Fire Up Your Nonprofit Board Retreat: Turn it into a Porch Party!


nonprofit board retreat

In all our years of leading board retreats, my team and I find that some board retreats are fabulous and build energy. And others are duds and a waste of time.

It all depends on careful planning and your true objectives. What do you really need to accomplish?

Today’s post is by our team member Kathryn Gamble, who helped lead a weekend retreat for one of our capital campaign consulting clients last weekend. Needless to say, it was a huge success.

When Kathryn returned, she said it was just like a long porch party.

And they accomplished lots of great work, too. Even more, they built board engagement in the capital campaign.

How to turn your next board retreat into a highly productive, fun experience:

Here’s Kathryn’s post:

This past weekend I joined a client at their weekend off-site board retreat.  The experience reminded me just how important these “getaways” are for boards.

Creating a board retreat is like creating a small social or porch party for your board – it’s both social and productive.

Three benefits to a well-planned board retreat:

Builds Connections:

People just work together better when they feel connected.

A board retreat should purposely make opportunity for board members to get to know one another.

Social time is essential if you want to create a sense of teamwork.


Who doesn’t feel better from a getaway?

Retreats spark opportunity for idea generation, problem-solving, board education and gaining perspective on whatever your organization faces.


Planning a campaign? Need to work on strategic planning?

A retreat provides the perfect context for your board to tackle the big things boards need to do.

Five Steps to Planning the Best Board Retreat Ever:

1. Set the objectives for the retreat.

Do you you want to kick-off strategic planning?  Hold workshops for campaign planning?

Make sure you have specific objectives and your board is involved in planning the agenda.

2. Location – location – location.

The right setting can add a lot to your retreat.  Be sure it fits your board and organization culture.

Locations can vary from casual low-key retreat center in the woods, to upscale sea-side golf resorts.

Pick the place right for your group and budget.

3. Include the right people.

Invite the spouses/partners of your board members and staff attending.

This gives the retreat social context in addition to its business objective.

And, it gives you a chance to get to know your board members better.

4. Appoint a “cruise director” from your staff.

A well-run retreat needs a point person to handle all logistics and be available to assist board members with directions, schedules, etc.

This person also is the point person with the facility, so you have audio/video equipment, snacks, meeting rooms comfort, meals, and anything else required to run a good retreat.

5. Follow up!

Always plan in advance how you will follow up post retreat.

A big thank you is first.

Pictures – take pictures and post on social media.

Summarize the retreat meeting notes and takeaways and send out to the board.

Always establish actions steps to be taken post-retreat so the momentum gained at the retreat is not lost.

Bottom Line on board retreats.

You may be thinking your board members don’t have time for a retreat.

Wrong! If you are deciding for your board members, you are doing them – and you a disservice.

Time is just what a board needs to tackle important issues

your organization faces. 

A retreat is a great way to focus on planning issues; a tough decision on new investments; or workshops aimed at improving board performance.  It can be a wonderful experience for you and your team that builds important momentum and engagement.

Time is your board’s best friend.

Let us know if we can help you with your next board retreat, a major gift campaign or your capital campaign. Just send us a note here.