Top 10 Tips for a Successful Board Retreat


How can you maximize the effectiveness of your next board retreat? We’ve put together a list of our Top 10 Tips to help you achieve success. Board retreats are a once a year opportunity to reflect, regroup, revitalize and re-commit. Make the most of this precious time, have some FUN and follow up on the ACTION steps!

What does it take to have a board retreat that results in insight, impact and real change?

1. Start with Why? Why are you having this retreat?
2. Ask What? What do you want to accomplish during this retreat?
3. Include Staff: Conducting Board retreats without staff present is like having one way conversations with your partner. It might make you feel good to unload, but what do you really accomplish? If you want to gain insight and perspective- have a two way conversation and invite your staff.
4. Send out a Pre-Retreat Survey to board and participating staff to gauge temperatures and determine board and staff priorities. What do they want to accomplish during the retreat? What trends are showing up in the responses? Are staff and the board on the same page?
5. Be ready, willing and able to ask (and receive) the tough questions. Is there an elephant in the room? Frame the issue or problem in an objective way and address it with neutral (but insightful) information- numbers, statistics, a summary report. Let participants know this is up for discussion with the goal of resolving the issue.
6. Use a skilled professional facilitator to go deep… Is there an issue that keeps haunting you? A story your board or staff cannot let go of? Bring in a pro who is willing to “go below the line” and help create real transformation.
7. Be committed to coming up with solutions or a game plan and action steps to reach the solution. A board retreat without action steps and commitment has no impact and just took up 4-10 hours of your day.
8. Set deadlines for every action step or project, task force or committee activity that results from the retreat and use a dedicated note taker to document this. Some facilitators will do this for you.
9. Use break out groups to mix it up: intentionally place people with differing opinions, thoughts and perspectives at the same table. We want them to be challenged! Group think is a dangerous thing- mixing it up can help prevent this.
10. Have some FUN! Use physical props such as easels with HUGE markers, play music during breaks, ask people to share their best group experience with a partner then report back.