In today’s remote and hybrid environment, a whopping 25% of employees seek real-life connection with coworkers. The board company retreat is a great tool for bridging the gap and restoring that all-important human engagement. 

This article delves into the nuances of preparing for to board of directors retreat. It also explores the meaning of a board meeting retreat agenda for a nonprofit and provides a free and customizable template. 

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What is a board retreat, and why does it matter?

A board retreat is a meeting of all board panel members. They get together outside of headquarters to discuss the company’s strategic activities, vision, and place in the market. While your company may show excellent results matching the previously set business goals, there are still some good reasons to arrange a board of directors retreat. 

Here’s the top five:

  1. To re-engage and re-energize the board. It’s crucial to involve each board member in the company’s activity. It paves the way for ground-breaking ideas and keeps a clear focus. 
  2. To review the past and plan for the future. You can hardly develop a successful business strategy without looking at your company’s current performance, board input, and achievements with a critical eye. That’s exactly what you should do at such events. 
  3. To review each member’s roles and responsibilities. It would be an excellent opportunity to assess individual progress, reflect on it, and think about what could be done better.
  4. To get everybody on the same page. People looking in different directions don’t have much chance to get the company to where it needs to go. Yet, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to think the same way. The leadership team retreat activities are a great push to brainstorm all kinds of ideas and plans — and decide on specific strategies that would best serve the company’s purpose. 
  5. To build a board culture. If the board members lack team spirit, how can you expect your employees to be full of it? A healthy company atmosphere starts with a healthy board culture. Retreats are ideal for cultivating it, as they give a chance to engage new members, have meaningful conversations, and socialize in an informal setting. 

As you can see, board retreats are crucial for a company’s well-being. However, without proper planning, it’s easy to turn this important event into a waste of time. Read on to learn how you can avoid it.
Read more on how to prepare board meeting most easily.

Plan your awesome committee retreat in a few easy steps

Now it’s time to plan your retreat. The following board retreat ideas will help you organize every part of this mission-critical event as effectively as you can.  

Step 1: Answer vital questions

Before getting the ball rolling, double-check that you’re able to answer the following questions: 

  • The who: invitees and the personnel who are going to assist at the event
  • The when and where: date, time, and location of the event and all related logistics
  • The what: the goals that you want to achieve by holding this retreat
  • The how: all the board retreat activities aimed at achieving these goals

By the way, these essentials apply to any business meet-up and even when you consider the board of directors succession planning.

Step 2: Assign tasks to helpers

If you need someone who knows how to facilitate a board retreat, make sure you assign the tasks well in advance, so everyone knows their responsibilities. For instance, while somebody manages communication between the board and the team, others take care of technical equipment and catering. 

Step 3: Send a question list and collect suggestions

The board members will definitely have something to say, and you must encourage them to speak out and participate actively. Board pre-orientation plays a crucial role here, particularly for the new board members. One of the ideas is to prepare a list of questions for the members. Then, once everyone gathers at the retreat, they will be able to share their perspective on the issue.

You might want to put the following thought-provoking questions on this board retreat checklist:

  1. What areas does our business prosper, and where should we focus more in the coming six months/year?
  2. In your opinion, what is the least effective process and why? What might be a good way to improve it?
  3. How do you see our business developing over the next 3-5 years?
  4. What do you like about the current board activities, and what would you like to change?
  5. What would help you engage more with the corporate process?
  6. What are your suggestions for better board work?

Step 4: Ask board members to do presentations 

          One of the best ways to engage board members is to ask them to talk about issues that fall under their responsibility. It has a double benefit. First, they will inform the group about the business performance indicators others might not know. Second, it will boost engagement during the retreat. Consider giving the presenters a few weeks to choose a topic and prepare a talk.

          Step 5: Create a board retreat agenda based on the suggestions

          Any board retreat should start with a clear agenda planned down to the last minute. Why? Well, it gives the participants a sense of purpose and helps them focus on particular issues. 

          Before each session, give your members an info sheet with the following:

          • An intro with a few questions on the topic to help your participants think in the right direction.
          • A space for their notes and ideas.
          • A short wrap-up of the presentation.
          • A space for their questions and suggestions.

          Each session should end with a short discussion and reflection on ways to move forward best. 

          Step 6: Provide the members with the knowledge base beforehand

          Throwing out numbers and facts on unprepared people won’t do any good. The best strategy is to make handouts available in advance. Some figures and facts might be new for some board members, so it’s always better to arm them with up-to-date information they can use during the discussion.

          Step 7: Organize off-business time

          It’s no wonder that some of the board members might feel like skipping the next retreat if they know they’re going to talk only business for a few days straight. Quoting Sir Richard Branson, there’s no successful business without fun! But it has to be planned, too. 

          Off-business time can include 15-minute me-times, social dinners, board evening parties, concerts, yachting, golfing — anything your audience can engage with and recharge. After all, leisure is the new productivity, they say, so make sure you incorporate both. 

          The follow-up

          Board retreat planning is not exactly rocket science. The trick is to make it meaningful. The following steps will help you keep your team on track:

          1. Sum up each session by writing down further actions, responsible members, and deadlines. 
          2. Assign an accountability team to supervise the progress.
          3. Group minutes by subject instead of organizing them chronologically. In this way, you’ll have a better view of what to focus on.
          4. Make sure you address the discussed issues and update the board on the task statuses and results at the next meeting. It’s important to track what’s been done to see where the board is standing. 
          5. Create a final agenda as a takeaway from the nonprofit board retreat activities. It should include further actions, responsible parties, deadlines, accountable members, commitments, ideas, and comments.
          6. Congratulate the team and briefly sum up the results of the day. They will feel that their work is much appreciated.

          Leaving the nonprofit board retreat without a proper wrap-up may leave its participants feeling like they didn’t do anything meaningful with their time. On the other hand, a short formal debriefing would give them a sense of fulfillment and pride in their job.

          Things to avoid during your company retreat

          Addressing these possible derailers ensures that your next board meeting retreat agenda for a nonprofit sets the tone for a positive and successful event. Watch out for these common problems and their solutions:

          1. Uncertain goals. If you don’t understand the intended results, communication stops, time is lost, and dissatisfaction grows. Before any event, ensure that your goals are clear, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
          2. Dominating voices. When a few voices overpower others, you may miss something important. Use active listening to ensure that everyone participates equally.
          3. Micromanagement. Concentrating on tiny details rather than the larger picture might limit creativity. Trust your board members’ ownership and don’t sink into details.
          4. Inefficient activities. Icebreakers and team-building exercises that fall short of expectations waste energy and even disrupt the agenda. Instead, select relevant and interesting activities.

          Facilitator of effective retreat

          While board retreats provide significant opportunities for team building, not all retreats require a professional facilitator. Consider your board’s dynamics and retreat objectives. Are the talks complicated or contentious? Are you facing key strategic challenges? If this is the case, a qualified facilitator can help you in:

          1. Streamlining discussions. They provide clear ground rules, ask probing questions, use time wisely, and ensure that all opinions are heard. Use tactics such as active listening, summarizing significant points, and promoting polite discourse.
          2. Facilitating activities. For 100% engagement and alignment with retreat goals, engaging icebreakers, brainstorming sessions, and team-building activities must be led by an experienced facilitator.
          3. Conflict resolution. A neutral facilitator may help board members manage arguments, uncover issues, and work toward solutions. It’s a good idea to use reframing, finding common ground, and promoting empathy.

          In the next section, discover how to build a sample nonprofit board retreat agenda.

          Prepare a board retreat agenda template

          Board retreat agenda sample comes in handy when you need a structured approach to make the most of your event. We prepared this sample for your convenience. Moreover, you can easily adjust it to your company goals, needs, and desired results.

          Download our free board retreat agenda template

          Strategic blueprint towards effective decision-making


          Final thoughts

          Preparing for a board retreat isn’t the easiest task, but when done right, it can set a proper focus for the year to come. Provide the participants with a detailed agenda and necessary materials, schedule sessions and final discussions — and watch their engagement rise. Follow up on their new tasks, and at the next retreat, they can show the results that will make them — and your company — proud. 

          Let’s summarize the main conclusions from the article:

          1. The board of directors retreat means gathering all the board members to discuss the company’s vision, direction, and plans in an informal atmosphere.
          2. The nonprofit board retreat agenda structures the flow of your event and helps to familiarize everyone with the activities.
          3. Follow-up is an essential part since it helps to keep your board informed and proud of their job.

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          Why do you need a retreat for board?

          Some of the main reasons to organize this are engaging the board to strengthen culture, allowing members to connect in an unofficial setting, and finding new approaches to improving organizational structure and performance.

          Who should plan a board of directors retreat?

          Anyone on the board can initiate and plan a retreat. However, the board retreat facilitator role is traditionally trusted by board secretaries as they have established communication channels with everyone on the board and know directors’ schedules and preferences. 

          What does a board retreat do?

          Each board retreat’s objectives range from informal team building to strategizing and planning. When you plan the retreat, you must ensure that all attendees will have everything they need to reach established individual and collective goals.

          How to run a successful board retreat?

          A successful retreat is a combination of quality rest and productive collaboration. Make sure to account for everyone’s input and respect their time.

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          Casey Johnson Marketing strategist
          Casey Johnson is a seasoned marketing strategist specializing in board portals. With over a decade of experience, she spearheads comprehensive marketing campaigns to enhance brand visibility and drive growth. Casey orchestrates content plans, conducts market research, and collaborates with content creators to ensure impactful marketing strategies.
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