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Q&A with AVMA treasurer Dr Arnold L. Goldman
Learn the ins and outs of the AVMA treasurer
For all our readers that are American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) members, do you know what your treasurer, Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH, does in his role or where your money goes? dvm360® recently sat down with Goldman to talk all things AVMA treasurer, including why he loves organized veterinary medicine and how the AVMA decides where to spend funds.
Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself and your role with the AVMA?
I’m Dr. Arnold L. Goldman and I'm a veterinarian from Central Connecticut. I own an independent, small animal practice and I've been there since 1995. I've been AVMA treasurer for the last five and a half or so years and it's been a wonderful experience.
What made you want to be treasurer?
Well, I wanted to be involved in organized veterinary medicine for many years. Each role leads to the next opportunity and when I was asked if I would consider being treasurer and the way you get involved is to say yes, when an opportunity presents itself, so I said yes. They believed I was capable of doing the position based on my resume. I had some other financial experience: I’ve been on the board of a bank and I was treasurer of the organization that runs a fair in my community—and run my own business, of course.
What responsibilities come with the role?
Well, the AVMA treasurer doesn't actually control the money, let’s get that clear. It's not like they hand me a suitcase with dollar bills sticking out of the seams. It's more of the role of overseer and communicator. AVMA is a member-driven organization. That means that volunteers are the key people in all the key positions. So, the treasurer’s role is to oversee what the financial staff does, relative to the members’ funds, to the budget that the volunteer board establishes, and also to AVMA’s overall strategy. AVMA has a strategy document that talks about all the things we do and why we do them, and where the emphasis should be on each of those things. They call them strategic pillars and there's a number of them, but basically they hit on what's important: advocacy, members services, those kinds of things. Big, broad categories. And so, my role is to ensure that the members’ funds are spent appropriately for those priorities.
Also, the other important role is to communicate how the members funds have been used. That's probably the single most important thing I do. You would think it would be the other, but the fact is that being transparent and open and honest and forthright with the information maintains trust between the various parts of the leadership of the AVMA and with the membership overall. It's vitally important that we explain how we spend their money, and what we spend it on and why.
Where does all the money come from?
AVMA's funds come from dues and non-dues revenue. The dues from the members account for about 65% or so of our total income revenue, and we've been growing in membership every year. We have 103,000 plus members now and all of them pay dues at varying rates, and those dues go towards our overall revenue. Then, the other 35% comes from non-dues revenue: from programming, such as the AVMA Convention, the Veterinary Career Center, advertising in JAVMA, and just a whole variety of different things.
We aim to keep that percentage of non-dues revenue there or even a little bit more, because the more revenue we can earn that's not dues, the longer we can maintain dues level at the current price and not ask members to pay more for everything they receive from AVMA—they receive a lot from AVMA. They actually don't always recognize all the programming that we have. In fact, in a recent dvm360 interview with our current president, Dr Lori Teller, she emphasized the fact that it's frustrating when members just don't realize all that AVMA does for them and all the opportunities they have to take advantage of some of those things. So, I want to re-emphasize that that AVMA does a lot.
How does the AVMA decide how to spend the members' funds?
The AVMA board has a committee called the Budget and Finance Review Committee. I chair that committee and members of the board and members of the House Advisory Committee, which is made up of delegates of the House of Delegates, sit on that committee and discuss all the proposals that come forth, whether they come from the house, the board, the staff, or other entities under the AVMA umbrella for a given program. The BFRC, the Budget Finance Review Committee, discusses each proposal, and then makes a recommendation to the board about how they think the board should decide, and the board assesses it and makes a decision.
If a program seems worthy—if its valuable to members—that's what the worthiness is, then it'll be approved. How it's to be funded and from what source, that then comes back to me as Treasurer, and I help decide about that. But there are multiple levels of review before any program or any activity that AVMA engages in is approved. We take seriously the confidence of the members that we're going to spend their dues in ways that benefit them. We are a member-driven organization and the members funds are theirs, not ours.
What’s your proudest achievement during your time at the AVMA?
I think my proudest achievement is being able to hold a consistent dues level for most of the time, and also to increase significantly the non-dues revenue that the AVMA receives in a variety of ways. So, that was my charge. The people that supported me for this role had an expectation that I would help increase non-dues revenue, to the extent that it is within my power to do so, and I think we’ve accomplished that quite nicely. So I'm proud of that and proud of the role I was able to play as AVMA treasurer.
Do you have any advice for anyone interested in becoming a leader or joining leadership within the AVMA?
It's just a matter of saying yes. There are so many positions and opportunities available to participate in organized veterinary medicine. If you attend a meeting and you see that there's a need or someone asks if anyone is interested in joining a given committee, even if it's not your most central interest, saying yes gets you a foot in the door. You participate, you converse, you learn about what else is going on and you make friends among colleagues that you wouldn't otherwise know. Before you know it, you finish that thing and the next thing presents itself.