AVMA Governance and Member Participation Task Force: Concepts for Governance Restructuring

The AVMA Task Force on Governance and Member Participation is reviewing and evaluating the AVMA’s governance structure to determine how the association can best meet the future needs of members and the profession.

Members: Tell Us What You Think

The task force reviewed member comments on an initial list of eight possible new governing models that were developed at the Governance Summit in July 2012. There were two types of models: (a) four status-quo models; and (b) four change models which had significant areas of intersection. It was from the four change models that the task force developed the hybrid model for change that is described below. This model was discussed in January at the Governance Dialog, held during the Veterinary Leadership Conference and House of Delegates (HOD) winter meeting, and the task force also is now seeking direct feedback from all AVMA members.
Please read through details of the proposal below and let the task force know your thoughts. Members have several ways to provide feedback.
  • Join the discussion in the AVMA’s members-only online discussion forum, NOAH.
  • Post your comment on the AVMA@Work blog. Please note that blog comments are visible to both members and the public.

Proposed Foundational Statements for a New Governance Model

  • The most efficient and effective system of governance structure, process and culture will deliver the maximum programs, services, and benefits for members. 
  • Eliminating redundancy allows resources to flow to meaningful and impactful work.
  • The AVMA staff has tremendous insight into the profession and its needs, and their scientific and non-scientific expertise should be utilized to the fullest. 
  • Face-to-face meetings are important for exchanging ideas, developing leaders, and fostering personal and organizational relationships.
  • The AVMA needs to have effective channels of communication with all segments of organized veterinary medicine and other organizations with intersecting interests.
  • The AVMA has a need to more directly solicit, receive and utilize input from members.
  • The AVMA process for developing knowledge-based policy requires input from stakeholders. 
  • The AVMA needs a policy development process that allows the organization to respond in a timely way and take maximal advantage of opportunities.
  • The AVMA must structure itself as a professional membership association, not a federation of associations.
  • The AVMA needs a clearly defined and effective process for leadership identification, recruitment and development. 
  • There must be only one entity with fiduciary duty including authority for bylaws, articles of incorporation, and fiscal matters – and the entity with fiduciary authority should also have policy authority.
  • Students should be incorporated into the AVMA membership structure, with voting rights.

Proposed New AVMA Governance Model

Under the new model suggested through member input to the Task Force, the AVMA governing structure would have three key elements:
  • Board of Directors
  • Advisory Councils and Task Forces
  • Leadership Nominating Committee
Here’s how those elements would work together:

Board of Directors 

The new Board of Directors would consist of 17 members:
  • AVMA President
  • AVMA President‐elect
  • Immediate Past President
  • Treasurer
  • 11 Directors, who would be elected at‐large without regard for geography or
  • constituency
  • Chief Staff Officer (currently referred to as the Executive Vice President or CEO) and his/her Assistant Executive Vice President, both of whom would serve without a vote on the board
Other key aspects of the board would include:
  • Eliminate the position of Vice President
  • Direct member election of officers and directors
  • Eliminate geographic districts for directors
  • Equal time and opportunity for all candidates to get their message out to the membership
  • AVMA would conduct the election for all officers and directors using an electronic secret ballot process.
  • A centrally administered, online campaign will ensure consistency in the process, fair and open access to the ballot for all potential candidates, and election results in which all can have confidence.

Advisory Councils & Task Forces

  • Advisory Councils will be formed around strategic goals / initiatives such as Advocacy, Animal Welfare, Economics, Education, Membership Participation, and Research.
  • Councils would be made up of somewhere between 11-13 individuals with skills, backgrounds, and interest in those areas.
  • Each Advisory Council would also have a liaison from the Board of Directors and also a liaison from AVMA staff.
  • Councils would report back to the Board of Directors.
  • Advisory Council members would be selected by the Leadership Nomination Committee.
  • Advisory Councils would select members for groups helping them in achieving certain goals.
  • Advisory Council work groups would comprise structures such as subcommittees and task forces, and would include input from all interested AVMA members and perhaps outside stakeholders.
  • Advisory Councils would meet in person together annually to coordinate their work and provide an opportunity to perform certain ceremonial duties that are presently addressed through HOD meetings.
  • New system goals are to engage our membership and attract new members; continue to gather environmental scanning inputs on an ongoing basis; groom new future leaders and harness the knowledge and experience of existing ones; help forge alliances with other animal health and welfare groups; and, above all, drive forward AVMA’s strategic goals.

Leadership Nominating Committee

  • AVMA will need to have the capacity and leadership to take on the critical role of facilitator and convener of diverse groups to facilitate dialog, resolve conflicts, and address a wide variety of issues.
  • The people nominated for leadership positions must possess the required experience and expertise to meet the needs for the specific positions being filled. The second requirement is Legitimacy. There must be a representative distribution of power among groups.
  • The various AVMA entities are divided into “camps” or “factions,” such as public health, animal welfare, research, producer groups, and others, rather than groups with diverse professional perspectives
  • Our new governance model will allow for a variety of professional perspectives to be mingled together in single entities, which will allow for more efficient and effective policy-making and a more nimble responsiveness
  • Appointing committees based on balancing special interests may lead to the protection of those interests and not to the common good of the AVMA, or the profession as a whole
  • The governance process is leading to a significant disconnect between those who serve and those choosing not to get involved in the current organizational hierarchy
  • When filling roles within the AVMA, the LNC should actively consider how to incorporate or engage members who reflect the changing demographics of the profession
  • Composition of the LNC is still to be determined, but at this time, we believe that 11 members plus a non-voting chair is a good place to start
  • The LNC will propose a slate of nominees as positions become available, and it may also be involved in overall leadership development
  • The positions for all advisory bodies will be appointed and the positions for all decision-making bodies will be elected by the general membership
  • LNC will need to move away from the idea of a constituency-based board, and even from a competency-based board, and instead consider the idea of balanced skill sets
  • Each member of a group comes with his or her own skill sets, and these need to balance the other skills already present in the entity.
  • There are certain attributes that the LNC will take into consideration as it considers nominees for various leadership positions. These include:
    • The ability to think strategically and analytically and to effectively communicate thoughts and the reasons for them
    • Possession of earned respect of other key stakeholder group members
    • The ability to work well with others as a member of a collaborative group with group decision-making authority
    • An earned reputation for emotional maturity, personal integrity, and honesty
    • A familiarity with the body of knowledge related to both the process for which the group is responsible as well as the substantive content of the subject area within which decisions and choices will have to be made