Nonprofit board retreats can go in one of two directions: a rewarding and rejuvenating experience, or a bit of a chore. A board retreat allows members to spend some time really getting to know one another and bonding over activities, shared meals, and more. For some nonprofits, an annual retreat is an event that members look forward to. But for others, it is not as appealing. Discovering what makes a retreat worthwhile ensures you make the best use of your time and theirs.
When they’re done right, board retreats provide unique opportunities that can’t be presented during an hour-long monthly board meeting. Be sure to plan for the following benefits to get maximum participation from your board members.
Even the most fun retreats need to be sensitive to the rest of your board members’ busy lives. Don’t forget to think of the following potential drawbacks and do your best to plan for them ahead of time.
Fortunately, there are several good ways to tell if planning a retreat will be a welcome activity for your board. Ideally, your board will be open about their preferences and give you a good idea where they stand on the idea of time away from home. Consider some of these ideas to discover if a retreat will truly be a welcome event for your board.
Ask for feedback. By far the easiest way to discover where your board stands when it comes to retreats and potential activities is to ask. Polling over email or at the next board meeting should give you a very clear idea of where the group stands on the matter. You’ll also be able to find out what they feel is an acceptable balance of valuable training time and expense.
Offer several choices. If you don’t want to ask a straight “yes” or “no” question, offer choices instead. A simple poll or vote that compares several options (regular meeting, restaurant meeting, day trip to destination “A”, overnight retreat to destination “B”) will give you a clear idea of what activities would be valued by the board and what they prefer to avoid.
Review past activities. An active and engaged board meets several times a year, but has the option of attending other events. That includes everything from your annual fundraising event to community projects and formal galas or parties. Has the board turned out in force and enjoyed themselves, or have they turned up sparingly? Thinking about past participation in related, non-meeting events can give you an idea of the likelihood of your board enjoying and benefiting from a retreat.
The attractiveness of a retreat will depend on your board’s natural willingness to spend resources on retreat activities. If many members see the long term benefits of a retreat, have time to attend, and are physically able to do so, you can proceed with confidence. If they have concerns about the value, you may want to reevaluate.
Taking the time to discover what a retreat would mean for your board and how they feel about it will make it easier for you to plan something amazing. Your efforts will be rewarded with enhanced engagement and bonding between these important organization supporters.
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