Standard 7: Volunteers, Staff and Consultants
The land trust has volunteers, staff and/or consultants with appropriate skills and in sufficient numbers to carry out its programs.
The work of a land trust is substantial, diverse and often technical or specialized, and includes fundraising, public relations, financial management, landowner contact, designing and carrying out transactions, legal and tax matters, and land and/or conservation agreement monitoring and management. A land trust that acquires, owns, or manages land or conservation agreements, even temporarily, is dealing with complex issues and thousands or even millions of dollars’ worth of assets. Conducting this work properly takes trained individuals. If a land trust is completely managed by volunteers, they have a responsibility to see that the work is carried out with appropriate expertise and supervision, and that a sufficient number of people share the work. If the land trust has staff, it must be sure that the staff is properly trained to manage the complex tasks of land conservation, and the board must establish appropriate policies and procedures to guide staff. All land trusts must engage outside expert help in the event they do not have sufficient time or expertise in-house and must be sure to select projects that are consistent with their capacity.
- Income Tax Act, SC 1985, c. I;
see Canada Revenue Agency guide “Employee or Self-Employed?” at:
- Employment Standards Act, RSBC 1996, c. 113.
- Workers Compensation Act, RSBC 1996, c. 492.
- Human Rights Code, RSBC 1996, c. 210.
- Canada Pension Plan, c. C-8.
- Employment Insurance Act, SC 1996, c. 23.
E. Board/Staff Lines of Authority
If the land trust has staff, the lines of authority, communication and responsibility between board and staff are clearly understood and documented. If the board hires an executive director (or chief staff person), the board delegates supervisory authority over all other staff to the executive director. (See 3E.)
Non-profit organizations with staff commonly struggle with confusion about lines of authority and areas of responsibility between the board and staff. In most organizations, the division of power is even and respected, but perceptions of responsibility and authority sometimes shift as board and staff interact and conduct their work. Sometimes a board dominates the organization, taking on many of the day-to-day management decisions and relegating the staff to a minor role. Sometimes a board is passive, leaving the staff to define organizational policies as well as implement them. A land trust needs to do its best to be sure that responsibilities and lines of authority are clear. Failure to do so risks confusion, mistakes and problems with internal morale. One of the standard guidelines of non-profit management is that the board has authority to hire, oversee and fire the executive director (or chief staff person) and that the executive director has the power to hire, oversee and fire the rest of the staff. This is essential for the executive director to be able to manage the work of the organization effectively. In land trusts where board members serve in the dual capacity of board and volunteer staff, it is advisable that these board members’ staff roles be clearly defined and that, in their staff capacity, they report directly to the executive director or other appropriate staff member and do their work as volunteer staff, not as board members.
CLTA Assessment Questions
- Do board members know the difference between their roles as board members and when they have a role as a volunteer assisting staff?
- Does the board delegate to the chief staff person (usually the executive director) supervisory authority over all other staff?