Dr Joubert Viljoen recently stepped down as Chairman of the Foundation after serving for 7 years in this position.  He will however remain a director of the Foundation and will concentrate more on marketing and fund raising.  His report for 2018-2019 follows:

Johanan Joubert ViljoenThe past year was once again a busy year for the South African Veterinary Foundation.  Firstly I would like to acknowledge the inputs and efforts of my fellow directors on the board of the South African Veterinary Foundation.  Without the input of these committed members of the profession, who give up so much of their time, for no reward other than the satisfaction of giving back to the veterinary profession, the Foundation would neither have existed, nor flourished.  Secondly, to our admin support team, Debbie, Susan and Louisa – thank you so much for your dedicated work, to ensure that the Foundation’s financial affairs are recorded accurately, the meetings are run smoothly and the administrative services of the Foundation are taken care of in a professional and efficient manner.  Thirdly, to the South African Veterinary Association, our sister organisation, thank you so much for your ongoing support of all the Foundation initiatives and for allowing us to use VetHouse as our base at a reduced price to what you are entitled to charge.  Last, but certainly not least, thank you to the profession and especially those practices, companies and colleagues who have contributed financially to the Foundation over so many years and again in the past year.  Without you, the Foundation would have come to a grinding halt and we would not have been able to pursue excellence in supporting research in veterinary and animal sciences.

Financials

The past year will stand out for me as the year in which we had to finally sort out our financial structures and financial statements.  Over the years, the financials were handed down within the Foundation, without a proper examination of how things were recorded.  Because of the legacy of pooling moneys from SAVA Groups, Third Party donors and the Foundation itself, there was a loss of clarity as to what investment returns belonged to which entity.  In the process of allocating investment returns across the board, without due regard to the operational expenses of the Foundation and how these expenses were to be funded, there was an insidious financial loss which started happening with operational expenditures written off to a “loan account” which kept on growing negatively whilst investment fund values grew positively.  The problem was that there was no one who was going to fund the growing loan account and all investment returns were allocated to investment funds without any consideration of the operational expenditure incurred to manage those funds.

The process of sorting and correcting the financials started two years ago already but it was not until a third party independent auditor was brought in to discuss the books with the auditor of the Foundation, that the way in which the books were captured were fundamentally changed.  The change entailed a separation of 3rd party funds vs the Foundation’s own funds, which lead to the rude awakening that if all parties requested a withdrawal of their funds at the same time, that the Foundation did not collectively have enough funds to pay out all parties, which would have led to a liquidity crisis.  Because of the fact that this was unlikely to ever happen, the way the financial statements were captured, created a false sense of security both in terms of how much funds the Foundation had for distributing to research projects and fulfilling its mandate, vs staying solvent and “staying in business”.

The subsequent changes to the way in which the books of the Foundation were captured, lead to a painful and tedious revision of financials going back to as far as 2011 to correct the books.  This lead to extraordinary expenses from the auditors, which hopefully will not have to be repeated ever again.  It was effectively the equivalent of a forensic audit which had to be performed in order to revise the books.  Fortunately no irregularities were discovered.

I am happy to report that with the finalisation of the financials for the 2019 year, this process is almost completed and some minor adjustments may still have to be made in future to get the SAVF’s books to the level it should be.

The disturbing part of correcting the books was firstly coming to the realisation that the South African Veterinary Foundation did not nearly have as much money it thought to distribute to research projects, and secondly, that drastic measures needed to be taken to reduce current operational expenditure as well as increase fundraising to specifically cover the operational expenses.  To this effect the Foundation is very grateful to the SAVA for reducing their admin charges to the SAVF over the past two years to assist in the endeavour to restrict the deficit.

The South African Veterinary Foundation currently finds itself in a poor financial position with losses in the past year once again exceeding income.  This in part is due to the fiasco with the financial statements which hopefully will not be repeated again in future.  Going forward we will be focussing on containing costs as well as making a concerted effort to raise funds for the SAVF as the SAVF’s funding resources have effectively been depleted in the last 10 years, without new significant sources of income.  Without money to fulfil its mandate, the Foundation can simply not function.

Constitution of the Board of Directors

Through emigration and personal circumstances the board lost some of its valuable directors and it took a few years to find suitable people to replace those that had left.  It is with great pleasure that I can announce that we have found suitable and eminent members of the profession who represent the constituents we were missing over the past few years, to join the board as directors.  With a “full house” of directors, the board can function optimally and I believe the stage has been set to grow the Foundation to the next level in terms of its role in veterinary research and support.  It is with great pleasure that I hand over the reins of the Foundation to Dr Didi Claassen in the knowledge that she has a competent and qualified team to support her and fulfil the mandate of the South African Veterinary Foundation

Internal Marketing

A lot of time and effort was spent on providing greater exposure to students in the past few years.  Previously the winners of student bursaries were requested to come to VetHouse on the same day as a Federal Council meeting, and during the tea break, the bursaries were handed over, pictures taken and the pictures published in VetNews.  A few years ago, we started introducing the Foundation to students in a 5 to 10 minute presentation in the classrooms at Onderstepoort, followed by informing them about the bursaries and inviting them to apply.  In the past two years we went much further by introducing an online portal for application where students had to complete a questionnaire on the South African Veterinary Foundation.  This way, we ensured they had to read up and get to know the Foundation better in the process of applying for the bursary.  Further to the physical presentation at Onderstepoort and the online application process, the bursaries were advertised by means of proper graphic designed adverts placed on student Facebook Groups, as well as the University student communication portal “Click UP”.  As a result of these efforts we had a significantly higher number of students apply for the bursaries as well as drawing more suitable candidates to the profiles of which students we would like to award bursaries to.  Sadly we lost one of the sponsors, Mercantile Bank, of the R 10 000 student bursaries for 4th and 5th years students in the past year, which allowed us to give two bursaries per class.  Our thanks go to Lakato Vet, who has been our faithful co-sponsor of these bursaries for more than a decade which allowed us to still award one bursary per year group.

We also managed to procure a spot in the final year student group’s orientation day before they enter clinics and this has been an invaluable opportunity to re-iterate and represent the information about the Foundation to students, after having exposed to them to the Foundation both in fourth and fifth years, preceding their final year.  On this occasion, we once again have the opportunity to do a Power Point presentation to students followed by a lucky draw for 30 copies of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Formulary.  This creates major excitement and hopefully leaves a lasting impression on students.  A big thank you must go to Prof Robert Kirberger (member of the board of directors for 23 years) who has managed this project over the past few years, obtaining the books from the BSAVA, having them shipped to SA, liaising with the sponsors Ascendis Animal Health, branding the books, and arranging for the lucky draw on the day.

Further to the above the Foundation also gets exposure at the Student Prize giving ceremony because of sponsoring a R 5000 prize for the best student in Small Animal Clinical Studies.

During my visit to the RuVASA Congress this year, members of RuVASA, agree to sponsor and cobrand a R 5000 prize at this event for the best student in Production Animal Studies.  This prize will be awarded from 2019 onwards.

It has been my long standing desire that the Foundation gets more exposure at the biennial SAVA Congress and SAVA Groups congresses and in the past year I had the opportunity and privilege to attend and speak and introduce the SAVF and its work at the Congresses of SAEVA, as well as the Wildlife Group of SAVA and RuVASA.  These visits were a great way to get exposure for the SAVF to members of the profession which we will never engage with, if it had not been for these congresses.  I would really like to see that this becomes the norm and that that SAVF will get exposure every year at these congresses.  Thank you to Mr Gert Steyn who took our request to the Federal Council of the SAVA to agree to this arrangement and make it possible.

In the past year we embarked on a project to give exposure and raise the profile of the researchers whose projects we fund as well as Foundation itself with a monthly profile article on each researcher we fund, in VetNews.  The project has just kicked off and we thank Dr Paul van Dam, the editor of VetNews who agreed to assist us in this regard.

We ran the Receptionist Competition again as we had done in the past by offering a R 10 000, R 3000 and R 2000 prize respectively for receptionists in practices that contribute to the Foundation.  Thank you to Legacy Pet Crematorium who co-sponsored the prizes for this competition and Lakato who assisted in distributing flyers to practices all over the country.  The competition was successful but I have my reservations on how effective it is as a means of getting more practices to contribute.

In the coming year, we are planning to send a three monthly communique to regular donors to just keep them informed of our work and keep the Foundation “front of mind”.

External Marketing

A hugely significant step in external marketing was the revamp of the SAVF website in the past year.  A big thank you must once again go to Prof Robert Kirberger, our Public Relations Officer (PRO) who drove and project-managed this project and ensured that we have a spanking brand new website and presence on the internet.  The importance of a great website can never be over estimated and our new website looks very professional and flies the flag high in telling our story.  There are many opportunities in digital marketing which are still unexploited and this was a very positive step in the right direction.

There is a lot more we can and should do in terms of external marketing (marketing outside the veterinary profession) in the years to come and I hope to play a role in this area once I step down as chairman and take up the role of marketing on the board of directors.

Strategic Research

We added this portfolio to the board a few years ago and established through extensive collaboration with the members of the Groups and Branches of the SAVA which areas of research we need to focus on from the perspective of practicing veterinarians.  Because a large percentage of the funds we receive come from private practitioners, we felt that we need to plough back into this area of veterinary science with the projects we fund.

The following areas were identified:

  • Equines – African Horse Sickness
  • Production Animals – TB and Brucellosis
  • Wildlife – Rhinos with a specific slant towards rhino poaching
  • Small Animals – Rabies

In my visits to the Groups I spread this message and hope to attract and sponsor future projects in these fields.  We will still consider any project which is presented to us in the correct format and with the correct documentation, but we will give preference to projects which fall in the areas of need identified by the profession.  We will continuously “keep our ear to the ground” to ensure we stay relevant and reassess our priorities as time goes by.

In the past year, the following 6 projects were presented:

  • Dr Tanya Wolf – The influence of environmental, anthropogenic and health-related factors on endocrine correlates of free-ranging giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis)
  • Dr Hermien Viljoen – Comparative antimicrobial efficacy of hand preparation procedures prior to application of an alcohol-based hand rub
  • Dr Sanil Singh – Mycotoxin and heavy metal content in South African laboratory and companion animal diets
  • Dr David Chelopo – Respiratory gas flow characteristics of trunk vs tracheal intubated spontaneously breathing African elephant (Loxondonta africana)
  • Dr Chad Berman – Influence of diet on the lipid and hormone profile in a population of healthy cats
  • Dr Paolo Pazzi – Haemostatic alterations and endothelial markers as predictors of thrombosis in canine neoplasia

Three of these projects were sponsored and three not.  The main reasons for not sponsoring three projects were that they did not meet the \

criteria of our strategic research approach, as well as a lack of funds.

We currently have twelve ongoing projects for which funding is provided and four projects which have been completed and awaiting publication as well as four previous projects that were published in the past year.

Fund Raising

Fund raising is a core component of the existence of the South African Veterinary Foundation and as a result of focusing so much on our financial statements and the correction thereof in the past year, we did not spend enough time and energy on fund raising.  This will have to change going forward to ensure longevity and relevance for the Foundation.

Internal Fund Raising (Fund raising in the veterinary community)

The Pet Memorial 1 Fund, which is the fund veterinarians contribute to grew 12 % from 2017 (R 82 825) to 2018 (R 95 165) and again 12% from 2018 to 2019 (R 108 822).  Although we are very grateful for this growth, I believe this fund can do significantly better and would like to focus on it in the year to come from a marketing perspective.

Club Tanzanite which recognises the contribution of vets is a great idea and needs to be punted and promoted more.  The handing over of the trophy to the only practice who obtained Gold Status in the past financial year at the recent SAVA Gala Dinner helped a lot to increase the profile of this initiative.  Thank you to Dr Quixi Sonntag and the SAVA for allowing us this exposure at this prestigious event.  It will go a long way in creating further awareness amongst vets.

We embarked on a project about two years ago to physically phone practices who have contributed before, and we have not completed it yet.  I believe this will be one of the most effective ways of getting vets who contributed before but stopped doing so, to start again, and also to encourage vets who have never contributed, to start doing so.  We will work on this in the year to come.

The Equine Memorial Fund is almost non-existent with very few equine vets contributing.  My hope is that with my visit to the SAEVA Congress earlier this year, we can turn this around and get more horse vets to contribute.

The establishment of the Veterinary Practitioners Fund is a step in the right direction to prepare for the future in case the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI Act) prevents us from carrying on with the Pet Memorial Fund initiatives.

In the past we used to have strong partnerships with members of Industry and sadly this has dwindled over the past few years.  A concerted effort will be required to tap into this market and I am convinced that we can raise hundreds of thousands of rands, if not millions of rands, from the veterinary industry, if we approach this correctly.  I would like to pay more attention to this in my future capacity in marketing, to see if we can turn this situation around.

External Fund Raising (Fund raising outside the veterinary community)

I believe there is enormous potential for raising funds outside the traditional veterinary community with the correct approach.  The engagement we had with Mercantile Bank was a good example of this.  If it had not been for the acquisition of Mercantile Bank by Capitec Bank, I believe this project would have flourished.  The acquisition brought this project to a grinding halt, but I believe once the dust has settled we can approach the new owners of Mercantile, actually a much larger company, and hopefully raise significantly more funds that what we had before with Mercantile.

We also had interactions with MediCoop which shows promise and we thank Dr Kobus du Toit for his initiative in this regard.

I would like to develop a proper strategy for approaching companies for their Social Responsibility Initiative budgets and believe that the South African Veterinary Foundation has the perfect profile to generate significant contributions from corporate South Africa.

As far as estates and bequests are concerned we have had no significant bequest left to the Foundation in the past 10 years.  In December 2018 we became aware of the Estate of the late Esther Susanna Elizabeth van der Westhuizen, who named the Foundation as the beneficiary of her estate.  Unfortunately there was another party contesting the.  The SAVF has taken legal advice and lodged a motion to defend and contest the other party’s claims with the help of attorneys who agreed to the initial work Pro Bono.  The value of the estate is not significant at face value but nevertheless we have decided to not just let this one go.

There is certainly room for a more aggressive marketing strategy to make people aware of the opportunity to leave part of, or their full estate to the Foundation and this is an aspect that warrants further attention in future.  Hopefully colleagues and the public will remember to consider the Foundation in their estate planning.

Collaborations

Thanks to the efforts of Dr Kobus Du Toit (also a member of the board for the past twenty three years), the SAVF has collaborated with Mr Jannie Parsons in establishing the Shayamanzi Leopard Fund and with the rugby legend, Mr Frik Du Preez, with the Frik Du Preez Rhino Fund.

In the past year Dr du Toit introduced Dr Fabiola Quesada of the Wildlife-Conservation Medicine Foundation to the Foundation and we are now exploring the possibility of working together on the publication of a book on the research done by Dr Dewald Keet on lion tuberculosis.

These collaborations are important and good for the Foundation but we have to ensure that there are proper Memoranda of Understandings drafted and entered into, to protect the brand and the reputation of the SAVF.

Corporate Governance

We have been in a process of agreeing to a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the

SAVA and this has to be finalised in the year to come.  We have also been busy with the revision of Principle Decisions taken since the establishment of the SAVF and we are in the home stretch with this document too, which will assist greatly with good corporate governance.

Publications

There have not been any new books published with the help of the Foundation in past year but we are exploring the possibility of a book about Tuberculosis in lions, with Dr Dewald Keet.

Dr Richard Burroughs indicated that he would like to do a new edition of the Capture and Care Manual and my recommendation to the board will be to move the funds we keep on his behalf to a dedicated Money Market account.  There are also new formal agreements to be entered into as a requirement by the University of Pretoria.

Professor Gareth Bath, also indicated that he would like to publish his Sheep Book in electronic format and I propose we do the same with his funds as the Capture and Care Fund.

Conclusion

It has been an honour and pleasure to serve as Chairman of the board of directors of the South African Veterinary Foundation for the past few years.  It has been a privilege to bask in the legacy left by those who went before me and I look forward to handing over the baton to those who will come after me.  I will stay on, on the board in a different capacity and wish Dr Didi Claassen, the first female vet to ever chair the Foundation, the best of luck and a fruitful term.  May the South African Veterinary Foundation go from strength to strength in years to come!

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