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The Board Retreat

The retreat is one of the most important activities the board of directors can leverage to assist in fostering a sustainable, successful future for a nonprofit.  However, making it a successful one requires a bit of effort and intention. Do your board members feel inspired and excited after attending your retreat?  If not, here are some tips to make it more fun and productive. 

In an article by Joan Garry, there are three things a board retreat should be:

  • Valuable
  • Memorable
  • Actionable

The question is, how do you hit all three points? Here are several goals to help you create a successful board retreat:

  • Determine your end goal.  Knowing what your desired outcome for the retreat is will help you back engineer the path to get there.
  • It takes teamwork.  The executive director and the board chair co-create the scope of discussion and work for the retreat. 
  • Make it personal.  Convening a group of dedicated volunteers to help define the path of your organization will benefit by knowing a bit about each other.  Include an activity to help set the mood for the day.
  • Go Big.  Retreats are not about troubleshooting operations but are an opportunity to suss out the big issue your agency is currently navigating.  Use this time to take a deep dive into one or two of those matters.
  • You need a driver.  Hire someone to facilitate the session so the board and staff can actually do the work and not be timekeepers.

Joan Garry has put together a handy ‘how to’ when it comes to creating a retreat agenda. Board retreats are about creating a space for level up thinking. It isn’t a meeting arranged to review operations but one to fan the flames (or relight, for that matter) for the passion for the mission of your organization. 

Some ideas for your retreat:

  • Review the mission statement. Does your work match your mission and vice versa?
  • Check in on your strategic plan.  A status check and update on your strategic plan to celebrate reaching benchmarks and planning for the next cycle of activity keeps it front of mind.
  • Location is everything.  The last place you want to have your retreat is in the office of your nonprofit.  Perhaps a board member might open up a vacation home to host the retreat.
  • Be prepared. By taking some time planning for a successful retreat allows for a stronger likelihood it will be successful. For example, prepare some group agreements around using devices during the retreat.
  • Have fun! Board members are volunteers using even more of their precious free time to attend the retreat.  Granted, there is business to attend to, but it is very important to also include some lighthearted enjoyment during the retreat to help keep those creative juices flowing.

NonprofitLibrary.com offers this handy guide to create a successful retreat.  The site is free to join and provides access to nonprofit educational resources.

In closing, if you are going to dedicate a significant amount of time aside, make sure it is worthwhile. Check in with your board members to find out what they would like to experience on the retreat. Your retreat should be well planned and properly facilitated to spur your organization to success.






Posted in Board Training.