The Importance of an Annual Board Retreat
There are multiple definitions of the word “retreat.”
In blog post titled “Top 6 Reasons for Having a Board Retreat this Year,” Amy Eisenstein noted that there are six no-nonsense reasons to have a board retreat this year, which include:
1) Fulfill your mission. Your board needs to be engaged and involved, and it is time to regroup, reconnect and recharge.
2) Re-energize and re-engage your board. Reignite the passion for the mission in board members. Tell a story, etc. to remind them of why they are there.
3) Review roles and responsibilities. Provide a board member expectation worksheet and have each member sign it. Review expectations of members and have members do a self-assessment.
4) Plan for the year. Review your strategic plan and discuss possible updates. Break into committees and set goals plus action steps.
5) Raise more money. Talk about giving and getting money. Emphasize 100 percent board-donor participation. Provide fundraising training to them.
6) Networking and socializing. Provide ample social and networking time, so members can get to know each other.
In the blog post titled “Retreats That Make a Difference,” Carol Weisman pointed out that the goals of retreats vary dramatically. From time to time, a group needs a check-up or a complete revamp. Weisman states the following can be accomplished from a board retreat:
1) Examine the mission statement
2) Team building
3) Introduction to fundraising
4) Establishment of roles and responsibilities of board members
5) Creating a vision and direction for the organization
6) Change the fundraising culture of the board
7) Analyze, recruit and orient new board members
8) Solidify and improve board-staff relations
9) Develop a fundraising plan with specific board/staff responsibilities
Here are the 10 tips for running a successful board retreat, according to the blog post titled “Have a Winning Board Retreat.”
1) Create the expectation of 100 percent participation by scheduling the date with a great deal of advanced notice.
2) Conduct a baseline pre-retreat survey.
3) Don’t try to accomplish too much.
4) Communicate the expectations early.
5) Move the retreat to the country.
6) Bring a seasoned facilitator.
7) Ensure that all voices are heard.
8) Expect to deal with fireworks.
9) Follow-up is key.
10) Relax, enjoy and have fun.
At my organization, our advisory board meets every other month. This board, which consists of more than 40 members, receives excellent information from the organization and is encouraged to participate. That said, however, a very progressive board member suggested to our advisory board leadership that an annual board retreat should be held for a variety of reasons.
Some of the reasons for holding a board retreat include informing members about a feasibility study and potential capital campaign that was on the horizon, training several new members about how the organization operates and sharing several new major organizational initiatives with the board. An additional simple fact for having a retreat was that the board size was large and many individuals had not had the chance to know each other socially.
Our first annual board retreat was recently held at an off-site location. The day was facilitated by two seasoned nonprofit professional consultants trained in directing board retreats. Materials were provided to board members that defined their roles plus germane information that they would need to improve their performance.
Sessions were held with such topics as understanding the structure of the organization, team building, boards role in community engagement and resource development, small group breakouts on major issues, top five takeaways, next steps and information from an important city leader on board development.
At the close of the advisory board retreat, the date for a follow-up meeting was scheduled. This meeting will be held soon with next steps and action plans to be utilized. I was thrilled with the board retreat. It was very well attended and everyone seemed pleased with donating a day to assist their not for profit of choice.
I felt the key results from our board retreat were:
1) The leader of our organization provided passion and focus for the mission.
2) Board members felt energized and a had a renewed sense of purpose
3) The strategic plan is being reviewed and re-examined.
4) Board members better understand the need to step up their game to help.
5) The organization reinforced the need for volunteer leadership to assist.
6) Board members spent a great deal of time in small sessions getting to know each other.
7) The expectations, roles and responsibilities of the board members were made clear.
8) The need to recruit specific skill sets when seeking future board members became reality.
9) The board learned the difference in being an advocate, ambassador or asker.
10) Board members now know what elements are needed to have an effective board.
At the end of the day our organization and I need highly trained and motivated volunteers to help in
a variety of roles, especially fundraising. A board retreat is a great tool to use for this purpose. I
strongly encourage annual retreats. The board retreat in itself is important, but what happens next
because of the board retreat is vital to organizational success. Board members should be fired up!
Make sure you take advantage of that opportunity.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last nine years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 25 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years. He received his doctorate from West Virginia University with an emphasis in philanthropy, masters from Marshall University with an emphasis on resource development and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with emphasis in marketing/management. Currently he is executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.