by Marie Palacios

What comes to mind when you hear the words “Annual Board and Staff Retreat?”   If those words made you cringe…ask yourself “Why?”

Create a list of words that describe your organization’s typical annual retreat.

8-hour work day, stuffy room, long-winded reports, random tangents, spinning wheels, internal conflicts, unproductive, exhausting…

If any of those words appeared at the top of your list, it is definitely time to remember why annual retreats are so important.

Believe it or not, the key to a successful retreat requires finding the perfect balance of pampering and planning!

Take a moment to consider the word “RETREAT.”

Webster’s dictionary defines a retreat as “an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable” and as a “place of privacy, safety, or refuge.”

Often, non-profit leaders schedule an annual “retreat” to address organizational challenges and tackle work plans for the upcoming year. A productive meeting does not require formal conversations around a conference table or fancy PowerPoint presentations but rather a relaxing environment and important topic that inspires group engagement.

5 Tips for a Successful Board and Staff Retreat

1. Prioritize Key Conversations – Remember that the retreat should allow your team to focus on the most important tasks. This is not “business as usual” or a “crisis response meeting.” Consider conversation points that might not bet the attention they deserve at regularly scheduled board meetings or strategies that will position your organization for ongoing success. Don’t waste valuable time with your regular program and financial reports. Plan in advance and keep the agenda simple and focused!

2. Engage Every Member of Your Team – Take the time to ask board and staff what each would like to explore or discover at the retreat. Make sure everyone’s voice is heard as you consider where you would like to host the retreat, what items should appear on the agenda, what food will be served, and who will facilitate.

3. Plan and Pamper – Tired, hungry, and uncomfortable individuals are not typically in the mood to relax and engage in meaningful conversations. Ask your team what they would like to see in a “meeting space” as well as casual conversation spaces. The best retreats are NOT hosted in a tight space around a conference table. Consider a community space that sets a positive tone for the day and allows your team to transition from a meeting space to more casual spaces with comfortable seating areas such as sofa near the fire-place, a front porch, an outdoor patio, a picnic area by the lake, or anywhere else relaxing! Make sure you have plenty of refreshments and a nice meal that accommodates everyone’s dietary restrictions.

4. Consider a Facilitator – Board retreats should allow board and staff to step away from the daily grind and build relationships. An experienced facilitator can help your team focus on important and explore new ideas without losing sight of your mission. Your executive team deserves the opportunity to take a breath and participate at the individual level. The best facilitators understand how important it is to allow retreat participants to speak openly and only step in to guide the group through topics that might be creating roadblocks.

5. Follow-Up After the Retreat – If you successfully engaged retreat participants than you probably have an impressive list of ideas and questions that need your attention! Be sure to schedule a specific time to debrief and evaluate your retreat. Participants should weigh in on the following: was the retreat’s agenda appropriate? Was the day structured in a way that was productive? Did everyone have an opportunity to participate actively? What were the major perks of the retreat? What could be done differently to improve next year’s retreat?

Best wishes to you all as you head into the holiday season.

If you find that you could use some extra help planning that perfect annual retreat, remember Funding for Good is just a phone call away! We would love to share some of our most popular Board Solutions topics with you! BOARD SOLUTIONS with Funding For Good

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