If We Just Had More Staff …

If We Just Had More Staff …


19 July 2022


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


It’s a common lament. All-volunteer organizations looking to hire their first staff position. Much larger organizations feeling everything would balance out if they just had that administrative position, or another land steward, or a Fundraising Manager, or …


Well I have news for you.

It’s a mirage.

New staff can mean more bandwidth – more capacity to do work. But it almost never means less work any more than more food means less weight.


There are two reasons for this. The most important is that the work evolves. You can’t chop off part of your job and not fill that empty space. Few can. It’s human nature. There are other things to do – other things you are interested in doing.

And a new person coming in won’t be able to limit themselves to the duties in their job description any more than you were able to. Hiring staff builds capacity, but does not reduce workload.

The second is more subtle. Land trust work attracts people who are more comfortable in a work environment where there is more to do than they can reasonably expect to accomplish. In such an environment, they get to do pretty much whatever they want. The things that don’t get done, couldn’t have been done anyway – because there just wasn’t time. The problem this creates is that the things left undone are often the things that are the most important.

Like building relationships – with donors, with Board members, with each other.


Enter a pandemic and ZOOM technology.

Now we don’t need to “waste” time meeting with each other at all. We can work from anywhere and participate in meetings (in a not quite all there way) from our pajamas. We tend to arrive right on time (having just left another ZOOM call) and leave just a bit before the end so we can go to the bathroom before our next ZOOM call. We read email on our screens during the meetings.

No time for preparation. No time for reflection – what I call digestion time. That might be important, but it feels inefficient, and we have other things to do.

Moreover, our work / life balance quickly gets out of balance. There is no transition time we used to use the commute back and forth for. We work from home, but we also live at work. We may arrive right on time for our ZOOM call, but it’s not always because we were “working” on something else.

At some level, we know this path isn’t leading to where we want to go.

If we just had more time …

So we reach for electronic efficiency and more staff. We try to create more time. And it won’t work. It doesn’t work.


The truth is that we will raise more money – all of us – if we stop reaching for electronic efficiencies, and spend the time instead building strong relationships with those who care about conservation work. Get out of our pajamas. Get out from behind our desk. Get out on the land. And bring someone along with us.

It’s NOT efficient.


As a thought experiment sometime, write down all the things you do in the name of your job. Now go back to your job description and read through the “roles and responsibilities” section. Looking at your job through that lens – through that language – reorder the list you created in order of IMPORTANCE. Be real – be brutal if necessary.

(If your job description is really out of date, or worse, if you don’t have one, then feel free to use the time creating a new one. Write the “roles and responsibilities section” keeping the mission in mind.)

If you are in development / fundraising, or you are an administrative director, the items at the top will relate to building strong relationships – with donors, with Board members, with other staff.

Then make a plan for next week and let those things BE the top.


Cheers, and Have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by Kelly Ishmael courtesy of Pixabay.


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  • David Brant
    Posted at 10:15h, 19 July

    Another great post, David. So true.

  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 09:47h, 19 July

    We have to stop reaching for the next bright shiny object and work on polishing the objects we already have.