to present it to the WTA membership (as fairly as possible) so that each and every WTA member could make their own decision (about joining the NTA) based on facts, not rumors or half-truths.
I had planned this article for the summer issue of Insight, as the information would then be fresh in everyone's mind as the WTA approached a possible vote at the August WTA Rendezvous. To my surprise the WTA board and general membership wrote the ending to this story when both groups addressed this mandate in Green Bay (during the March Deer Classic) giving the idea of a 100% mandate no WTA support.
To be fair to both the NTA and to the members of the WTA (who missed the Green Bay meetings) I decided to go ahead and finish the article. Hopefully by keeping the WTA membership informed on issues that affect them both as an organization and as individual taxidermists, this article will have been worth all of the effort that went into writing it.
A Sincere Thanks to Mike Kirkhart
Before getting into the actual details, I want to offer Mike Kirkhart (current NTA president) a sincere thank you. Without checking my phone bills, I can honestly estimate that I spent 6-8 hours on the phone with him, discussing the many aspects of this article. He also spent more additional time answering my e-mails.
Mr. Kirkhart deserves much more credit for the progress the NTA has made on this mandate, than may ever be afforded him. My gut feelings, from the many hours I spent talking with him, are that even if he may not believe 100% in this mandate, he has given more than anyone could ask for, to implement this NTA mandate.
The NTA could not have chosen a better leader to help them through this battle. As both a successful taxidermist and a national supplier, Kirkhart has taken time from his business and family to serve an organization that he truly believes in. Having now expressed my sincere respect for Mr. Kirkhart, I hope that I do not offend him or belittle his efforts (on behalf of the NTA), as I explain why I believe this new NTA 100% membership by-law will harm state groups, as well as loyal NTA members.
I certainly agree with every argument Mr. Kirkhart made on the merits of belonging to an organization. I believe that clearly goes without saying. At one time or another we have all belonged to an organization of some type, be it religious, professional, or even related to a hobby. I especially like the phrase Mr. Kirkhart often uses, "There is no I in team". However when a group desires to appoint themselves as the national voice of 100,000 taxidermists, they need to offer more than a feel good reason, as to why you must send them your $50 yearly dues. To their credit the NTA has put together a benefit package to offer members, who join the NTA.
These NTA member benefits include; an Accidental Death and Disability policy, Optional Business Insurance, Optional Health and Life Insurance, Optional Discounts on Freight, Eligibility for the Award of Excellence, Five issues of Outlook (the NTA magazine), a Yearly Annual Report, the Charlie Fleming Educational Fund Scholarship, and an Affiliation with both the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and the Conservation Force.
There are some additional direct benefits, that include a pocket card with your NTA number, a certificate (suitable for framing), and a yearly reference poster (8.5" x 11"). Each 100% affiliated state also receives a set of their own benefits. These include use of NTA score sheets, sanctioned competition points, two dollars returned for each new or renewed NTA membership, and several perks related to the NTA conventions.
Certainly I may have missed a benefit or two from my above lists, but I have listed the biggest or at least most important. As an example of unlisted benefits, Mr. Kirkhart recently told me that a relationship is being worked out between the NTA and Wild Wings, that will allow NTA members to purchase products from Wild Wings at a discount. I have not received any direct details on this newly designed benefit or these possible discounts, but I did want to mention it, so as to not mislead anyone by not having listed it.
My research for this article included reading all the material send to me, by Cindy Crain (wife of NTA Executive Director), e-mails and phone calls to members of several other state groups, phone calls to the freight discount coordinator, phone calls to Percy & Wright Associates, web searches, e-mails and phone calls to other taxidermists, phone calls and meetings with insurance agents for both national firms and of course independent agents, and my e-mails and phone calls with the NTA President (Mike Kirkhart).
I will start by taking a look at this 100% mandate, followed by a review of several of the items the NTA forwarded to me (to include a copy of their last budget) and finish with a basic breakdown of the various NTA benefits. I will also refer to the occasional internet posting, where it is noteworthy. Hopefully all of this information will aid you, in your own decision on whether or not to join the NTA.
The 100% Mandate
Maybe the best way to explore the issue of the 100% mandate, is to first explain what it is and to then look at how and when it was created. Simply put, the 100% mandate, requires that any taxidermy organization who wants to be affiliated with the NTA, must have each and every member of their organization join the NTA as an individual member.
Affiliate - vs - Chapter
When discussing the creation of this 100% mandate, to say the waters are muddy, would be an understatement. To confuse things even more, formerly a group could choose to have been an affiliated organization to the NTA or to become a chapter of the NTA. Each of these choices have their own varying levels of involvement within the NTA.
As an example, using the WTA membership to demonstrate one of the differences between an affiliate and a chapter. If we were to become a 100% affiliate of the NTA, according to Kirkhart, the dozen or so NTA members from Wisconsin who do not belong to our state group " are not required to join" the WTA. On the other hand if we become a chapter of the NTA, " antitrust law would require the national chapter to reciprocate", so then all NTA members living within Wisconsin would have to join our state chapter to belong to the national chapter. Kirkhart really did not want to get into a discussion on affiliate vs. chapter, as this 100% mandate concerns affiliates. It should be noted that an affiliate organization of the NTA, would still be an independent group with it's own governing body and by-laws.
So when was the 100% mandate actually created? Rumors and internet gossip
have provided few concrete answers. Seeking the answer from the best available source, I asked the NTA, that same question (along with several others) and in an e-mail (dated 1/31/01) from the NTA headquarters, they told me I could find the answer to "how the 100% came about... (by) reference (ing) the minutes we have provided". Shortly I will tell you, how and when the 100% mandate was created, but first we need to look into the history of the NTA and it's affiliated associations (or groups).
The History of the NTA
The NTA was founded in 1971 in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Their first convention was held at the county fairgrounds (in Poplar Bluff) on September 26th, 1972. As a new group, they began to create their organization and steer it in the direction they desired, ultimately creating the NTA of today. According to Kirkhart, "there was a Gentlemen's Agreement" that all affiliates would be made up of NTA members.
Why, now 100%?
During the early 1980's most states started their own organizations. Through technology and the advancement of video equipment, the NTA witnessed two things occur. "Videos replaced the need for education at conventions and the States replaced needs for a place to gather", according to Kirkhart. The NTA also began to see more and more, that state members were not joining the NTA. An estimate of state associations is that 10 -15% of their members belong to the NTA, so the state's majority of members are "not supporting" the NTA.
So back to the actual creation of this 100% mandate. Again most of this is not clear, but I will try to explain it, based on two separate NTA items mailed to me by the NTA headquarters. The first explanation comes "From the desk of Mike Kirkhart, NTA president" in a letter addressed to State Presidents on NTA letterhead. He stated,
"A newsletter addressing NTA members dated 1979 was discovered and read to those representatives in attendance this past July in Lubbock, Texas during the president's meeting stating that the NTA affiliates would be chapters with 100% membership."
In that same letter, Kirkhart also stated that when the NTA was founded in 1972, "it was never considered that the affiliated chapters that formed from the NTA, would want to be independent associations that would not cooperate, support and coordinate with their mother organization." Kirkhart went on to say "If you choose not to be affiliated then you will suffer the loss of not only NTA affiliate benefits, but also being affiliated with the only National organization that is attempting to save the future of our industry".
The second document explaining the creation of this 100% mandate, was a copy of the minutes from that same Lubbock (Texas) "State President's Meeting" where it stated, "Explanation by Greg Crain of minutes of 1978 meeting in Biloxi stating that at that time, all affiliates would have to be 100%."
These same minutes from the Texas President's meeting, also included that "Wesley Touchstone read minutes of 78 meeting." and that "Most states would need to change name to reflect "Chapter of the NTA". These minutes, provided to me by the NTA, are contained on one side of a 8.5" x 11" piece of paper. (see Appendix A.)
More than half of this NTA document contains the names of those in attendance. The remainder of the page contains the minutes of the discussion that took place on the issue of the 100% mandate, as well as an explanation by Mike Kirkhart "that the present board is trying to rectify mistakes made in 79 by not following the minutes of the 78 meetings". Also in the minutes were notes on the NTA attorney, donations to the Conservation Force, freight costs in Montana, as well as the harassment of Montana taxidermists by Game and Fish officials.
New NTA By-law Passes
So based on either a 1978 meeting in Biloxi (where the minutes contained information on affiliates being 100%) or on a 1979 newsletter (I was not provided with copies of either of these two items), the NTA board then motioned, seconded, and passed on the afternoon of Saturday February 12, 2000 in Dallas (Texas) a new by-law for the NTA, that now required 100% affiliation for state associations. The by-law change passed on an unanimous vote (14 for, 0 against). It was now official. (see Appendix D)
Does anyone else see the problem(s) here? First of all some 30 years ago, when the NTA was first formed nothing in their original by-laws or charter apparently required 100% NTA membership of other yet unformed taxidermy groups. Now 29 years after the fact, the 2000 NTA board was faced with having to interpret the thoughts, goals, and intentions of the original founders of the NTA. Is that not a whole lot, like us trying to figure out now, who the framers of our United States Constitution intended to "keep and bear arms"? By the way, how many times have we changed our constitution, to reflect the intentions of it's original creators?
Yet another problem was the free exchange of the words affiliate and chapter. According to NTA lawyers these are certainly two distinct words today. Were they in 1971? Then of course there is the question of reliability of those minutes from 1978 or that 1979 newsletter.
Errors and Contradictions
The minutes and other papers provided to me, by the NTA, certainly raises that question. These items, contain obvious errors and contradictions (ie. that Dallas NTA Board meeting started on "Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2000" and yet on "Saturday, February 12, 2000" the NTA board passed the new by-law.
Also one NTA item states that the NTA was formed in 1971, while another states the NTA was formed in 1972, a third item I received from the NTA states 1973. Sorry folks but errors do occur with the recording of minutes. Worst than errors are very short minutes or incomplete accounts of what was said or what was intended at a meeting. (see Appendix A)
Looking back at those minutes (less than half of a page) from the State President's meeting in Texas, at what point will a future board of the NTA have to address the issue of name changes as clearly those minutes indicated that all state groups will become chapters of the NTA? (see Appendix A)
"Most states would need to change name to reflect "Chapter of the NTA""Do these words not clearly indicate all affiliates are becoming NTA chapters? What else could they mean? It is written in plain English, isn't it? My point is simply that those minutes are lacking at best.
Certainly some type of discussion took place about the issue of state's changing their names when becoming chapters of the NTA, but beyond that we have no idea the intentions of what was really being addressed, by reading those NTA minutes. No one would argue, that if in the year 2030, we contacted all of the surviving 43 people (listed as in attendance) from that meeting, that they would recall the discussion about changing state's names in the many different ways. That is human nature!
So Who's Mandate is it?
Whether or not it was the intentions of the original National Taxidermist Association, to have every member of an affiliate group join the NTA, no longer matters, for it is now clear, that the 100% membership mandate was the intentions of the 2000-01 NTA board. They passed a by-law change to create officially the mandate and in Feb. of 2001 declined their opportunity to change their decision. No more blame should be directed to the founders of the NTA for their lack of documented intentions. If this mandate harms the NTA or any state groups, the responsibility lies solely with the 14 who voted in Dallas and those who failed to change the mandate in Feb.
As the WTA has chosen not to force it's members to comply with the Jan 1, 2002 100% mandate, only you can only decide as individual taxidermists whether or not joining the NTA is right for you. I have prepared a look at NTA benefits that you can review below. I have also included a list of what other states have done concerning this mandate. Unlike the WTA, many other associations host their conventions over the summer. I already have news on several, but other big states are yet to meet and decide on their NTA status.
(Image courtesy of the NTA)
(image courtesy of the NTA)
The above two sections of the NTA placemat was created by Cindy Crain. She did an excellent job, I just wish I could have scanned the whole item for you to see as one piece. GREAT JOB CINDY !!
In today's day and age of high priced insurance, any form of free insurance or insurance at an attractive rate, is a benefit we would all cherish. In fact if the NTA insurance plans provided you with insurance rates not otherwise available to the individual taxidermist, that would be all the reason anyone would need to justify the annual dues to become a NTA member.
The NTA offers three basic forms of insurance to their members. Only one is included as a direct (no added cost) benefit. That is the $10,000 Accidental Death or Dismemberment policy. While you should consider this a real benefit associated with your NTA membership, also keep in mind that the NTA paid out approximately $10,000 during the 1999-2000 fiscal year for this coverage. So in reality you pay for this coverage with your annual dues. The insurance agents I contacted, called this a minimum AD&D policy and most offered $25,000 policies for nearly the same annual price as what the NTA pays for you to have this free policy. I found quotes of just pennies a month for $25,000 policies. I do wish to stress, that if you have no other insurance or do not wish to purchase your own, you should consider this a true benefit.
Optional Business Insurance
Of the other two insurance offerings by the NTA's carrier (Wright & Percy Insurance), you owe it to yourself to shop for price and coverage before purchasing this optional insurance from the NTA. Just looking at the NTA's optional Business Insurance, the yearly premium is $550 plus applicable taxes. For your $550 ($580.25 here in Wisconsin) you get;
(image courtesy of NTA)
For an additional increased premium you can receive up to $1,000,000 for liability coverage, you can also increase your limits on the four other items within your basic coverage. You can also insure your property for an additional premium. That however, includes a $1000 deductible on your property. Currently the NTA can not offer this business insurance to taxidermists in New Jersey, Hawaii, or Alaska.
I suggested that you shop for price and coverage before buying this optional insurance from the NTA. For Wright & Percy Insurance to sell you coverage, they need to be licensed to sell insurance within your state. That means extra overhead to Wright & Percy, which translates into higher premiums to you (sometimes much higher), than insurance you could purchase on your own from an insurance firm already licensed to sell insurance within your state.
While researching this benefit I contacted several insurance agents (both national and independents) and found an excellent policy (set up for taxidermists) that saved me money compared to the rider policy I had purchased with my home owners insurance to cover my shop. I have arranged for the agent and the carrier to attend the WTA Rendezvous this coming August to discuss this coverage for WTA members. Compared to the NTA basic business policy, this is the main coverage summary of the policy I recently purchased here in Wisconsin;
$25,000 Accounts Receivable
$5,000 Money and Securities
$25,000 Valuable Papers & Records
$5000 Spoilage (Freezer Loss)
$20,000 Business Personal Property (Bailee & Your Trophies)
$25,000 Electronic Data Equipment
My yearly premium was $252 , with a $250 deductible. Now these are not exactly the same set of business owners insurance plans, but I certainly feel I saved money over the NTA plan and received more coverage. In addition, should I ever need to file a claim, my agent lives and works within 10 miles of my shop and the carrier is a Wisconsin based insurance firm.
Now as far as the optional NTA health insurance plans, again my only suggestion is that you shop and compare policies and premiums before just assuming that the NTA can provide you with a fairly priced policy. I did not obtain or compare health insurance premiums, because health insurance policies are affected by an abundance of factors (ie. age, marital status, number of family members, health, etc.). The optional NTA health insurance may just be the lowest priced health insurance available to some, but you will only know that if you go out and get a competitive quote.
Another new benefit to NTA members is the optional freight discounts. For a $75 annual fee, NTA members can enroll (for discounted freight rates) with Freight Benefits Company. Upon credit approval with Fed Ex and acceptance by Yellow Freight, NTA members can then enjoy attractive discounts with both carriers.
I should also mention, that there is an additional 6% monthly invoice fee, based on your Fed Ex invoices. You can even enroll additional business locations for these Fed Ex discounts for $75 per location.The administrator for this company is Lowell Unruh. He can be reached by calling (800) 486-1004 or through e-mail at FreightBen@aol.com
I should warn you, that Lowell owes and operates his Freight Benefits Company, as a one man operation. As such, he is not always available to answer phone calls or to immediately reply to emails. He has however been very good at returning my calls and responding to my emails.
According to Lowell, there is no upfront fee to receive the Yellow Freight discount, in fact NTA members can apply only for this discount. There are no monthly fees involved with the Yellow Freight discount.
All of the associated fees with this discount freight benefit are based on your shipping with Fed Ex. According to Lowell, the 6% monthly fee is based on your shipping invoices with Fed Ex and is divided between the OSI, Lowell, and the NTA.
There are no present changes on the horizon for this discount program through Lowell's Freights Benefits Company. According to Lowell this NTA benefit is not being well utilized as he honestly admits that he has not "made any money in one and one-half years off this plan".
Award of Excellence
A prestigious award earned by accumulating points from any NTA affiliated state or regional competition (using NTA judges, rules, and score sheets), to include at least one national competition. I will suggest that you contact the NTA to receive the requirements for this award. As I do not want to confuse becoming certified by the NTA, with earning the Award of Excellence. These are two separate benefits, each with their own requirements.
The publications of any organization, are a true benefit. These publications allow the organization and it's leadership to communicate with it's members. They are the best methods for the organization to promote itself and the fellowship that comes from belonging to the group. They are also an excellent method for the organization to keep their membership informed on the actions of the group's leadership. They are also the best vehicles available to the organization, to educate it's members.
We all know, that the majority of the members of most organizations, are not active within the group. They do not run for offices or board seats. In fact some never even attend events organized by the group. They simply belong, because they have the desire to support the organization. For these members, the publications produced by the organization are their best link to belonging.
I have never seen a copy of "Outlook", but did receive some photo copies of "Outlook" articles from Cindy Crain (of the NTA). She certainly can be proud of her efforts as "Outlook" editor. I suspect she puts out a professional magazine. According to the NTA, "Outlook is published five times a year and contains such things as; industry articles, a calendar of events, listings of all affiliated groups, and other articles to keep anyone interested in taxidermy up to date.
Yearly NTA Annual
As much as an organization's publications means to it's membership, the group's yearly annual is equally important. It is the summary of the actions for the organization over the calendar year. Again I have not seen a copy of the NTA's annual, but I suspect that it would rival that of any national organization. From information supplied to me my the NTA, I understand that the annual, contains a directory of NTA members, a list of winners of the "Award of Excellence", as well as those NTA members who have earned their NTA certification.
Charlie Fleming Scholarship
The NTA established the "Charles Fleming Educational Fund", that yearly awards scholarships to members or their children to continue their education. I have very little information on this benefit, so you need to check with the NTA itself on the amount of funds available and the requirements to be eligible for these scholarships. From my phone notes with NTA president Mike Kirkhart, I have written down, that (15) $500 scholarships are available to eligible NTA members and that last year the NTA awarded $4500 in these scholarships.
Representation in Washington with both the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and Conservation Force
Between the information sent to me and my phone conversations with Mike Kirkhart, I believe the NTA has a relationship with the "Conservation Force", a pro-bono legal team headed up by John J. Jackson (Louisiana) that works all over the world for the interests of hunters. According to Kirkhart the NTA donates $5000 annually to Jackson's group. This may be where the NTA then receives its yearly representation at the "Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus". As I am not certain of this, please contact the NTA directly with any questions on these groups and their funding by the NTA.
Part of my confusion, stems from information provided by the NTA that discusses the "Wildlife Conservation Fund". If I am understanding this information correctly, the NTA uses monies from their fund to contribute to causes and groups, such as Jacksons. Another use, last year, of "Wildlife
Conservation Funds" was a donation of $2000 to help protect the rights of sportsmen in Arizona. The NTA contributed an additional $9,700 to fight similar causes in 1992 (Arizona), 1994 (Oregon) and in 1996 (California, Washington State, and Oregon).
As an NTA member, you can have your work "examined" and qualify to be a "NTA Certified Taxidermist". Once certified you receive a special plaque and are then eligible to purchase 500 brochures "at an extremely low cost". For more details you have to contact the NTA. Two very credible and well known names in the industry are heavily involved with this program. Larry Blomquist and Frankie Thompson are the two men credited with this program's success.
(image courtesy of the NTA)
We all know the value of reference material in this field. Each year the NTA provides you with a 8.5" x 11" poster. The issue sent to me, contains four color pictures of a raccoon, which I have scanned in below.
(images courtesy of the NTA)
(images courtesy of the NTA)
As a current NTA member, you can attend one of the largest taxidermy conventions held. These shows have something for everyone, from competition to seminars. This benefit gives all NTA members a chance to see the latest equipment and products for the taxidermy industry.
The convention moves around throughout the country, giving all NTA members equal access to this show. Seminars are given by the biggest names in the industry. And the seminars are not just about taxidermy. The 30th annual show (held July 11-14, 2001) in Columbia, Missouri even includes seminars on cooking and wallpapering.
Full convention fees are only $85 (when paid before June 11th and $100 after that date). If you are not a NTA member, you can still attend the show, by becoming a member and enclosing your $50 annual NTA dues along with your registration fee.
Having now looked at many of the NTA member benefits, let's move on and take a look at the 1999-2000 NTA budget, the expenses associated with the Executive Director, and the NTA Feb. Board meetings from 2000 and 2001.
Looking over the NTA budget (see Appendix C) for 1999-2000 (as supplied to me by Cindy Crain), only one thing really bothered me. When I pointed it out to NTA President Mike Kirkhart, he was not aware of it or able to explain it. What upset me so much, was that the NTA does not show as a disbursement the 20% commission that was paid to their Executive Director (Greg Crain) for the Texas NTA convention. This particle sum of money was $6,626.42 from the Texas NTA convention. (see Appendix B)
What troubled me the most was that after Crain's 20% commission ($6,626.42) was taken from the gross profits ($33,132.10), the balance ($26,505.68) was then listed in the 1999-2000 yearly budget, as it's income from the Texas NTA convention.
No where in the disbursements for the 1999-2000 budget, is that $6,626.42 accounted for, yet other NTA convention expenses are clearly listed (ie. shirts, computers, hospitality rooms, meals, envelopes, placemats, backboard transport, staff hotel rooms, etc.). Had it not been for a financial breakdown on recent conventions (that the NTA sent me), I would have no idea, that the NTA's Executive Director receives 20% (off the top) on every convention, whether or not the NTA makes a profit.
I can only assume (that somewhere else), the NTA yearly tells it's members how much money their Executive Director receives, that is not listed in the yearly budget as a disbursement. The fact that the NTA president was not aware of, nor could explain the absence of this payment to Crain from the yearly budget, was not a reassuring sign that the NTA membership was aware of that $6,626.42 payment to Crain. At the very best, this is simply an accounting oversight. No nonprofit organization should pay such large sums to it's Director and then not list them as yearly expenses. I am sorry if you disagree, but that is WRONG !
Two other minor issues were observed while reading through the 1999-2000 NTA yearly budget. Both involved funds that NTA President Mike Kirkhart told me were spent, but neither were listed in the budget. This was most likely due to an accounting method, involving the numerous accounts the NTA controls.
One item was the $5000 contribution to attorney John Jackson (Conservation Force) and the other was the scholarships ($4500 paid out). As the NTA budget seems to indicate that there is separate NTA accounts for the scholarship funds and the Wildlife Conservation Fund, this is not a problem as long as the NTA reports to it's members in some other budget the use of these funds. Ironically the 1999-2000 budget lists as NTA receipts contributions to both of these accounts and even lists several Wildlife Conservation Fund disbursements.
As a non NTA member, I do not receive the NTA publications, I only received a select few items that the NTA was kind enough to forward to me for this article. Hopefully the above mentioned accounting questions are yearly explained to the NTA membership and my questions only arose, from not receiving those publications that address these issues.
Any review of the yearly NTA operating budget would not be complete without addressing the issue the amount of money given to the NTA Executive Director. As a non NTA member, maybe it was easier for me to look at this area. I owe no allegiance to the Executive Director or the NTA. I am only reviewing this budget as an outsider, not privy to the inner workings of the organization.
I understand that the current NTA Executive Director is Greg Crain. I further understand that this position is a non-elected (appointed) office within the NTA. Though I have been accused of "having it in" for Greg Crain, I have never met the man, do not know where he lives, or what he looks like. In fact I would not even recognize him, if I stood in line beside him at McDonalds.
I could care less who the Executive Director is, my concerns are about the office, not the man. I was recently reminded (by e-mail) of comments I directed towards Greg Crain, on the WASCO website. As the posting was quite old, I went back and read it over, before responding to that e-mail. Yes I did lash out at Greg Crain. Anyone who read that message at the time it was posted, knew why I had spoken out.
The NTA had just had three new Board members resign (four all together). Several messages were posted concerning those resignations and one of the NTA Board members who resigned, posted a message explaining his reasons for leaving the NTA Board.
Now I did not know this NTA Board member, but I believed him to be an honorable person. After all the NTA membership had just elected him to a NTA
Board seat. Well shortly after this person posted the reasons for his resignation, Greg Crain posted a rather lengthy message in reply. Call it whatever you want, but it was an attack on the character of this resigning NTA Board member. I have always had the personality of a protector (I broke up all the fights in school and later did so professionally as a Police Officer), so I wasted no time in biting into Greg Crain's backside.
(To view the resignation, click on the link below)
To this day, I do not regret that internet posting, and would do it again, whenever I saw the need. What ever official duties the Executive Director of the NTA has, what Greg Crain did in his response to that resigning NTA Board member, is not one of them. He stepped way over the line !
(To view Greg Crain's response, click on the below link)
Having now explained to you, why some NTA supporters claim, I have it in for Greg Crain, lets now get back to the NTA budget and the funds received by the NTA's Executive Director. From the NTA 1999-2000 budget, the NTA paid Greg Crain $19, 980.00 as his 20% commission on NTA memberships. The NTA pays it's Executive Director a 20% commission fee based on every paid membership. With current individual NTA memberships at $50, the Executive Director receives a $10 commission (less $2 refund to affiliated associations).
In addition, the NTA gives the Executive Director a 20% commission on the annual NTA convention, as an incentive for him to organize a profitable show. As earlier mentioned Greg Crain received $6,626.42 as his commission on the Texas NTA convention. In total then Greg Crain received $26, 606.42. That is not an outlandish sum of money. In fact I was told by the editor (Tom Krause) of the National Trappers Association that he himself is paid $40K each year as the editor of that organization. The NTA is probably getting a bargain.
During the first week of July (2001), I received an e-mail from another NTA Board member, who mentioned that the NTA's headquarters is located on Greg Crain's property and that the NTA pays no rent or utilities, thanks to Greg Crain. I did not even have the heart, to reply to that e-mail and suggest that the NTA does pay utilities. According to the NTA 1999-2000 budget, the NTA headquarters received $1,300 for utilities.
In all the 1999-2000 NTA budget shows $31,106.08 going to the NTA headquarters, for such things as;
$ 9400.00 for Labor
$ 1300.00 for Utilities
$ 2806.08 for Office Equipment
$ 600.00 for Y2K
$17000.00 for phone, office supplies, postage (not for Outlook or Annual)
Total NTA Headquarters expense - $31,106.08
When looking at the NTA 1999-2000 budget over $60,512.50 was spent between the salaries to Greg Crain ($26,606.42) and his wife - Cindy ($2800 as Outlook Editor) and the expenses involved in maintaining the NTA headquarters at their home.
Whether looking at the NTA's 1999-2000 listed total receipts or total disbursements, either way that $60,000 is over 30% of both numbers. I did not even attempt to factor in any possible NTA Board, convention, or travel expenses that may have been reimbursed to the Crains, for any of the work they did on behalf of the NTA at Board meetings or conventions.
Again, the point of expressing these amounts, is not to embarrass the Crains in any way. Rather it is to shed light on the many rumors that surrounds the NTA and the issue of their annual due structure and the money received by Greg and Cindy Crain. To me $60,000 a year for an Executive Director, a magazine Editor and a national headquarters all rolled up into one package, seems like a sweet deal for the NTA and it's membership.
My understanding, is that even informed NTA members who are aware of the fact that by becoming the Executive Director of the NTA and moving the NTA headquarters into a spare bedroom, that they would receive over 30% of the NTA's annual budget, they still do not want or apply for Greg Crain's job. That more than anything shows that Greg Crain is not overpaid for running the NTA.
Texas NTA Board Meeting
When the NTA Board, held it's Feb. 2000, meeting in Dallas (Texas) several interesting votes were taken, the least of which was the new by-law creating the 100% affiliated mandate. The new by-law passed on an unanimous vote (14 - 0). According to those minutes (see Appendix D);
"Motion by Mark Wilson, second by Frankie Thompson: to accept the change of by-laws as proposed by Don Holt that state associations Maintain 100%
The NTA Board then went on to again unanimously vote (14 - 0) to implement this new by-law as of Jan. 1, 2002. While further reviewing those NTA Board minutes, three other votes and one decision also stood out and caught my eye.
Two of the other interesting votes (see Appendix E) concerned convention fees. On a 10 - 3 vote the NTA Board voted to "raise competition entree fees from $25 to $35". Then on the very next vote the NTA Board defeated, (6 for, 8 opposed) a motion "to raise booth rentals by $25.00 ...". The increase in competition fees is the way the NTA hopes to reduce the number of entries at their conventions, thus allowing the judges more time to spend with each entry, according to NTA president Mike Kirkhart.
The third vote, that really caught my eye was a "Motion by Archie Phillips, second by R.J Meyers: to eliminate write in votes on NTA ballots." (13 for, 0 against). I also questioned Mike Kirkhart on this vote and he explained to me, that this was done as a way to save the NTA money, as write in votes are very costly to the NTA to tally.
The last item from those Feb. 2000 NTA Board minutes that I felt I needed to share with you was the apparent decision (no motion, second, or vote listed in the minutes) that read "Cindy Crain may (buy) the old computer system for $200 to $300 so that the NTA hard drive is not exposed to the general public." (see Appendix D)
Right or wrong I suspect that the competition fees were actually raised to increase convention profits. If that is the real issue for the increase, fantastic, let the NTA make more money. Then in the same light, increase booth rentals also. That vote also should have passed. The NTA Board meeting minutes, did not tell us who voted for or against the increase. It certainly would not surprise me, if is the majority (8 board members) that voted against the booth increase, promote their products, business, or employer at the NTA conventions.
About the computers, just give them to Cindy. She must have wanted them and old outdated computers are certainly worthless. Do not insult the intelligence of the membership by telling them you are protecting the hard drive from the general public. I can see it now, animal activists crawling around on their hands and knees searching through the landfill, in hopes of locating the hard drives to the NTA, so that they can save the bunnies.
I would have more easily excepted, that the hard drives were being kept in Cindy's possession to protect them from the eyes of the general membership. I am sorry, but that makes much more sense than claiming a need to keep those computer files from the general public.
Feb. 2001 Board Meeting
This may have been the NTA Board's best chance to have corrected their vote (creating the new 100% by-law). By now the entire NTA Board knew of the uproar this mandate had caused. Many had even became involved in the internet debates they were taking place on the WASCO website. Prior to this meeting I had a couple of phone calls and e-mails with Mike Kirkhart, as well as with NTA headquarters.
I had suggested a number of alternatives to Mike Kirkhart, and he told me of a few, that he hoped the NTA board would also address, as options to the 100% mandate. The position the NTA was openly taking was that, this mandate was not about generating money into the NTA, but rather about adding numbers to the NTA membership rolls.
As such, all of the alternatives, offered the NTA ways to increase its membership, without forcing state associations to decide whether or not to align with the NTA. These options included such things as selling subscriptions to Outlook, allowing people to join at an associate or patron level, having a special introduction membership rate, and a plan to have affiliated states pay a $5 fee for all it's members to become associate NTA members. It was also discussed to simply change the wording of the new by-law, so that an affiliated group would strive to be 100% (rather than "Maintain 100% affiliation").
All of these options, would allow the NTA to get their foot in the door, so to speak. Kirkhart often told me, that if the NTA could just explain the merits of belonging and their benefits, that all taxidermists would willingly join the NTA. All of the above options would have given the NTA, that chance they so desperately needed.
We also discussed at length, the basic need for the NTA to promote itself, through such campaigns as setting up NTA booths at state shows, advertising through the various trade papers and magazines, and seeking out assistance from suppliers to include NTA membership applications in their catalogs.
From talking with Kirkhart, I suspect his favorite alternative to forced NTA membership, was allowing individual taxidermists to join at an associate level, thus giving the NTA numerical support (by having the membership rolls increase). As an associate, members would receive no individual NTA benefits, but could then be introduced to the benefits available to regular NTA members.
My favorite option, was my suggestion to Kirkhart, that states be allowed to renew their affiliated NTA memberships and would then pay $5 per non-NTA member to the NTA, making these state members associate NTA members.
These associates would receive no individual NTA benefits, but the affiliated state group could then continue to support the NTA and more importantly all those regular full benefit NTA members (within the state) would now continue to enjoy all their benefits, especially their ability to compete at the state level and earn their NTA competition points.
Sadly, the NTA board said NO to all these options. According to Kirkhart the NTA Board stood unanimously. Kirkhart explained that the NTA Board refused to change their new 100% by-law for two reasons. They did not want to anger the states that already became 100%, but more importantly, they (the NTA Board) did not want to give in to the pressure and appear weak.
For the current list of 100% associations click on this link.
100% = $$$$
While the NTA maintains that this new NTA 100% membership by-law is not about generating money, but rather about membership numbers and political clout (to protect the future of taxidermy). The perceived belief (whether correct or not), is that this mandate is about money. I do believe this mandate is all about money, otherwise...
If it was not about money, the NTA would find a way to lower it's regular $50 membership dues. (I have received emails from full-time, award winning taxidermists you have told me that despite the uproar over the mandate, they intend to join, as soon as they have an EXTRA $50 !)
If it was not about money, then the NTA could have added new members by any one of several alternatives to this 100% mandate. None of these however, would have added significant funds to the NTA.
If it was not about money, the NTA would have attempted to promote itself (through a national campaign) as a way to attract new members. That however would have been a risky expense of NTA funds. It was simply much easier and cheaper to attempt to hi-jack the memberships of state groups (that already had, the members the NTA so dearly wants).
If it was not about money, the NTA would not have increased the competition entry fees at their convention in one breath, yet with the next, decided to not increase booth rental fees to organizations or businesses that setup at the NTA convention to sell their products or services to the NTA members in attendance.
If it was not about money, the NTA would not offer a $2 kickback to affiliated associations for each new NTA member or renewal. Not to mention $100 for a yearly hospitality room at the affiliated associations own show or convention.
If it was not about money, the NTA would not offer all the convention perks (complimentary NTA convention registration, complimentary Tuesday - Saturday accommodations at the NTA convention, and a special drawing for a hunting package) to affiliated associations.
If it was not about money, the NTA would not charge their judges a $5 fee to be listed in the NTA judges directory.
If it was not about money, the NTA would not have chosen to hold it's conventions based on potential profits, but rather would host their conventions with the intent of allowing all taxidermists across the United States the chance to attend a convention within a reasonable distance of their home.
If it was not about money, the NTA would not have tarnished the prestige of their own NTA competition awards, by now limiting who can compete. I ask you, how distinguished is the NTA Distinguished Taxidermist Award, when it is now limited to 12 or 14 "Judges Best of Show" award winners from across the country. The winning piece, may not even be entered, because the NTA member who created it, lives in a state that did not accept the 100% mandate. Talk about loyalty. It certainly looks like the NTA is more loyal to the almighty dollar than to it's own members.
If it was not about money, the NTA would not punish their own loyal members by taking away their benefit of earning NTA points in state competitions.
If it was not about money, the NTA would not spend nearly 1/3 of it's budget on it's Executive Director and the related expenses of keeping the NTA office in his house.
If it was not about money, the NTA would not have passed this 100% mandate, which will punish it's own members and may very well ultimately harm the NTA itself, or even worse, the state associations that the NTA claims it want's to protect.
I could go on, but the fact is everything the NTA does is about money. But you know what? That is ok. For an organization to survive and thrive, they need money, lot's of money. That is an undisputed fact. A necessary evil, if you will. The best path is to be honest and open with your members about this need for money. Don't dance around the issue, or try to sugar coat it. Just tell your members what it costs to run their organization. Then fully account for all yearly expenses that you incur while running it, whatever they may be.
Belonging to any organization, has it's own merits and benefits. Belonging to the NTA is no different. On it's face the NTA could and should be an organization that every taxidermist across the United States would want to join and support. However nearly 98,000 of the known 100,000 United States taxidermists have not joined the NTA. The question why, begs for an answer.
The NTA has either failed to promote themselves to these potential members, or given up trying. Either way, they will soon learn that forcing taxidermists to join, is not the answer. As the mandate deadline (Jan. 1, 2002) approaches and the NTA is faced with the possibility that the majority of state associations will not be in compliance with the new mandate, a decision must be made to correct this new by-law and quick.
If the NTA takes no action to correct this mandate prior to the deadline, then they must suffer the full weight of the consequences. For if the larger groups continue to thrive and succeed without any ties to the NTA, then the NTA will have proven that there is no need for a national voice. Selling itself, from that point, would be even harder than it is now.
Forget about a voice in Washington, an organization that failed to promote itself to individuals within it's own industry, and then failed again promoting this mandate to it's own affiliated groups and associations, will have no clout on decisions made in Washington.
Whether it has been egos, ignorance, or greed, the NTA Board has not taken any steps to correct this mistake. At some point before the deadline these 14 people have to realize, that they are only going to punish their own loyal members, harm the memberships of affiliated groups, and take away the very political clout they want to achieve. It really saddens me, that the NTA can not see the harm, this mandate will cause.
From the Author
As I researched this mandate and worked on writing this article, I watched it grow into something, even I did not expect. I realized that publishing this piece would have consequences for anyone involved with it's publication and therefore took on the further task of creating this website to house this article.
I nearly quit, about half way through this project. Between the emails I was receiving and the comments that were getting back to me (from other state associations), I began to realize that this article should not be printed in a WTA publication. I was not concerned for myself, but rather for the state association I belong to and it's leaders and members.
Then I became inspired again, as a whole new group of visitors to the WASCO internet site, began to speak out against the mandate and I realized I was not alone in my opposition. I decided to get busy and I finished the piece and built the website.
Lastly I want to thank you for reading this article, and to ask you to consider joining the NTA (if you are not already a member). Certainly at least join your state association. I have openly offered (on more that one occasion) to join the NTA, if they drop this 100% mandate.
I do believe the NTA can be a great national organization to bring taxidermists together for the exchange of ideas, tips, new techniques and to hone their skills against each other in yearly competition. Maybe even more important are the cross country friendships made by belonging to a national group with people who share your hobby or career.
(document courtesy of the NTA)
(document courtesy of the NTA)
(document courtesy of the NTA)
(page two of the NTA 1999-2000 Budget)
(document courtesy of the NTA)
(document courtesy of the NTA)
(document courtesy of the NTA)
Since accepting the position of WTA annual editor 3 years ago, I have written several member profiles, product reviews, and other taxidermy related stories for both of the Wisconsin Taxidermist Association's publications (the yearly Annual and the quarterly Insight). I hope to use this section of my site to post articles, not intended for full publication in either of the WTA's magazines.
I donate my expenses and time to the WTA when writing profiles for the WTA annual, likewise I do the same when writing articles for the WTA quarterly magazine "Insight". As such, I do not represent the WTA or it's board.
For this reason I decided to take on the task of creating this site, due to the policital nature of the piece I wrote on the NTA 100% mandate. I had decided that the article still needed to be available to taxidermists across Wisconsin and the United States, yet not allowed to adversely affect any WTA board member, for allowing it's publication in a WTA magazine.
Therefore I did not submit it to the WTA publisher. However after he contacted me requesting some fill (for the next issue of "Insight"), I did provide him with a very condensed version of the NTA 100% mandate article. If published in the WTA "Insight", please remember that my views and words do not represent the WTA. I have no authority to speak on behalf of the Wisconsin Taxidermist Association.