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Community outreach: Essential for veterinary businesses

By Jerry Rusch, DVM

Community service and outreach play a vital role in practice marketing endeavors. They can entail small or large activities or actions which help advertise a practice, the services it provides, and its areas of expertise.
young boy petting cows

While greater name recognition is a perk of service and outreach, perhaps the biggest reason to donate time and/ or monetary support is simply to do the right thing. Taking part in these activities appeals to our need to help and improve the communities in which we live.

Set parameters for giving back

Sponsorship of activities or groups, such as youth league sports teams, are ways veterinary practices can give back to their communities. But donation requests can get overwhelming. Therefore, veterinary businesses must set parameters on how much time, talent, or monetary donations to give.

Start by setting an annual budget; work with a financial or accounting advisor so giving back stays within designated limits. From this, you can make a list of what organizations and activities to support.

This is a relatively easy task with monetary donations. But it’s more difficult to limit yourself when donating time and talents, realizing you only have so much free time to give. Exercise caution you do not overcommit, and family life and hobbies suffer.

Consider beneficiaries that fit your practice culture

As a mixed animal practice, we prioritize 4-H, FFA, and local humane societies or shelters, for example. These organizations may request financial support or time and donated services.

It can be very rewarding to serve as a speaker or information source for 4-H and FFA youth. Working at the 4-H fair, donating towards project awards, or supporting the livestock auction at the end of the 4-H season are important parts of assisting and encouraging rural youth in pursuing veterinary careers.

For the local shelter, shelter volunteers appreciate veterinarians providing complimentary exams on recently adopted animals or doing procedures at a reduced fee. You can write health certificates at no cost for animals being shipped to areas where there is a need for adoptable animals. Schedule consultation visits to shelters as a way to benefit these groups.  

Another way to give back is by donating, or offering at a discount, vaccinations and exams to city, county, and state police working dogs. Some clinics also do the same for service dogs.

Involvement in either your local or state livestock organizations is another way to show your support and network with others. Soil and water conservation boards, farmer-owned cooperatives, and rural organizations provide additional opportunities for engagement.

Volunteering to speak and serve as an information source for university extension programs is a great relationship builder. University extension specialists or educators are often overworked and understaffed and would welcome any assistance a local practitioner provides.

Participating in high school student job shadowing programs and veterinary school externship programs are additional ways to give back to your profession. Locally, our practice participates in one very rewarding program which places students with mental disabilities inside clinics to carry out janitorial duties. Other possibilities include presenting to Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops, volunteering for elementary school reading programs, high school career days, or even becoming a tutor to help students struggling with science and math.

Finally, social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok are other ways to highlight your practice and services. Designate one person who has an interest and is proficient in creating and posting social media updates to direct and carry out social media efforts to highlight community service efforts.

Talent and comfort level vary from one individual to the next, but there are many ways to participate and get involved in community service and outreach programs. These efforts can enhance a practice’s culture and overall name recognition within the community in which the business resides.

veterinarian teaching young people

Example organizations to consider when giving back

veterinarian teaching young people
  • 4-H programs
  • FFA chapters
  • Boy and Girl Scout groups
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Youth league sports teams
  • Local school career fairs, math/science tutoring
  • High school job shadowing
  • Local animal shelters
  • University extension programs
  • Local, state, or national livestock organizations
  • Veterinary school externship programs
veterinarian teaching young people