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Surviving Downsizing: Doing More and More with Less and Less?

There’s a saying going around our agency, “We’re doing more and more with less and less. Pretty soon we’ll be able to do everything with nothing.”

We keep asking ourselves, “How are we going to get the work done with less staff and funding?" The work doesn’t go away, just the resources needed to do it. Sadly, staff morale seems to go down along with downsizing. Our part of the agency suffered 30 percent cuts in the last budget. We face up to another 20 percent reduction in this one. When reality hits, we have to do less with less.

So, how do we manage?

We have learned some important rules in the process of downsizing:

Keep Communications Flowing Volunteers and staff have a vested interested in the agency and the importance of the work being done. They want to be partners in the process, so keep them informed and stay objective!
Cut to the Core Identify key operations and core businesses. Focus on getting those done. Include volunteers and staff in the process. Often, they have good ideas for streamlining and finding efficiencies. The Washington State budget office asked state agencies to prioritize their budgets into thirds and get ready to throw out the bottom third.

Don’t Make up the Difference with Volunteers
It’s tempting for agencies being downsized to ask volunteers to do regular staff functions. Some legislators suggest we “hire” volunteers to do the work of staff that has been laid off, others are worried we will do that. Even volunteers will offer to fill the gap. We believe that approach is an unfair labor practice. Our volunteers supplement and enhance agency functions but never replace them.
Keep Your Sense of Humor Downsizing is demoralizing. A sense of humor keeps us all together in the worst of times. During budget crisis, we change our agency acronym Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to Do Not Resuscitate. Once, we renamed our program AESOP (Another Endeavor to Save Our Program).

Will the last person leaving the building please, turn out the lights?

The Volunteer Program of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) includes 2000 volunteers who help the agency protect and enhance our state’s natural resources. Volunteers build and maintain trail and recreation sites, monitor and conduct research on natural area preserves, act as ambassadors in Forest Watch Patrols and a myriad of other tasks. Washington State law provides medical industrial insurance and tort claim liability coverage for volunteers in state agencies. For additional information about the Washington State Department of Natural Resources check the website http://www.dnr.wa.gov. If you have questions about DNR’s volunteer program contact Susan Emley at susan.emley@wadnr.gov.
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