Give your board members a break — and your nonprofit a boost

Your not-for-profit’s board members likely lead busy lives, so they may not get to every board meeting. That’s why it’s essential to organize periodic board retreats that bring everyone together in a relaxed setting.

Best practices

Board retreats enable participants to get past the mundane topics of regular board meetings and delve deeply into specific issues. To take advantage of this opportunity, do the following:

1. Get participant buy-in. Don’t spring a fully planned retreat on your board without first making sure everyone agrees to the merit of the session and its goals.

2. Choose the time and place carefully. Once the board agrees to a retreat, turn your thoughts to logistics, which will vary depending on your objectives. An afternoon at a local restaurant may be ideal if the board needs to brainstorm some creative, new fundraising options. Broader agendas or confidential topics will require more time and privacy — perhaps several days at an offsite location.

3. Create a detailed agenda. Start your agenda at the end by asking what outcome you want to come away with at the close of the retreat. If, for example, you’d like to end the meeting with a five-year strategic plan, your agenda might start off with time to review the history of your organization and competitive research from other nonprofits. From there, build in time to brainstorm where your donors, beneficiaries, members and other important constituencies may be in five years.

4. Make a postretreat plan. Some of the most important work will happen after the retreat. That’s why you need to recap all decisions and commitments and make a plan to put your work into action before the board scatters. Follow up by sending members a written summary of retreat discussions and add action items to future board meeting agendas based on those plans.

Focused and engaged

A board retreat can help ensure that board members are engaged and focused on the issues that matter to your nonprofit. Contact us for more information on governance issues. 

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