Planning Successful Nonprofit Board Retreats

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Not-for-profit board members generally lead busy lives. Due to demanding schedules, it is common for not all members to make it to board meetings, and for others to only be able to attend via teleconference. Board retreats, when planned carefully, are an important aspect of communicating with the entire board. These retreats allow taking a deeper look at specific issues that surpass the mundane topics of regular board meetings.


Participant agreement. Before planning a retreat, you should ensure that you have participant buy-in. Check that all board members agree to the merit and goals of the retreat.

Consider logistics. Once a retreat has been agreed upon it is time to select a time and a place. If the board is working on brainstorming new, creative fundraising ideas an afternoon at a local restaurant might be appropriate. If the board needs to discuss confidential issues that require time and privacy an offsite location for several days may be more fitting.

The key aspect is removing board members from regular work responsibilities to focus on the issues at hand. It may be a good idea to ban mobile phones from your working sessions.

Create a detailed agenda. Begin with the end in mind when creating an agenda. Ask yourself what outcome you want to come away with at the close of your retreat. For example, if producing a five-year strategic plan is the goal of the retreat the agenda might begin with time to review the history of your non-profit and review research from competitive non-profits. After this time to review history, you can brainstorm where your donors, beneficiaries, members and other important constituencies will be in five years.

Ensure that your retreat includes adequate breaks and social interaction, such as a nice dinner. It’s essential that board members feel rewarded for their efforts at the retreat.

Follow up

Some of the most important work from a retreat occurs after the retreat ends. Confirm all decisions and commitments made at the retreat to set your plan into action before the meeting disperses. Follow up afterward by sending a written summary of the plan made at the retreat, and add action plans that will be discussed in future board meetings. Contact us at 818-334-8623 or click here, and we will contact you.

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