Jul 232020

Image from BSAVA Companion magazine reproduced with permission

BSAVA Governance Review


The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) is a membership organisation representing just under 12,000 veterinary professionals working in the areas of small animal medicine and surgery whose vision statement is “To be the professional association of choice to inform, support and engage the small animal veterinary community”.

Their Mission Statement states that BSAVA “exists to promote excellence in small animal practice through education and science” – to achieve this, the Association:

  • Encourages veterinary surgeons and nurses to develop their professional skills
  • Runs numerous continuing education courses and seminars throughout the UK
  • Hosts the biggest annual small animal conference in the world, attracting over 7,000 delegates
  • Publishes books, manuals, podcasts and videos on a diverse range of small animal topics
  • Publishes the monthly Journal of Small Animal Practice
  • Maintains contacts with small animal practitioners through the Regional Officers, who organise local CPD meetings
  • Through its charity, PetSavers, funds clinical investigations into the diseases of companion animals
  • Provides a forum for the discussion of issues of importance to veterinary surgeons and nurses in small animal practice and submits evidence on their behalf to the British Veterinary Association and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons as well as to government departments
  • Liaises with other veterinary professionals through regular meetings
  • Represents member interests internationally through various European and world small animal organisations


BSAVA is a Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG) and a registered Charity.

In December 2015, BSAVA Trustees started a review of the governance of the Association regarding company and charity law, the UK Corporate Governance and Charity Governance Codes, and best practice in the governance of charitable membership organisations.

How was BSAVA being run?

At the heart of the Association’s governance structure was a Council consisting of 30 director/trustees who formed the constitutional board of the CLG and met 3 times a year. Day-to-day governance was devolved to the Association’s elected Officers who formed what was known internally as the ‘Board’ which met 10 times a year.

Council and Board were supported by several volunteer technical and regional committees which met individually 3 times a year with their Chairs meeting together 3 times a year as the Advisory and Management Committee.

A simplified diagram of the structure is shown below:

Courtesy of BSAVA Companion Magazine

Why did BSAVA need to change?

BSAVA had been aware for some time that its organisation lacked a certain amount of flexibility and accountability. The changing demographic, work pressures, client expectations, corporatisation, technology and Brexit, were all putting pressure on the profession and the Association. BSAVA was responding to those changes with many initiatives, such as the BSAVA Library digital platform, but organisational changes were also needed. For example, compared with other similar organisations, the board of directors (Council) was far larger than normal and met too infrequently for the effective delivery of the Association’s aims.

The BSAVA Governance Review

Excellencia’s Chief Executive, David Doughty, was appointed as BSAVA’s Governance consultant in November 2015, to review the Association’s structure and function, propose various options for change, facilitate selection of the optimal option by Council, and oversee the legal changes which had to be made to the constitution and the permissions which had to be obtained from the Charity Commission.

The project objectives were as follows, To:

  • Create a simpler, clearer and more agile governance structure;
  • Ensure the function of the groups within the Association with a governance remit reflects the governance structure defined in the articles;
  • Ensure there is no negative impact on accountability and transparency;
  • Remove the requirement for Council members to be Director/Trustees;
  • Create a diversity of volunteer roles with a reduced time commitment to ensure volunteer roles on Council and Chairs of working committees are more accessible to a wider pool;
  • Provide greater representation of the membership through the Council Representatives role;
  • Use the opportunity to remove contradictions and inconsistencies between the Articles of Association and the Rule Book

What form did the review take?

Initial findings of the review were presented to Council who agreed that changes were required in order to make the structure more effective in relation to strategy development and operational management. Several typical governance models were presented for consideration and two models were selected that most closely reflected the current governance arrangements and two working groups were established to explore these options in more detail. These groups reported back to the November 2017 Council with recommendations on the most effective solution to meet the Association’s needs.

Following the November 2017 Council, the discussions about the working groups’ recommendations were widened to include Regional Forums and BSAVA staff. The Professional Associations Research Network (PARN) were also engaged to provide an independent review of possible governance structures from a membership organisation perspective.

As a result of this consultation the working group developed a more detailed recommendation for the structure of Council and Board, based on the 2 tier Non-Executive option, which closely aligns with the PARN “cupped hands” model which they strongly recommend in their report.

This model has now been implemented through the AGM approval of the Articles and Rule Book in April 2019 followed by a 12-month implementation and review phase monitored by Board and Council to ensure the agreed objectives are met.

How is BSAVA run now?

Courtesy of BSAVA Companion Magazine

The BSAVA board of director/trustees is now much smaller and is overseen by a Council of members’ representatives.

The new Board consists of six elected officers (veterinary volunteers) and at least two non-veterinary directors: an external Non-Executive Director, who provides expertise on strategic development, and the Chief Executive Officer.

The role of the Board is to focus on the strategy of providing BSAVA members with gold standard resources in small animal clinical education and science. The role of Council is to deliver the views of the members to the Board.

Council nominates the officers for election by BSAVA members at the Annual General Meeting.

The new Council meets 3-times a year and consists of 17 members

These changes will allow the BSAVA to adapt more rapidly to a profession that is altering itself in the face of a swiftly changing world. They will also allow members to volunteer to a high level within the Association without the responsibility of becoming a company director and charity trustee.