Why Can’t the ADA Be More Like the NRA?

join todayI’ve been a member of both.  I’m now only a member of one… the NRA.  I quit the ADA several years ago.  I recognize that some of my readers may not identify or agree with the NRA, in particular.  But, let’s try to simply compare two organizations that claim to support and advance their members’ interests.  And, let’s consider their relative effectiveness.

  • ADA annual operating revenue:  $120 million. (157,000 members)

That comes to about $770 / member.  Back when I was a member, my total “tripartite” dues came to about $1200 / year (going by memory).  For what?  So, the ADA could acquiesce to the political winds and suggest that WE are at fault for the fictitious issue of “access to care?”  And, I’ve repeatedly heard local association board members claim that our best move is to “sit at the table, or be left out.”  That’s COWARDICE!  Grow a pair, ADA!   Stand up!  I paid about $1200 a year, for many years, and I didn’t feel represented.  I’m certainly not the only one, either.  In a thread on Dentaltown, I learned that $53 million (44%) of the ADA’s budget goes to salaries and benefits!##  Holy crap!

  • NRA annual operating revenue:  $231 million.  (5 million members)

That comes to about $46 / member.  THAT is a BARGAIN!  My interests (and Constitutional Rights – pretty important stuff) are being protected for less than $50 a year!  (The annual membership dues are $35.  Some members donate additional money.)  The NRA files lawsuits and will take them all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary… and usually WINS.  The NRA’s total administrative expenses come to 13% of their budget.  THIRTEEN percent compared to the ADA’s FORTY-FOUR percent (for salaries)!  Read that last part again.

Then consider that the “massive” organization that is the NRA spends less total dollars (~$30 million) on administrative expenses than the comparatively diminutive ADA (~$53 million).   Bang-for-the buck, who wields more power and does more for its members???


When the NRA talks….

NRA buildingThe NRA has a nearly legendary  reputation regarding its legislative prowess in representing its members.  Furthermore, it’s truly a grassroots movement.  The real power of the NRA is in it’s members.  The NRA’s members are cohesive, politically active (writing letters, visiting legislators, etc.), and they are avid voters.  The NRA, as an organization, also actively keeps its members INFORMED.  They tell us what’s happening.  They tell us who’s involved.   They tell us what they’re doing about it.  And, they encourage us to get personally involved.  CONSTANTLY.  The NRA even grades every single senate and house representative as to where he or she stands on issues important to NRA members.  And, the members VOTE accordingly.  It is common knowledge that the NRA stands strong and does not back down.

The ADA?  Not so much.

money drain

It is the belief of many dentists that the ADA does little in terms of representing them.  Some of the top ADA executives have resumes that include working for the insurance industry at the top levels**.  This is an obvious conflict of interest.  Many dentists believe that the ADA executive officers pander to the insurance companies (and politicians) and shill for “corporate dentistry,” effectively working AGAINST us.  And, the ADA is grossly inefficient at doing that, considering the massive salaries “overhead.”

Why can’t the ADA grade our congressional representatives on where they stand on issues important to dentists?  Why can’t the ADA set up a system (like the NRA has) that enables members to easily write their representatives with the click of a mouse on a website (with template letters)?

Watch and learn!

The ADA would do well to observe how the NRA is able to “rally the troops” and “git’er done.”  Word on the street is that the ADA membership is decreasing.  Meanwhile, the NRA has consistently expanded its membership.  In the month following the tragic Sandy Hook murders, and the government’s promise to follow up by infringing upon the rights of citizens, the NRA was able to add 250,000 new members.  In ONE MONTH, they added a quarter-million new members! holding-breath-blueWhen the Colorado state legislature recently passed restrictive gun laws, local NRA members were able to organize and remove the two bill-sponsoring state senators from office with an unprecedented recall vote.  Could the ADA or its members accomplish something like that?  Here’s me holding my breath:

Yeah, yeah… I know…  Get involved!

I should mention at this point that when I was an ADA member, I was “involved.”  I served on the board of my local affiliate association all the way up to President.  Dentistry is very important to me.  I love being a dentist.  And, I love being a part of the collective profession. When the ADA shows me that they have my interests at heart…. That they are willing to FIGHT… REALLY FIGHT…. for me, as a practicing solo dentist…. for Dentistry…   I will consider joining again (if they’ll have me!).  I’ll even get involved again.

Please add your comments below!  What do you think?

##  I got those figures from a post on Dentaltown.  I wanted to verify them, and asked the poster to send me a reference.  He sent me the ADA Budget Summary 2014. <–  Click the link to download the ADA’s 2014 budget.

This just in…  Listing of ADA Salaries.  <–Click the link to download.  Source:  Guidestar – 2012 Form 990.


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19 Responses to Why Can’t the ADA Be More Like the NRA?

  1. Arturo R. Garcia DMD says:

    Excellent blog Mike! You clearly show the difference between one organization who represents and defends its members rights and freedoms with action and education = the NRA. The other one- not so much- if at all = the ADA.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks, Arturo! I don’t know why I didn’t draw this comparison a long time ago. I guess I’m slow! 🙂 It just dawned on me! Call it a “Duh!” moment!

  2. Michael Nugent says:

    Right on Mike. I look forward to one day sitting down with you and buying you a beer. Would love to sit and “pick” your brain.

  3. Michael Nugent says:

    Also forgot…

    I signed up as a regular NRA member. I saw the good they were doing. I became a lifer. Then latter I became a benefactor and endowment member. I still give yearly because they are working for me.

    With the ADA I was forced to pay my National, State, Local dues. Big bucks and got nothing out of it. I never gave extra to the ADA. I am an 05 graduate. This is the year I finally said “enough is enough” and opted out of the ADA.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      I’m glad you brought that up, Michael. It also occurred to me (after I whipped up this article) that many members of the NRA actively donate beyond their membership dues. Heck, some of them leave the NRA in their WILLS! No kidding. I wonder how many dentists donate (over and above their dues) to the ADA? I’m guessing very few, if any.

  4. Chris Esposito DMD says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I love our profession but
    can’t justify the expense of the ADA. This is the
    first year that I have not renewed membership.
    Mike maybe you should start a new organization
    for dentists by dentists . . . I know I would join.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks, Chris. It would be SO much easier (I think) to fix our existing organization. But, they are clearly not interested in LISTENING to their own “constituents.”

  5. Hi Michael,

    We have similar problems in the UK.

    When an Organisation gets ‘too comfortable’ and established, it then starts to behave as a separate entity and ‘organism’ and starts to look after it’s OWN interests first.

    We get this a lot in management who have much Power and decision-making positions – in the UK we call them the ‘Unaccountables’ who often respond with phrases like ‘join us’, we are stronger together’ or telling us to stop being ‘selfish’ or critical, when they seem to forget that they are supposed to SERVE US and act (plus be seen to act clearly) in our wider interests, first and foremost!

    They also seem to get away with major errors or omissions for which you or I would have ben publicly embarrassed for, or even lose our livelihood forever.

    The NRA (putting aside opinions about specific polices) is clearly a members organisationthat is proactively SEEN to act and more importantly, others know they WILL act publicly if their opinions are not taken seriously.

    Yes even over here in the UK this is obvious to us 3000+ miles away on a different continent – we too can only DREAM of such a proactive members organisation, in these times of many threats and mis-direction for dentistry generally.

    Yours observationally,

    Tony Kilcoyne.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Tony!

      Thanks for chiming in on my blog! I know you’re very active in the U.K. dental scene and have some keen insights.

      Your comment…

      The NRA (putting aside opinions about specific polices) is clearly a members organisation that is proactively SEEN to act and more importantly, others know they WILL act publicly if their opinions are not taken seriously.

      …. is right on target (pun intended).

      I think many organizations would do well to LEARN from the NRA (putting away any political differences, if necessary). If they could simply observe and study HOW the NRA accomplishes so much, they could learn to advance their own agenda and interests.

  6. Ken says:

    I love dentistry but it is so sad that we do not have an organization that truly works for us. An excellent article again Mike!

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks, Ken. It is truly baffling that the ADA leadership from national down to the local level are truly unwilling to LISTEN to the members AND non-members. Instead they condescendingly admonish us for being “selfish” and “not understanding.” We should just join and “get involved.” Instead of answering questions and concerns, they default to the mantra, “get involved.” It’s vacuous and insincere. The fact is that the ADA leadership needs to “get involved” with US!

  7. Ritu says:

    Hi Mike,

    When I was a new grad, I was informed about the tripartite membership (here in Dallas, TX) and joined because it was “the right thing to do”. I went to meetings, met great people, even participated a little….but to be honest didn’t look too deep into what the ADA really stands for and did/does for dentists. Partly, because I took what I was told on face value (“they’re here for us”), but mostly because I was too busy learning how to run a practice.

    Now, I’m hesitant to join. If it were just my local dental society, I wouldn’t think twice…I’d go for it. But the rest….? I haven’t seen any benefits personally from the ADA, but I keep hearing they’re fighting for us where it counts. And the yearly expense is not small ($1300+). My only contact with the ADA is when I get asked to buy their stuff. And why do I HAVE to join at all three levels?

    I have no affiliation with the NRA, but when it comes to the ADA, I want to see them improve issues dentists face daily….and have been for years.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Ritu,

      Thanks for your comments and experience. A lot of dentists echo your feelings about the tripartite requirement. Add in the fact that most dentists simply don’t see or believe that the ADA is really doing anything, and no value is built.

      I use the NRA as an example of an organization that is probably the most successful in history when it comes to accomplishing its stated mission. Forget about how you feel about guns… For our purposes here, we just want to focus on the EFFECTIVENESS of the NRA as an organization. The NRA truly stands for its membership and constantly confirms the reasons they joined. Constantly! And, they do it in a VERY visible way. Everyone… EVERYONE (and certainly politicians) know about the power of the NRA. And, that power comes from the members. It’s a true grassroots movement. And, it WORKS.

      So… what can the ADA learn from the NRA?

  8. frank williams says:

    We are fighting a no win battle.
    Although I agree with your views and concerns, I think the battle has been won by big business (corporations), politicians (criminals), and special interests (pimps). Like everything else in the American (world) society.
    The only way we can win this is if we go out and fight it out with our guns and ammunition (before they take it away from us).
    Yes, the ADA is the big problem. A worthless, self serving organization.
    I have never and never will belong to this corrupt entity.
    The problem I see is:
    1- ADA
    2- Large insurance companies (corporations) that care for nothing but outrageous
    profit for their executives (thugs in suits).
    3- Large dental providers (corporations) that care for nothing but outrageous profit
    for their executives (thugs in suits).
    4- Politicians (Criminals).
    5- All the foreign trained dentists that are allowed to practice here under the guise
    of Dentist shortage. There is no shortage of dentists. Additionally, every foreign
    dentist that I know of sets up their practice in a major metropolitan area.
    6- All the newly trained dentists (thousands every year) that will work for peanuts.
    7- Dentists being “cut throat” to one another.


    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Frank,

      Thanks for your comments. While I agree with most of your points, I do believe that there will always be a market for private fee-for-service practice. It may become a niche in itself. I’m happy in that niche… I’m already set up for it. 🙂 The future of dentists may very well be with a majority of them working for corporations. Few will have the testicular and entrepreneurial fortitude to pursue private practice. That means less competition for guys like me!

      I believe the ADA COULD be effective, if they decide to right the ship. If the ADA continues down the current path, it WILL devolve into obscurity and then dissolve as an organization.

      To turn the ADA around would require a “purging” of the current “leadership.” If that doesn’t happen…. again… the ADA will ultimately cease to exist as it loses its few remaining members.

  9. Roger says:

    I never joined that “tripartate” thing. I just knew I’d be wasting my money and not get anything for it. It makes dentists feel good though, like they are important or part of something. They fell for the hype of it all. Mike is correct in this article. The ADA is just a small group of old pompous fat cats that feel important about themselves. The only thing the ADA does that is even slightly good is that seal of approval they give to dentifrices and mouth washes. That’s about all the ADA is good for. The ADA most definitely does not stand for dentist’s interest, but rather their own self-importance.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Roger. Thought you’d like it. 🙂

      I wish the ADA would be more like the NRA in terms of its advocacy for its MEMBERS and in terms of value. Instead the ADA is an organization of eunuchs that provide a dismal value for what members pay in dues.

  10. Adam says:

    I guess I’m reviving an old post here. Kicking the tires so to speak.

    Nothing has changed in the last 3 years since you wrote this. I would posit that waiting for the ADA to change into something like the NRA is never going to happen. It just can’t. So the answers aren’t to “get involved” or even to “purge the current leadership.” I’m curious what your current solution would be for newer dentists like myself.

    Here’s to hoping this content doesn’t sit buried in the coffin.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I don’t know what the answer is, honestly. I’m meeting with one of the honchos of my local state association later this week. They’re bleeding membership. Maybe when there are no members left, they’ll figure it out?

      I cannot imagine why a new dentist would join. What benefits? At what cost? Today’s young dentists are OVERWHELMED with debt (no thanks to the ADA), and they’re going to spend $1200+ just so they can claim membership in “organized” dentistry??? Yeah…. good luck with that.

      I’m not expecting the ADA to “change into something like the NRA.” My main point was to illustrate their relative effectiveness in serving their respective members.

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