From the Executive Director

AASV membership - why?

Tom Burkgren

The AASV is involved in a wide
range of issues. Antimicrobial resis-
tance, pharmaceutical availability, animal welfare, veterinary research, swine health, nutrition, foreign animal disease preparedness, and pork safety are issues that use association resources, both financial and human. Occasionally, however, we need to step back from the issues to reflect on reality.

Recently, a member and I were engaged in a conversation about AASV and the swine industry. We covered a wide range of issues such as those listed above. Then we came to what he called his "bottom line." His practice, like many other food animal practices, has experienced a dramatic decrease in the numbers of pigs and pork producers. His point was that if there were no pigs left in his practice, then he would have no interest in those issues. The issues will be irrelevant to him if he has no income. He was wondering if AASV can do anything to bring more pigs back into his practice area, thus keeping him as a member.

Whether you believe that AASV should be fulfilling that role or not, the fact remains that we are losing members. As I write this column, we have a net loss of 72 members for 2001. We have lost 186 members who did not renew membership, but we gained 114 new members over the year. This has been an ongoing trend for the last 3 years.

When a veterinarian does not renew membership, the AASV office sends out an exit survey to ask why. In addition, we ask for their level of satisfaction with four aspects of the AASV: the Journal of Swine Health and Production, the Annual Meeting, the administrative and office services, and overall. Other comments are also requested.

The most common reasons for dropping membership are "retirement" and "no longer engaged in swine practice." The vast majority of those returning surveys are somewhat to very satisfied with the AASV. Unfortunately, we receive surveys from only about 15% of lost members. It concerns me that we are not getting feedback from the one segment that might be holding the most revealing reasons for not renewing membership. The returned surveys may not be representative of the entire population of those dropping membership.

We send these surveys out because we want to be able to change factors that are within our control. We also want to be aware of the factors that are not within our control but which do affect our members. We need information if AASV is to be effective in advocating for the interests of its members.

The good news is that we continue to attract new members. Perhaps we should also be doing entrance surveys, asking why new members joined the AASV. We have not achieved 100% market penetration: not everyone who should be a member is a member. Consider your colleagues. Each of us knows someone who could benefit by joining the AASV but has not become a member. That veterinarian may be a practitioner, a diagnostician, a researcher, an industrial veterinarian, or a production veterinarian. Why not ask if they will consider joining the AASV? The worst thing they can do is say no. The best thing they can do is ask why! You cannot open the door any wider than that. Be ready to tell them why you are a member and list the benefits of membership. Peer-to-peer marketing is more powerful than any other tool we have for recruiting new members.

The AASV is not able to bring pigs directly back to a practice area. It would be difficult to fight demographics, rural sociology, or economic conditions. We can, however, strive to equip our members with the knowledge necessary to have a positive impact on the well-being of their clients. Is that enough? Currently, it is enough for more than 1500 veterinarians from around the world. Will it be in the future? We need your input and support to be sure that it is. Ask yourself why you are a member of AASV. Ask what it will take to keep you as a member.

Please do not wait to let us know your opinions about AASV. We can meet your needs only if you give us the information we need to make AASV better.