Growing member value

AVMA Strategic Plan aims to increase member satisfaction
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Protect and enhance the lifelong value of the veterinary degree.


Provide valuable products and services for AVMA members.


Enhance the public image and reputation of the veterinary profession.

These are among the objectives of the new AVMA Strategic Plan.
The ultimate goal? Growing member value.

“We launched the Strategy Management Process with full appreciation that our members’ needs and our profession are continually evolving,” said Dr. Chester L. “Chet” Rawson, District VI representative on the AVMA Board of Directors and chair of the strategy core team. “We have a talented team of people—volunteers and staff—aligned to take the AVMA to the next level for the benefit of members and of the profession.”

In January 2014, the leadership of the Association embarked on the Strategy Management Process, a comprehensive evaluation and planning effort. On Jan. 9, 2015, the Board approved the resulting strategic plan and three-year operating plan along with a 2015 budget. The next day, the House of Delegates approved a new AVMA mission statement that came out of the Strategy Management Process (see story).

Strategy Management Process

About 200 people, primarily AVMA volunteers and staff, participated in the Strategy Management Process. The Association contracted with LBL Strategies to act as a facilitator.

One of the first steps was a survey to gauge the AVMA’s performance. The Association sent the survey to 16,000 members, all AVMA volunteers, and 5,000 veterinary students. Respondents rated the importance of various AVMA activities and scored how well they thought the Association was doing at those activities. The results indicate that the major service areas with the greatest opportunity to improve member satisfaction are the AVMA’s advocacy for the profession and accreditation of educational programs.

In addition to the performance survey, internal and external stakeholders provided input for a scan of forces impacting the AVMA. The scan led to a determination of the Association’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The top strength is being the recognized voice of the profession, particularly with legislators and regulators. Weaknesses include a cumbersome governance structure and a lack of strategic focus. Top opportunities are in advocacy and in leadership of the profession, but the top threat is that the AVMA has competitors in these and other areas.

AVMA Strategy Management ProcessThe AVMA’s new strategic direction starts with this vision statement: “The American Veterinary Medical Association’s vision is to be the trusted leader in protecting, promoting and advancing a strong, unified veterinary profession that meets the needs of society.” Next is the AVMA’s new mission: “To lead the profession by advocating for its members and advancing the science and practice of veterinary medicine to improve animal and human health.”

The strategic direction encompasses a list of core values. The Association will be ethical, inclusive of diverse veterinarians, science-based, animal-focused, member-centric, supportive of staff and volunteers, fiscally responsible, efficient, and innovative.

The overarching goal is to grow member value across all segments of the profession. There are two target results to measure success: increasing the percentage of veterinarians who are members and increasing member satisfaction.

Finding a focus

During discussion at the Jan. 8-9 Board meeting, AVMA President Ted Cohn said the new strategic plan didn’t come across to him as a fleshed-out plan.

“I don’t see a lot of objectives in there; I don’t see even a lot of goals, really,” Dr. Cohn said. “Maybe it’s just me, but it doesn’t exactly speak to me in the way of a strategic plan that I’m familiar with.”

Randall Rollinson, president of LBL Strategies, said the Association’s old plan had too many goals and objectives to be strategic. He said the Strategy Management Process resulted in a new plan focusing in on a single goal and only 13 objectives.

“This has been a far more complex, far more in-depth, and, in retrospect, far better process than what we’ve had in the past,” said Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO. “This is a framework for us to focus resources on where we need to develop capacity and processes—and develop a capacity to evaluate programs, projects, initiatives against what the members say they value and want.”

Dr. Trimmer
Dr. Ted Trimmer, District X representative on the AVMA Board of Directors, speaks during the Jan. 8-9 Board meeting. Earlier, he had initiated discussion about involving Board members and other AVMA volunteers in the new strategic plan. (Photos by R. Scott Nolen)

Dr. Mark P. Helfat, District II representative on the Board and a member of the strategy core team, said, “This is a plan that is not like any other plan you’ve ever met. And it does have specifics, but it also has some very general things that are just as important.” He cited leadership, involvement, and communication.

A recurring discussion during the Board meeting, initiated by Dr. Ted Trimmer, District X representative, revolved around involving Board members and other AVMA volunteers in the strategic plan.

Strategic plan

Leaders of the Strategy Management Process identified the following areas to address in the strategic plan: advocacy and policy, product and service mix, marketing and communication, diversity and retention, capital for growth, volunteer structure, leader and professional development, and operational excellence. Under each area are core strategies, and from these strategies come the objectives.

The objectives are as follows:

  • Grow nondues revenue.
  • Maintain dues revenue.
  • Strengthen financial health.
  • Protect and enhance the lifelong value of the veterinary medical degree.
  • Provide valuable member products and services.
  • Enhance the public image and reputation of the profession.
  • Improve understanding of member needs, wants, and expectations.
  • Provide the right information to the right person at the right time.
  • Improve allocation and management of resources.
  • Establish and maintain efficient decision making and effective operational processes.
  • Improve skills of volunteers and staff.
  • Build an innovative and collaborative culture across the Association.
  • Recruit and retain a diverse and representative set of leaders and members.

The three-year operating plan includes high-priority strategic initiatives. These are to establish an efficient and effective operational model, develop and implement an integrated marketing and communication plan, improve the performance of the AVMA’s governance model, evaluate and standardize training for staff, and build an effective management system for the Association’s product portfolio.

The new operational model features a new staff organizational design of three strategic business units plus shared services. The strategic business units are for the areas of accreditation of educational programs, products and services, and advocacy. The Association will emphasize greater collaboration with the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and the AVMA insurance trusts.

Defining the future

Dr. Schmidt
Dr. Barbara A. Schmidt, AVMA treasurer, speaks to the AVMA House of Delegates about tying finances to strategy.

Dr. Barbara A. Schmidt, AVMA treasurer, said in her presentation to the House of Delegates that, with more than $34 million in reserves in 2014, the AVMA has “a unique opportunity to invest in defining our future.” The surplus can be used to support the AVMA’s implementation of the strategic plan, improve member satisfaction and market share, and achieve the goal to grow member value, she said.

Dr. Schmidt said the AVMA needs to evolve to make sure it provides the greatest possible support and value to members.

“An important part of finance is strategy management: careful implementation and monitoring, aligning your organization’s resources to your strategic priorities, setting targets, tracking, and measuring,” she said.

Several efforts continue in parallel with the implementation of the strategic plan. These include a branding and marketing project, with 88 Brand Partners as the consultant, and a digital strategy project, with Enola Labs as the consultant.

Details about the Strategy Management Process are here.

Related JAVMA content:

AVMA seeks to refocus through strategy management (June 15, 2014)