Successful Nonprofits: 5 Types of Nonprofit Board Retreats

The 5 Types of Board Retreats

by GoldenburgGroup

The 5 Types of Board Retreats

by GoldenburgGroup

by GoldenburgGroup



very good board retreat has a purpose.

Retreats help the board fulfill its three legal obligations: the duty of care, loyalty and obedience. They do this by helping the board take the next step in its governance journey. 

Before the retreat, the Governance Committee should determine the most pressing governance issues. This information is then used to focus the retreat on one of the following five topics:

Organizing Retreat

These retreats help boards that lack functioning committees or struggle with board engagement. The first half of the retreat is used to determine committee structure and expectations for board members. The board will also determine if their new committee structure requires a change to the by-laws. 

Your new committees will meet in the second half of the retreat. Each committee will determine the goals for the year and set a regular meeting schedule. Committees should only create governance goals. This keeps committees from micromanaging the executive director’s operational decisions. 

Succession Planning Retreat

Your nonprofit’s most valuable resources are staff and board leaders. So the board must plan for extended leadership absences and permanent departures. Boards will often hold a succession planning retreat following a departure announcement. But the best the best time for a succession planning retreat is before a departure is imminent. 

Boards also hold succession planning retreats when recruiting a new chief executive. This retreat guides the recruitment process and creates an onboarding plan for the new executive.

Strategic Planning Retreat

The board is responsible for determining an organization’s strategic direction, mission and vision. Strategic planning always involves a retreat. But it should be part of a broader planning process. No board should ever have a planning process that is only one day long!

Board Evaluation Retreat

Boards hold evaluation retreats after completing a board assessment. The board reviews and uses the evaluation results to create a board development plan. This Board Self-Assessment offers an easy online assessment that includes comparative data on other nonprofits. It is the best evaluation available.

Orientation Retreat

New boards and those with more than 50% turnover will often plan an orientation retreat. This retreat gives all members the baseline training and knowledge necessary to be a great board member.

Why am I writing about this? 

Strong nonprofits need strong boards. In my consulting work, I have facilitated each of these retreat types. Every retreat I lead is highly interactive and maximizes individual board member participation. Reach out to me if your board is looking for a consultant to lead a dynamic retreat. 

Feel free to share your thoughts!

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