AVMF receives 4-star rating

More donations, programmatic spending were factors
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The American Veterinary Medical Foundation this year has been awarded a four-star rating by Charity Navigator, America's largest independent evaluator of charities.

The four out of four stars rating means the foundation exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities with a similar cause.

"Over the past two years, the AVMF has been in the happy situation that our donors are giving more, and we're seeing more donations from every sector—from our generous corporate partners to individual donations," said Dr. Clark K. Fobian, chair of the AVMF board of directors, in a Sept. 22 AVMF press release. "Over that same time, the AVMF has done a good job putting that money to work. The amount of each donation that goes toward programs has skyrocketed."

AVMF chair, Dr. Clark K. Fobian
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation chair, Dr. Clark K. Fobian, speaks at the Foundation's "A Night at the Zoo" fundraiser this past July during the AVMA Annual Convention. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

The Foundation awarded a total of $1.2 million in programmatic distributions in 2010, according to audit documents. The Pfizer Animal Health/AVMF Veterinary Student Scholarship Program accounted for about half the share at $555,000. Remaining distributions included $225,000 for disaster relief and response grants, $250,000 for public awareness and education activities, and $100,000 for the AVMA/AVMF pilot Food Animal Veterinarian Recruitment and Retention Program.

Overall, the amount that AVMF distributed for these types of programs increased from 58 percent of all expenses in 2009 to 71 percent in 2010, according to the AVMF auditor.

Meanwhile, the AVMF took in $1,695,809 in donations, in some measure thanks to partnerships with corporations. That's an increase of $755,681 from the previous year. Total revenue was $2.4 million.

Not only did the AVMF score well with Charity Navigator for its impressive figures on donations collected and money allocated, it also received high marks for accountability and transparency—two criteria recently added to the site's rating system.

In late September 2011, Charity Navigator unveiled a refined, expanded, and more in-depth rating system that provides donors with easy access to information as to how effectively a charity uses donor support. It was the first fundamental change to the system since the site's launch in 2002.

Charity Navigator used to base its evaluations solely on the financial statements each charity submits annually in its informational tax returns, or Internal Revenue Service Form 990. Now the site includes accountability and transparency in its evaluation criteria to make its rating system more in depth, according to Charity Navigator CEO Ken Berger in a Sept. 20 blog post on charitynavigator.com.

The AVMF is evaluated in the Animal Rights, Welfare and Services Category along with 239 other charities, which include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, and Morris Animal Foundation. Under the new rating system, the AVMF is one of only 53 (22 percent) charities with a four-star rating in its category.

The Foundation held a one-star rating in 2005 before improving to a two-star rating in 2006 and then three stars in 2007 before dipping back down to one-star status in 2008 and 2009.

In 2005, the California VMA referred to the Foundation's low rating when it submitted a resolution to the AVMA House of Delegates asking that the Executive Board suspend its promotion of the Foundation to AVMA members until the expense-to-income ratio was reduced.

Since then, the AVMF has made tremendous strides in improving its balance sheet, as reflected in the most recent rating.

"The AVMF, with the impact it has made on the medical care and well-being of animals for almost 50 years, is very pleased to be recognized by Charity Navigator as a premier organization that is both transparent and efficient with its donors' support," said Michael W. Cathey, AVMF executive director. "In addition, the AVMF is the only national animal charity whose operations are all directed by animal health and well-being experts—veterinarians. The AVMF is the special intersection where the animal-owning public can work directly with veterinarians in the care of animals."