Keeping Track of Details
by Gila Hayes
The Network keeps procedures fluid because we’ve found flexibility essential to providing members the most help in the briefest time possible after self defense. That flexibility is a tough concept for potential customers who call or email asking for detailed policy statements; charts of how much money is available “at different levels,” rules mandating how much money will be provided for different types of self-defense situations or paid for different tasks attorneys undertake along the legal process; detailed flow charts of who handles what, and lists of exclusions or situations that would limit or negate assistance. In short, a lot of questions suggest that much of the public thinks that the Network is just one more insurance reseller because many of the questions asked aren’t even applicable to the Network’s membership benefits.
Flash back to 2008, when Network President Marty Hayes explored different business models in preparation to establish a structure for our then-embryonic organization. He was determined to put a structure in place that would give members the most help, immediately and throughout the legal aftermath, in the amounts needed and at the times of need. He concluded then, and our experience has since proven, that the membership benefits approach lets us protect members’ legal rights and lift the burden of how to pay for legal representation after self defense. Our standard of maintaining a simple, direct strategy for service to members influences other parts of our operation.
We adhere to the ideal that the less complexity we bring to Network membership the better! If there is an exception, it is steps taken to maintain security of member information. For example, while Network members log in access to member-only information like affiliated attorney lists and the after-hours emergency contact information, we’ve avoided storing membership details like expiration dates and personal member information online. I’ve never thought I was particularly backwards, but perhaps this proves that I am actually a closet Luddite.
Here’s my reason: Internet users who remember the Heartbleed bug a little under five years ago likely also remember scrambling to disable accounts or change passwords on all the online sites they used. I remember that we fielded a lot of that kind of calls in the weeks surrounding that panic. While we were able to reassure members that the Network has never stored member account info like credit card numbers on our website, we sympathized with the concern of savvy Internet users. Of course, our IT contractor patched our website although any stolen usernames and passwords wouldn’t have earned a thief anything of value beyond our Network President’s personal phone number. I suppose Marty appreciated knowing we protected that as soon as the alarms were raised.
Now, there is a downside to what some call our rather backwards dislike of online account detail accessibility. People these days are programmed and conditioned to expect to access and modify their own account details online. I never say never, and perhaps the day will come when I can be convinced that we can give that level of user control while maintaining unhackable security. Until then, members, bear in mind that we are always happy to provide your membership account details by phone or if you request, we can share what you want to know by email.
The expiration and beginning date of your membership is printed along with your name and membership number on the plastic wallet card we mail to each member. Additionally, the card has a space to write in your attorney’s contact info (an indelible marker works well for this task) and the back of the card includes phone numbers for reaching the Network both during business hours and for emergencies after hours.
When members call or email to ask where they can find their membership’s expiration date, we often share a friendly chuckle when we ask them to pull their membership card out of their wallets since it hadn’t occurred to them to look for their membership dates there.
Why don’t you take a minute to check your wallet now and let us know if you need a replacement? If your membership comes up for renewal within 30 days, we may ask if now might just be a good time to take care of the upcoming renewal dues and then can we make up the replacement card with your next renewal date, since it doesn’t make sense to make and mail a replacement card for just a couple of weeks. Sound fair?
Good Friends, Old and New
While we are always excited to meet new Network members, we are equally appreciative of the Network family members who renew year after year. Folks, you are the backbone of this Network and much like senior members in any family, you and all the rest of us who have been around for the past decade are creating a stable, supportive organization to help the newer members. Our new members are often people who’ve only recently come into the ranks of armed citizenry and they look to all of us for guidance. The Network is proud to be able to help launch these good men and women on their lives as armed citizens, and we hope you, our long-time supporting members, share that satisfaction with us.
Speaking of support—What a banner month October was for individual Network members putting a little extra money in the Legal Defense Fund! The Fund is the resource from which attorney and trial expenses are paid on behalf of members after self defense. We have always had strong member donations–gifts of funding above and beyond the 25% taken right off the top of each membership dues dollar and put in the Legal Defense Fund.
We make a low-key invitation for additional donations on our membership renewal requests and at the end of online renewal dues payments, although beyond that, we just don’t hit members up for donations. We know how vigorously other groups solicit your charity and have chosen not to take that route. In spite of our low-key approach, members really outdid themselves in October with extra donations of $1,300 which we added to the roughly $27,000 I was already transferring into the Legal Defense Fund from the monthly dues income.
Most months, our Network Vice President Vincent Shuck auctions items donated from our friends in the firearms industry. That always increases the dollars I add to the dues percentage going into the Fund, often by about $1,000. In October, Vincent had other concerns consuming his time, so there wasn’t an auction, and you, our amazing Network family members, put in an extra $1,300 all on your own, without the auction of a donated gun, a case of ammunition or other shooting accessory. I am impressed. Thank you, for every additional dollar donated to the Fund!
While I may not be able to remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, I can clearly remember starting the Network with Marty and Vincent in January of 2008 with little more than a good idea and a small amount of startup money, having pledged not to go into debt to get started. I also remember about a year later, thinking we were off to a good start when the Legal Defense Fund topped $25,000. Then it reached $250,000 a few years later, we knew we were sharing our mission with a body of like-minded folks who were serious about fighting post-incident legal complications–not only for themselves, but for other less-fortunate Network members. We watched with growing thankfulness as the Fund topped milestones of half a million, and then a million dollars. Today, the Fund is approaching another milestone of one and three quarters million, and we’ll be there with just a little more growth on top of today’s balance of $1,650,000. After that, can two mil be too hard to reach?
Bear in mind that during these past ten years, another quarter million has been spent from the Fund for the various legal defense needs of 19 Network members. The mission of the Network comes first and the Fund bank balance is only the tool accomplishing that mission. When we started asking members to join together to protect one another against malicious prosecution or civil law suit, we knew the need was very real. We anticipated that you would see the benefits of banding together and are so very grateful that you have shared our vision.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.