Proposal would increase member dues in 2020

Leaders say a dues increase is necessary after five years without one
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The AVMA is looking to increase member dues so that it can continue providing and expanding services even as the cost of doing business continues to rise, said Dr. Arnold L. Goldman, AVMA treasurer.

Dr. Goldman
Dr. Arnold L. Goldman, AVMA treasurer, addresses the AVMA House of Delegates this past July in Denver. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

The AVMA last increased member dues in 2015, and the Board of Directors is proposing the next dues increase for 2020. The House of Delegates will consider a resolution in January to increase dues for AVMA members in 2020 and possibly 2021 and 2022.

Currently, dues are $330 annually for regular members. The Board submitted a resolution recommending that the House approve a $30 dues increase for 2020 and up to a $10 dues increase for 2021 and 2022.

As the AVMA continues to grow and we use our reserves to fund new strategic initiatives, we must remember it would be imprudent to use reserves to fund our baseline operations. For example, you wouldn't regularly use your savings account to pay for your groceries.

Dr. Arnold L. Goldman, AVMA treasurer

Dr. Goldman, with input from AVMA staff, shared more details with JAVMA News about the proposal and the value members get for their dues dollars. The following comments have been lightly edited.

Q. Why is the Board of Directors recommending a dues increase?

A. The AVMA's mission is to lead the profession by advocating for our members. By advancing our shared interests, values, and goals, we help our members succeed, now and in the future.

As we expand member offerings in 2019 to include the launch of a new and functionally expanded website, new and expanded well-being and digital education resources, new local advocacy events, expanded insurance trust services, and new strategic partnerships with veterinary organizations, we deepen the value we provide to our members. At the same time, we will continue to provide the level of service our members expect, even as the cost of doing business continues to rise. To provide for these up-and-coming, valuable member resources—and plan for the future—we need to fund them appropriately.

The Board of Directors takes its fiduciary responsibilities seriously and has produced a balanced budget for five years without needing to increase membership dues. With expanding services and more value, and the continued and inevitable rise in the cost of doing business, the time to present a request for a dues increase is here. Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, we must be prepared to deliver what our members expect. This proposed enhancement to our operational resources will keep us in a sound financial position, so that we continue to meet member and association needs.

Q. Why spread out the dues increase over several years?

A. A multiyear dues strategy allows the flexibility to plan for and add revenue adequate to cover the additional services our members expect, while retaining the ability to adjust midstream. The AVMA Board of Directors has recommended a three-year plan with a modest and responsible dues increase of $30 in 2020, and then up to $10 in each of 2021 and 2022, but only if needed to cover operational expenses.

Several other professional associations plan similarly by providing for smaller, incremental changes to their dues structure, with 83 percent of organizations keeping increases to 10 percent or less in a given year, according to the 2018 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. As such, a reasonable dues increase at this time is a prudent way to foster AVMA's future progress, both programmatically and financially.

Q. How did you decide on the amounts per year?

A. The specifics of the request are based on sound financial and strategic business planning for both today's and future needs, and they provide us with the resources necessary to continue to protect, promote, and advance the interests of our members, and through them the entire veterinary profession.

The AVMA House of Delegates approved a $50 dues increase in 2010 that took effect in 2011, and subsequently approved a three-year plan in 2011 to include annual $10 increases in 2013, 2014, and 2015. While in 2020 it will have been five years since we last asked members to invest more in their national professional association, we are confident that the value of our membership benefits has been and will continue to be appreciated by our members.

We maintain secure investment reserves that we conservatively steward and carefully use to fund strategic initiatives aligned with the wants and needs of our members. These strategic initiatives have proven to be successful, as our membership has grown to more than 93,000 veterinarians. In addition, the AVMA continues to grow new sources of nondues revenue, which have increased by 67 percent, or $5.8 million, since 2011.

While we are fortunate to have a still-growing membership, now more than 93,000 members strong, this increase in membership numbers and our increase in nondues revenue simply don't cover the increasing cost of doing business.

Our reserves serve as an insurance policy, if you will, ensuring the continued financial health of our association and our ability to sustain a firm financial footing for the future. 2018 is projected to be the first year since 2008 that we will have to draw on the principal of those reserves, versus the earnings of those reserves, to add member value to programs and services that are funded from our strategic budget and apart from our everyday operational expenses. As the AVMA continues to grow and we use our reserves to fund new strategic initiatives, we must remember it would be imprudent to use reserves to fund our baseline operations. For example, you wouldn't regularly use your savings account to pay for your groceries. We must maintain fiscal discipline to ensure a sound financial future for the AVMA.

Q. Did you consider instituting an annual increase?

A. A responsible, forward-thinking approach to funding operations is equally as important as a prudent, strategy-based approach to spending on those operations. Our Board of Directors believes a gradual dues increase, phased in over three years, will allow our members to adapt to what we are asking of them, while also facilitating a longer-term strategic assessment. Instituting an automatic annual increase would be a rigid, rather than a flexible approach.

We believe this request is reasonable, prudent, and representative of the association's short- and long-term needs. It is based on thoughtful economic and programmatic planning and forecasting.

Q. What value do members get for their dues dollars?

A. Members get a great deal of value for their membership dollar, from digital access to relevant research and case studies in our newly launched JAVMA mobile app, to cutting-edge continuing education online for free at avma.org/events/ce and at decreased member rates at the AVMA Convention. Members also have access to unparalleled liability, life, and disability products from our insurance trusts, all while AVMA continues to lead a coalition with the ultimate goal of reinstating association health plans in the future. Our advocacy efforts bring disparate segments of the profession together for the greater good—from providing white papers on cannabis and opioid use in veterinary medicine to driving the development of telehealth guidelines and resources that members can use to implement telehealth in their practices. We also have focused efforts on financial, career, and well-being resources throughout the profession and launched My Veterinary Life for early-career veterinarians. And all of this was just in 2018!

In 2019, we will continue to build on our successes by responding to what members have asked for: an improved AVMA website, access to more digital CE opportunities, a focus on veterinary student debt, expanded advocacy, and "greater good" efforts to advance the veterinary profession.

These are but a few examples of the tremendous value the AVMA provides directly to our members and to the veterinary profession as a whole.

In a broader scope, we also develop positions on key issues and advocate for veterinarians, advancing their ability to provide crucial veterinary services to the public. We provide educational accreditation and certification programs that protect the veterinary degree and elevate the quality of veterinary care. We provide timely and relevant products and services to our members, all of which enhance their opportunities for personal and professional success. We support all veterinarians in protecting the health and welfare of animals in their care, and we educate the public on the important role of veterinarians, as they advance both animal and human health.

By listening to our members and understanding their evolving needs, we will ensure that we continue to offer tools and programs that support their professional growth.

Related JAVMA content:

House of Delegates to consider dues increase (Dec. 1, 2010)

Proposal would increase member dues in 2011 (Dec. 15, 2009)