Saving threatened habitats worldwide

A normal day in the office: From pig feeding to paper-trails

25 May, 2009 - 11:28 -- John Burton

A few people have asked me what a normal day in the office comprises. So here is an attempt to give an idea of a 'typical' day for me, when working in our Suffolk HQ.

Miranda and Wilson, the pigs

Feeding Miranda and Wilson, WLT's recycling team.

The World land Trust office

WLT's Halesworth headquarters

Roberto Pedraza

We often have visiting partners working with us in the office. This is Roberto Pedraza, from Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, Mexico.

The day starts around 7am, and after a quick breakfast my wife Viv (WLT's Head of Communications) and I have to feed and check our livestock (pets really, comprising three llamas, four sheep, Araucana Bantams, Black Rock hens, Japanese quails, Norfolk Bronze Turkeys, and two German Micro x Kune Kune pigs). Then it's a five-minute drive to the office. I know we should cycle or walk, but there never seems to be that extra bit of time, and the road from home to the office is very narrow, and rather dangerous.

We normally arrive around half past eight, and I usually have somewhere around 40-60 emails waiting for response. And during the course of the day another 60+ will arrive. About half the emails are internal from staff, and most of these are copies, just to keep me informed as to what is going on. The emails form the rest of the world vary enormously; some are enquiries about specific projects, many are from our partners giving us updates on land purchase, new sightings of wildlife, and of course, meetings with sponsors and donors to be arranged.

By about 9.30 am I have got through the majority of the emails, and then I usually have a half hour or so with each of the project team members.

Interruptions are pretty well continuous throughout the day, with incoming phonecalls, but I do like to be available. Nothing annoys me more than when I am contacting other organisations to be constantly told he or she 'is in a meeting'. As far as I am concerned donors, whether or not they a re individuals or major corporates, are always a priority. Without them we would not be able to support our partners.

Most days I have to discuss arrangements relating to contact with our partner organisations. Planning overseas visits to their projects is amazingly time-consuming and complex, and coordinating their activities when they are visiting England is equally complex. Our partners come over to meet with donors, but also to see other organisations to find out more about how they operate. And most important of all, they get to see local nature reserves like Minsmere, to see how these are managed.

At some stage on a normal day I have to devote time to the finances. Checking that we are on track is not done every day, but almost every day I am in the office there are invoices to be approved, and as we get more and more partners, there are more and more transfers to our partners overseas.

Being a charity means that the paperwork behind our finances is quite extensive. All transfers overseas have to have a paper-trail that not only fully complies with charity legislation, but also takes into account the money laundering legislation. All this requires quite a lot of signing, plus it all has to be sent to Trustees for counter-signature. Very few donors like supporting the admin of a charity, but unfortunately there is a lot of it, and not much we can do to reduce it, since it is imposed on us by law.

In between meetings, I often dash off a quick blog, such as this one (I tend to think them up when walking the dogs), which helps keep our supporters informed of what's going on.

During the course of the rest of the day, I will need to meet with the donations department, just to make sure that the income is coming in, followed by meeting with the web and IT team. The web is our life-blood, with almost all new corporate supporters having found the WLT through its website. Apart from managing the Trust's own websites they monitor and connect with supporters on social networking sites, update our fundraising pages on and respond to feedback from our supporters.

Then there is our carbon and restoration ecology work. I am working in the background with the restoration ecology team to put together facts and figures about concrete and cement. Everyone worries about carbon from flights, but the building industry, and even DIY, make a huge contribution to CO2. This came to me as I went past the site of the London Olympics on a train a few weeks ago. Thousands of tonnes of aggregates being trucked in, millions of bags of cement.

I rarely manage to leave much before 5.30, and then it's time to take the dogs for a walk. That's often when Viv and I catch up with what we have both been doing.

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