October 15, 2010


 AVMA, AVMF advance causes together

New Foundation chair to facilitate collaboration

Posted Oct. 1, 2010 

Dr. Clark K. Fobian sees the AVMA and American Veterinary Medical Foundation as a pair of hands. Just as a person can do most everything with either the left or right hand, these two entities have worked relatively independently for many years.We've had one exceptionally functional hand, and the other, I can't say we haven't used it, but it was not as functional as we'd have liked," said Dr. Fobian, chair of the Foundation's board of directors. "We'd like to be ambidextrous. One hand isn't nearly as effective as both."


Dr. Clark K. Fobian
The Sedalia, Mo.-based small animal practitioner became the new leader of the AVMF board of directors during the AVMA Annual Convention Aug. 1. Dr. Fobian spoke to JAVMA News about the charity's past, recent efforts to strengthen its relationship with the Association, and plans to ensure the Foundation's future success. 

Framework for success 

He joined the Foundation's board of directors three years ago. Not long after, the AVMF welcomed Michael Cathey as its executive director. It was an exciting occurrence, Dr. Fobian said, that allowed the board of directors to get involved immediately in helping the Foundation take a new direction.

Now, Dr. Fobian is one of the few who have been an AVMA Executive Board member and chair of the AVMF board of directors concurrently. He feels he's been given this opportunity to further the integration process between the AVMA and AVMF.

Already there has been progress. The two staff leaders of the Association and Foundation signed an agreement in early August called "Integration Planning: A Framework for Success" (see JAVMA, Feb. 1, 2010). It outlines a vision and framework for integrating the strategic and operational goals of the Association and Foundation. The document had previously been accepted by the AVMF and AVMA boards and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Dr. Fobian said the Foundation will succeed only to the extent that it becomes integral to the Association and integrated with it. The AVMF has been criticized in the past for having high overhead costs relative to its programmatic expenses. He said that's attributable in part to the AVMA's past inexperience in working with the Foundation, which kept the charity from operating in a way that would have demonstrated its usefulness to the Association.

"Every member of the board of directors realizes that changes are necessary. There's not a person wanting to maintain the status quo. We are seeing changes, just in the last two years. Dramatic changes, even in the middle of this recession," Dr. Fobian said.

One indication is that the Foundation has projected as of mid-September that income for 2010 will surpass this past year by 500 percent. Programmatic spending is anticipated to account for 74 percent of the AVMF's expenses, a projection that would beat 2009's programmatic spending—59 percent—by 15 percentage points.

Much of the boost in income came from a partnership with Pfizer Animal Health. The company agreed to provide up to $2 million in scholarships, administered in partnership with the Foundation, over the first three years of the new Veterinary Student Scholarship Program (see JAVMA, Nov. 1, 2009).

This year, $555,000 in grants were doled out as part of the program to 222 second- and third-year veterinary students representing all 28 U.S. schools and colleges of veterinary medicine. 

Pay it forward

Dr. Fobian is excited for similar possibilities between the Association and Foundation. He said even though the two entities have distinct strategic plans, they can help each other accomplish their goals because of overlapping priorities.

The AVMA, for example, has long supported the Veterinary Leadership Experience as part of its goal to reach out to veterinary students, which is also part of the AVMF's strategic plan.

"Veterinarians are a very unselfish group but at the same time are very frugal in the contributions they make. They want to know they are making a difference and want to know how. If we can teach them what (their money) is going toward, it should be easy to engender their support. I think (the Foundation) can make the most progress there."




Potentially, Dr. Fobian said, the Association could contribute the funds now going to the VLE instead to, or through, the Foundation for it to augment and send to the VLE. Under this scenario, both entities are supporting their goals.

"This 'pass-through' strategy is used extensively by other supporting charities with tremendous advantage. In channeling financial resources through the Foundation, you have increased the highly visible program spending while incurring virtually no additional administration cost," Dr. Fobian said.

"This is a win-win situation. AVMA funds have been used for their intended purposes, and the AVMF has been elevated as a charitable organization."

The AVMF and AVMA began to look at how the AVMF supports the AVMA and its initiatives, Cathey said, when crafting the two entities' 2011 budgets earlier this year.

The AVMF plans to designate $417,500 for the Association next year so the charity may support Association-related causes including the Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams emergency and preparedness response program, the creation of a model animal welfare curriculum, the congressional fellowship program, and Vet2011, a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the world's first veterinary school in 1761 in Lyon, France.

"With that said, there's still work to be done educating everyone on the science of how the Foundation helps the AVMA and vice versa," Cathey said.  

People helping people

That kind of buy-in from the AVMA is also crucial for the Foundation when it comes to garnering more support from veterinarians and their clients. As it is, about 80 percent of the AVMF's contributions come from corporate donations. Dr. Fobian would like to see the percentage of individual and organizational contributions increase substantially.

"Veterinarians are a very unselfish group, but, at the same time, are very frugal in the contributions they make. They want to know they are making a difference and want to know how. If we can teach them what (their money) is going toward, it should be easy to engender their support. I think we can make the most progress there," Dr. Fobian said, by demonstrating to them that their donations benefit animals, clients, and the profession.

He continued, "We can also bring nonveterinarians into the realm of veterinary medicine, sharing with them the many ways we impact society and inviting them to help us do that. That invitation is through contributions and other venues."

Auxiliary in the mix

Joining Dr. Fobian as a leader on the AVMF board of directors is Ginger Brainard, PhD, who will serve as vice chair for 2010-2011. Dr. Brainard became a member of the board of directors in summer 2008 as the designee from the Auxiliary to the AVMA. She said she's learned a lot watching the Foundation strengthen its collaboration with the AVMA. She hopes to create a similar relationship between the Auxiliary and the Foundation.

Ginger Brainard, PhD

A proposed collaboration is nothing new. At the 2009 AVMA Annual Convention, the Auxiliary voted to explore a partnership with the AVMF that could change the organization's structure (see JAVMA, Sept. 15, 2009). Then, at its most recent meeting, this August at the AVMA Annual Convention in Atlanta, Auxiliary leaders indicated they plan to increase their partnership with, and support for, the AVMA and the AVMF.

"We're not there yet, but we're working together on some projects. I hope the Auxiliary and Foundation join forces and work on bigger projects in the near future," Dr. Brainard said.