In light of AVFM moving to a membership model and Paul making other changes, I’d like to talk about some aspects of the Buzzfeed hit piece and strategies for growing our movement.
So, Buzzfeed thinks “Paul Elam Turned Being a Deadbeat Dad into a Moneymaking Movement.” Besides being bad English, it’s also dead wrong: unlike feminism, which is a money-making movement, the MHRM is a fund-starved movement. Isn’t that headline ironic? While thousands of seasoned women’s groups get millions of dollars from the government and a population sympathetic to women, the MHRM’s primary problem is a chronic lack of funding.
The MHRM is a huge tent that contains activist groups such as AVFM and NCFM as well as more focused organizations such as fathers’ rights and the divorce reform movement, and as such will have many methods of promotion, publicity, funding, sustainment, and growth. There has been little analysis of these methods and their effectiveness, and comparing these methods becomes even harder when these different groups have different goals or goals not even defined. Certain methods work for some types of groups, while other strategies are needed for others. I think the successful groups have found a strategy that works for them to varying degrees and I’ll discuss those as well as some that didn’t work.
I’ve been an MRA for at least 20 years and have been with a few groups and got to know some of their leaders, their visions of the movement, their successes and failures.
The Men’s Rights groups I’ve known come basically in two camps: they are either a non-profit, like NCFM, that has a board of directors and high oversight, or the one owner group like the National Center for Men (NCM) and AVFM that is nimble but subject to the whims of ultimately one person.
Mel Feit’s NCM is a one-man operation started in the late ‘80’s as an offshoot of what was then the National Coalition of Free Men where I believe Mel left after tensions arose with co-founder Tom Williamson, possibly related to Mel’s insistence on wearing a skirt in public as a symbol of his defiance. NCM, like NCFM, was modeled to have members pay dues to finance the group’s activities and produce and distribute newsletters. Mel had great success on national TV and with his great oratory skills he pulled off wearing the skirt. Others, however in his group thought otherwise, which caused dissention and of course, loss of good activists. One man does not a movement make.
I was never happy with the membership model when I was with NCM because most men wanted their problem solved, and when we couldn’t fix it, many would choose not to join and move on, and without the internet we never got enough exposure and members to expand. Now, however, is different. With a large web presence AVFM, NCFM and others can survive and grow using memberships and/or fundraisers, and I now think the membership model is best because we can budget for our memberships and keep them renewed automatically. Good for us – good for the movement.
Buzzfeed says “Elam has amassed tens of thousands of followers – and lined his pockets with their donations to the for-profit AVFM. When asked how this money is spent he replied “none of your fucking business.” Paul explains “every dollar goes right in my pocket,” but that it is nevertheless well spent in advancing the cause. “The way I look at it is that the donations are given freely by people who get a really great website (that they could just get for free) and who believe that I use this operation to further issues that they think are important to them.”
So AVFM is privately held, centralized, and only morally accountable to the supporters who’ve entrusted to Paul this stewardship of AVFM. There’s no oversight, and no boss but Paul – but if you’re alright with that (I am) AVFM can be the tool we use to turn the tide on feminist bullshit. Yes, at any time he might go off on a rail – and that would suck – but that’s a chance we take in this war we’re fighting
Where NCFM differs is that it’s non-profit, decentralized and has a Board of Directors that oversee various chapters and officers around the country. The good thing about that is local activism with national power can be very effective – see below the legal wins and other victories NCFM has under their belt. They also get donations from the Combined Federal Campaign / United Way which could be very productive. But this highly regulated model doesn’t allow it to turn on a dime or to use funding methods that would help to grow further.
Consensus can also be stifling; sometimes one boss and one vision is a more effective way to success.
The strength of the AVFM model is that failing ideas and projects can be abandoned or modified midstream with no need to get permission from a board or government. For example, NCFM rewards paying members with access to the NCFM Yahoo Groups chat room and a subscription to its newsletter “Transitions,” giving them extra content for their dues, while AVFM plans to give paying members access to ad-free content. If Paul had a “Transitions” and thought it was a drain on resources – not saying it is (not enough info) – he could shut it in an instant, not so for NCFM. Also, as just announced, advertising will begin soon at AVFM because Paul thinks it’s a good idea. I agree with Paul keeping content free; making people pay for content would take us backwards and slow our growth by limiting viewers and therefore followers.
The worst case scenario for NCFM-type groups would be failure to realize its full potential, while the worst case scenario for AVFM-type groups would be for the owner to abscond with the funds, and the group itself.
Paul has succeeded and you can’t argue with that – he’s found the right recipe of management, talent, and activism and used the media to grow AVFM and the MHRM. He’s building a media hub for the MHRM ala Ted Turner’s CNN, an outlet for viewpoints the MSM ignores or doesn’t like. He knows the MSM will never be fair to us, so we must create our own – unbossed – outlets.
I don’t know which model is best – they both have their strengths – but the complementary relationship between groups like AVFM and NCFM is like a well balanced investment portfolio: some risky stocks and some safe stocks.
But to get and keep viewers, members, and money, you’ve got to get attention. And the MHRM is doing just that.
Paul, I’ll only get worried if I see you in a skirt.
NCFM successes: http://ncfm.org/ncfm-home/ncfm-successes/
Mel Feit’s NCM: http://www.nationalcenterformen.org/
My show (circa 2002) “The Men’s Forum” brings us Mel Feit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9wbcyUii_4