Non-profit associations, both large and small, depend on volunteers for achieving the mission of the organization. Part of the reason for this dependence is that associations often operate in an environment of limited resources, which in turn limits the number of paid staff. The other reason is that very often the best person to fulfill a role for an association is a volunteer with the right combination of talent, knowledge, and motivation. This is true in veterinary medicine and especially true for the AASV. The AASV has a long history going back to its origins of using volunteers for the various functions and tasks of the organization.
The governance and administration of the AASV is in the hands of the board of directors, which includes the elected district directors and the elected officers on the executive committee. These members are all volunteers and freely donate their time and talents to the AASV. The district directors represent their respective geographical districts and the officers represent the entirety of the association members. The decisions faced by the board range from budgetary issues, programming, committee activity, official positions, staffing, and other strategic matters. In between the biennial board meetings, the executive committee is tasked to act on behalf of the board.
Other AASV volunteers serve on committees that are usually issue-based. These committees always meet during the AASV Annual Meeting. Every committee is also approved for an additional meeting at another time during the year as needed. As issues arise, they are referred to the appropriate committee. Occasionally a new committee may be created to deal with a specific issue. Committees need to be challenged to stay active and engaged. Part of this can be accomplished by motivated leadership and active scanning of the profession and industry for potential needs. Committees can also be rejuvenated by allowing members to retire and bringing on new members.
Another area of volunteerism for the AASV is the sending of representatives to other organizations and regulatory agencies. Some examples of this are the American Veterinary Medical Association, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, US Food and Drug Administration, and US Department of Agriculture. Contact, communication, and collaboration with other organizations and agencies play a large part in advocating on behalf of the interests of our members. Alliances with like-minded groups are essential as we leverage resources and find synergy in positioning and representation.
One area of AASV volunteer representation is with the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA is the parent organization for all of the allied species groups, including AASV. As such, AVMA provides numerous opportunities for AASV members to participate in the committees, task forces, and councils of the AVMA. The food-animal sector of AVMA membership is shrinking, while the majority sector of companion-animal medicine is increasing. This fact makes AVMA representation all the more important for AASV, albeit more difficult at times. Not only are we a minority, but our industry is often misunderstood and sometimes even misrepresented by our opponents. Our representative may be the only contact with food-animal medicine for many of the other AVMA members. It may be this contact and representation that facilitates AVMA to adopt positions and policies beneficial to the AASV and the swine industry.
An essential part of any association is providing volunteer opportunities for young members. I won’t bore you with the cliché of “our youth are our future.” This statement is way too limiting, because I believe that while the future is indeed a concern, our younger members are our present! They can contribute in the here and now without waiting for years to serve the association. The AASV can’t afford to build barriers to volunteers; rather, we need to enable the participation of motivated and talented members who are willing to give talents and time.
When dealing with practice and production issues, it is a strategic advantage to leverage the time and talents of those veterinarians closest to the issue at hand. No one can provide a better perspective or more accurate view of an issue than someone who lives that issue on a daily basis and is impacted by the decisions arising from the issue at hand. Practical experience and having “skin in the game” offer a first-hand experience that cannot be equaled by merely studying an issue. Offering informed opinions and fact-based deliberation is a cornerstone of policy-making for the AASV.
The breadth of volunteerism within the AASV is amazing. From committee membership to elected offices to representation to other organizations, agencies, and groups, AASV volunteers stay active and involved. The best volunteer is a member who is self-motivated, knowledgeable, and fearless. The attribute of fearlessness comes into play when a volunteer must assert and/or defend an AASV position that may not be popular with everyone involved. The best volunteer is a member who is driven to do their best for the AASV regardless of the lack of compensation, accolades, and recognition and even, perhaps, in the presence of controversy and opposition.
Thank you to each and every volunteer serving the AASV!
-- Tom Burkgren, DVM Executive Director