As someone who has served on boards of nonprofits and who has facilitated board retreats, I can tell you from personal experience that stagnant boards keep the mission of the nonprofit from moving forward. What is the remedy? An energizing, purposeful board retreat.
A board retreat should be enjoyable with lively discussion, and should not be long and boring. A well-planned board retreat should motivate board members and excite them around the mission and create enthusiasm.
Here’s my 3 tips for a great board retreat-
- Create an agenda. The agenda could include items such as revisiting the organization’s strategic plan, clarifying roles and responsibilities of board members, brainstorming about program opportunities or challenges, to name a few. Get input from the organization’s leadership and board members as to what should be on the agenda for the retreat in advance. Committee progress reports should be provided in advance as well. The agenda should have specific blocks of time for different topics, and should include breaks.
- Use an outside facilitator. An outside facilitator can help keep the retreat on track, identify additional needs, and recommend that items needing deeper discussion beyond the retreat be moved to a committee level for further exploration to keep things moving along during the retreat. Having an outside facilitator can help avoid bias or undue influence by one board member over another.
- List action items and outcomes. During the retreat, write any ideas needing further exploration or action items to be completed on a large flip chart. Action items should have assignments to either a board committee or organizational leadership, and should include deadlines for completion to ensure accountability.
Board retreats can be enjoyable, purposeful events that help generate new ideas and result in real, impactful work that moves the organizational mission forward. So, the next time you hear, “We need a board retreat,” don’t fret – make it something fun and exciting that everyone can look forward to each year!