Limiting factor series – Staff

Staff limiting factors can feel difficult to determine. So let’s break it down. 

Animal capacity per staff

What types of staff / volunteers do you have? Some examples are: 

  • Full time staff (experience ranging from 0-5)
  • Part time staff (experience ranging from 0-5)
  • Fosters
    • Adult / puppy dog fosters
    • Adult / kitten cat fosters 
    • Medical fosters (blind, diabetic, etc)
    • Behavioral fosters (human-reactive, dog-reactive, nervous, etc.)
    • Bottle feeding fosters 

How many animals can each care for in the span of one month?

Your animal capacity isn’t just determined by the number of staff and volunteers, but also by their experience. Let’s walk through a basic example of how you can estimate your capacity by your volunteers. 

We have 3 volunteers (Sally, Polly, and John). 

Sally – Full-time, 3 years of experience, rank of 1 medical experience, rank of 5 behavioral experience

Polly – Part-time, 10 years of experience, rank of 3 medical experience, rank of 2 behavioral experience

John – Part-time, 1 year experience, rank of 1 medical experience, rank of 0 behavioral experience

Here is an example breakdown (your organization is most likely very different)

Full time staff can manage 10 typical animals (animals that do not need additional behavioral or medical experience)

Part time staff can manage 5 typical animals. 

Full time staff can manage 1 animal per medical and behavioral rank.

Part time staff can manage 0.5 animals per medical and behavioral rank. 


Sally can manage 10 typical animals, 2 medical animals, 5 behavioral animals

Polly can manage 5 typical animals, 1.5 medical animals, 1 behavioral animal

John can manage 5 typical animals, 0.5 medical animals, 0 behavioral animals

You total maximum capacity is:

20 typical animals, 4 medical animals, 6 behavioral animals

Foster programs can add to this capacity as well. You can add 1 typical animal for each foster home and 1 medical or behavioral animal for each medical or behavioral foster home.

Here is a sample spreadsheet to help keep track of maximum capacity based on staff.

Let’s say you can financially and physically house 100 animals every month, but you only have the staff for 90 animals. You need to find a way to increase your staff capacity by 10 animals per month to break through the staff limiting factor. 

Let’s talk about some strategies.

Improvement Strategies

  1. Recruit more staff – This can be paid or volunteer staff. What kind of staff are you hoping to bring on? New volunteers or people with experience? There are a lot of tools for reaching potential staff. Some places to start are Facebook Jobs and Volunteer Match.
  1. Train your staff – It’s important to keep in mind what kinds of animals you are hoping to increase intake for. If you are hoping to intake 5 more adult dogs each month, consider working with a local trainer to teach your staff how to manage large adult dogs. Empower your current staff to increase their load so you can increase capacity. Be aware of your team’s limit and make sure to resist pushing anyone past their limit. 
  1. Encourage your current staff / volunteers to recruit – Friends and family of your existing team can be a powerful resource since they have reliable information on what to expect so they can more quickly and easily be trained compared to someone without any connections to your organization. 
  1. Don’t underestimate the power of good management – Is your team operating at peak efficiency? Do you have a proper chain of command? If staff have their hands in too many pies, they end up slowing things down. Read about ideal team structure to increase efficiency on your team. 

Give yourself a timeline for implementing these new staff expanding strategies to break through your limiting factor. Once you have accomplished this, head back to the original limiting factors article to determine what to focus on next to continue saving lives. 

Is this article missing something? Have questions? Want help applying what you learned to your organization? Send us a message!

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