As you think about your goals and plans for the next year, it’s crucial you get all the board members on the same page. There are a number of ways to do that, but one of the best is with a great nonprofit board retreat.
Reasons to Have A Board Retreat
There are many advantages to having a retreat at your org’s founding anniversary or a certain time of year. You have likely been going full steam the whole year. As you approach the end of that timeline it’s a great reminder to reassess how the year has gone. You may want to make adjustments in your big plans and priorities for next year, or your assessment may simply confirm that you are on the right track for your priorities in the next year – no changes needed.
Retreats are about dedicated time. Even if you do a half-day retreat, host it somewhere away from your offices so board members can disconnect with everything else and focus on your organization. When people get away from it all, perspectives change, and that can be incredibly helpful to formulating your plans for the next year.
Retreats are about re-engagement. Board members can set aside everything else and refocus on why they are serving and what they want to accomplish. Retreats are also a great way for you to get to know your board members better, and for them to engage with each other. This is particularly helpful if you have new board members that haven’t really had a chance for much interaction.
Retreats are also a great way for you to hone in on the unique and individual contribution that each board member can make to your organization. These outings are truly a great way to connect on many levels.
When planning a retreat, think about these board retreat ideas. Consider what you need to discuss and accomplish, and then determine how much time you will need. A half-day retreat may work, but you will likely need all day or even an overnight stay to have two full days of discussion and planning.
Think about who needs to be there. Certainly the retreat is mainly for your board, but there may be key staff members you want to invite. The message here is that planning a retreat is very crucial. Retreats don’t just happen; you need to plan certain blocks of time very carefully. Definitely plan for sufficient strategy time, and you may need to block out some education time if there are new things you need to educate the board about.
Many executive directors set a theme for the retreat, one that truly communicates and exemplifies what you are trying to accomplish during your time together. Sessions and even social events can then be planned around that theme.
You can also set a few ground rules. Active participation is crucial, so you can request a minimal phone usage rule. Perhaps you can plan the sessions so that each attendee (or a group of attendees) must lead a session. This presents a great opportunity for staff members and board members to offer their unique skill sets and perspectives. Planning this way makes each person even more invested in the retreat.
Whatever you do, don’t turn the retreat into a lecture series where you as executive director spend the whole time talking. Get the group involved. Have brainstorming exercises. As an executive director, have an “ask me anything” session. You can even make this anonymous by having people submit questions if that makes people more comfortable.
Retreats should never be “all-business” either. Make sure you plan in sufficient social time so that board members can engage. Because retreats are largely about rejuvenating your team, social time is key. Be sure to schedule in free time, whether that be breaks between meetings or just a couple of hours of down time before an evening social event. This time gives people time to transition to focusing on your organization and time to “reboot” their brains.
A successful retreat is one where attendees leave with a renewed sense of energy and a buzz of excitement about what you are trying to accomplish next year. Go forth and conquer (and get a pumpkin spice latte to fuel your planning effort!)
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