After my recent blog about how to make your retreats a whopping success, I got a number of inquiries about WHY you need to hold a retreat. You may be wondering the same thing. Here’s a quick summary of my thinking to help you decide if you need a retreat and what the objectives of it might be.
5 Reasons to Hold a Board Retreat
1. Launch a board development project: when you feel as though your board isn’t quite at optimal performance, it’s time to take a closer look. A retreat is a great way to assess what’s working well and prioritize where to focus in the coming months or year. Maybe attendance is an issue, or meetings aren’t productive or there’s a snag in the way the board works together or perhaps board members aren’t involved in philanthropy the way they could be. It’s time to reflect and create a path toward building the strongest board possible to achieve your mission.
2. Train the board on a specific role: This is very effective if you only have a half day. You can identify a topic or two in advance of the retreat and spend the bulk of your time having some fun learning and practicing. When board members aren’t confident on how to tell your nonprofit’s story, or they need to understand where they specifically plug into the fundraising plan – these are two great examples of where more time is needed to develop your volunteers.
3. Create a vision and clear direction: It’s impossible to do the most good if your organization’s future direction is unclear; strategic planning is commonly addressed at board retreats. And it’s a good forum to do so – however, it’s impossible to develop a plan the right way in one day. There is a lot of up-front work that has to be done with stakeholders and needs assessments, etc. before you can bring the board together and expect them to set goals and objectives. So when you know it’s time to plan, allow time for the advance work, then have the board tackle the vision and strategic initiatives. And be prepared for more than one session, as it’s tough to make all those decisions in one day without draining brains!
4. Tackle a pressing community issue: it’s not uncommon for nonprofits to be looked to when a crisis hits the area. After all, they are experts at dealing with social issues. A retreat is a great way to bring your team together and discuss the tough issue, outline options for addressing it, decide what the role of your organization should be in solving it, and identify how best to involve other stakeholders in the work. I’ve seen very impressive results come when the chips are down and volunteers rally to drive change.
5. Inspire and re-engage your board: Perhaps the most valuable reason to have a retreat is to build relationships amongst your board members and empower them to own the work. You have an opportunity to remind them why they serve by reconnecting them to the mission. Over and over I see board members lean in with new energy as they learn a new skill, or clarify a new direction, or work together to solve a problem. It will result in a renewed commitment to the work and to the team.
Finally, you can have the best retreat ever but what comes next is what really matters. Don’t leave the room until you have a plan to implement what was discussed and agreed to. Be sure you can answer these questions: Who will do what by when? And how are we going to hold ourselves accountable?
Ready to plan your next retreat? Let me know how I can help.