Posted July 15, 2007
In 2005, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation faced some conflicts such as the resolution sent to the AVMA House of Delegates to suspend promotion of the Foundation. How has the Foundation changed since then?
Dr. R. Tracy Rhodes, 2005-2007 AVMF chair, responds:
When that resolution—which was eventually defeated—came to the House, there was a perception by some AVMA members that the Foundation's overhead expenses were too high a percentage of our income. Some people rate a charity on the basis of its expense-to-income ratio. I realize that this rating system has merit, but you also have to consider other factors.
At the time the resolution was brought forward, the Foundation had some financial hurdles to overcome. We were also down to one employee. Since then, we have reorganized and have brought the Foundation back to a position that will allow us to develop our strengths.
When the hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, the Foundation was presented with an opportunity to step forward and demonstrate its commitment to advancing the care of animals, with an emphasis on disaster preparedness and response. The Foundation established the Animal Disaster Relief and Response Fund. In the aftermath of the disasters, the Foundation took in more than $2 million in donations from veterinarians, pet owners, and other individuals, along with a couple of corporate sponsors and the AVMA, which donated matching funds.
During the influx of those donations, the Foundation established a policy that allowed a 12 percent administrative fee to be applied to all incoming gifts. That means that as much as 88 cents of every dollar donated is spent for the purpose that it was intended. We still have that policy today.
What are some recent highlights of the AVMF?
We hired Lisa Tommelein, director of development for the AVMF, in November 2006. She is responsible for all the fundraising activities of the Foundation. In fact, she will launch several fundraising campaigns in the near future, some of which are targeted toward veterinarians and others toward pet owners and the public.
We have revamped the Pet Memorial Pledge Program. This program allows veterinarians to send donations to the Foundation in honor of a patient that has passed on. Most of those patients are small animals, but we occasionally receive gifts honoring horses and other large animals. Recently, we made some changes to how we process these donations. Now, once a veterinarian submits a gift, the Foundation will notify the client within two days that a donation was made in their pet's name. Previously, it would take about a month to process those requests. The same change has also been made to Pet Memorials, the version of the program where pet owners can make donations in honor of their pets.
One of the highlights of this program is that, not only do the pet owners appreciate what their veterinarian has done for them, but also, many of the pet owners become future donors to the Foundation. The pet owners receive a brochure, which is being redesigned, that explains the mission of the Foundation.
Also this year, the AVMF began to offer scholarships to veterinary students through earnings from the Mildred Sylvester Scholarship Fund. We received 95 applications. We granted 13 scholarships at $2,000 each in July.
As part of our mission to advance the care of animals through animal health studies, we've donated funds this year to two research projects. We've partnered with the Morris Animal Foundation to fund research to help prevent canine influenza and avian influenza from becoming international pandemics. We've also partnered with the American Association of Feline Practitioners to fund a study of feline sarcoma. We plan to help fund more studies in the future.
Why should AVMA members donate to the AVMF?
It would seem that there is someplace in everybody's life to help a cause or a person or an animal. I would hope that many AVMA members would find that time in their life. I realize that with new graduates, it's probably hard to come up with extra dollars, but somewhere along the line, most people in their life can find a place where they can help a cause.
Another thing is that a lot of foundations are judged by the percentage of members who donate. I hope that AVMA members will find several of the Foundation's programs that they can support. This would help demonstrate that we have an increasing number of our members listed as donors.