Should IMBA aspire to be more like the NRA? What would that look like?
The NRA is politically one of the most powerful associations in the USA. It’s a member based organization, like IMBA, with state and local level organizations (clubs and friends-of-groups) and a central or national organization. Its lobbying power comes from its very large membership — nearly 4 million members. And its members are motivated by the NRA mission to “preserve and defend” the Second Amendment of the US Constitution — the right to keep and bear arms. Its annual revenue is over $200 million.
By comparison, IMBA is tiny: an annual operating budget of just over $4 million and just 30,000 members, or an estimated 60,000 when including local mtb’ing club members, and over 100,000 when considering the number of people in the IMBA database.
And there in lies the challenge and the opportunity. Like the NRA, IMBA aspires to affect public policy. Granted, mountain biking issues are not at the level of a Constitutional threat. Things must be good enough for most mountain bikers when less than 1% of the 10 million mountain bike enthusiasts in the USA feel compelled to be involved in advocacy.
The immediate opportunity to amplify mountain biker’s political clout and bring about change lies in addressing what I consider a structural impediment. Unifying IMBA and local and regional groups would, overnight, more than double our numbers. It wouldn’t give us NRA-like political clout, but it would be a significant improvement in the mountain bike movement.
This is what the IMBA hosted mountain bike congress intends to address when a group of enthusiasts and advocates assemble in Augusta, Georgia, next week. It is an opportunity to reconstitute the movement but only if it is the will of the people to do so.