THE CHAPTER BOARD RETREAT


Your Chapter has decided to hold a Board retreat. Fellow directors have heard other Chapter Board members speak of their retreats with great enthusiasm. You have been appointed to pull it together. What should you be thinking about and what do you need to do?

The Purpose of the Retreat
Step one is to figure out why a retreat should be held in the first place. Typical purposes for Board retreats include, but are not limited to:
  • Training for Board members on areas such as.
    • Board roles and responsibilities
    • The nitty-gritty of running an effective organization
    • Industry trends and their potential effect on the Chapter
  • Board self-evaluation
  • Review of the Chapter's mission and vision for the future
  • Crafting the annual plan
  • Creating a strategic plan
  • Considering a major issue needing more time than a regular Board meeting can provide.

What the Retreat Will Accomplish
Now that you can articulate the purpose of the retreat, your next step is to determine what the Board would like to accomplish through the use of a retreat. Since an extra block of time will be set aside for this meeting, it is important for the Board to consider goals or desired outcomes for the meeting so participants will leave the retreat feeling their time has been well spent.

Here are some examples of goals or desired outcomes for retreats:

  • Board members will achieve understanding of their roles and responsibilities as Chapter board members through training. Each Board member will review and sign the board member affirmation.
  • The Board will create a written annual plan for the next fiscal year. The plan will include goals, objectives, action steps, persons responsible and dates for each key area of chapter activity.
  • The Board will review and revise the Chapter's mission and create a vision statement.
  • The Board will evaluate its performance over the last year by reviewing the combined written self-evaluations filled out by each Board member to result in recommendations to improve board performance over the next fiscal year.

Planning the Retreat
You've tentatively determined the "biggies" - purpose and goals for the retreat meeting, but you still need to answer the following:

  • Will you be the sole coordinator of the retreat or will there be a committee? (Smaller organizations sometimes delegate retreat planning to the Executive Committee.)
  • How long will the retreat be -- a few hours, a half-day, a full weekend day?
  • Will there be an outside facilitator trainer - if so, who? Or, is there someone on the Board or a member of the Chapter who can serve as meeting facilitator?
  • Do any background materials needed to be copied and distributed in advance or at the meeting?
  • Will there be a need for a write-up - if so, who will do it and by when?
  • What sort of site will be used - a member's place of work conference room, a church or school, a hotel or community center?
  • What are the catering/refreshment needs?

Here is a suggested task/timeline to help you plan your Chapter's retreat.

Task

When

By Whom

Board decides to hold retreat

Preferably at time of creating annual plan for next fiscal year

Board as a whole

Retreat Chair and/or Retreat Planning Committee appointed

At time decision is made to hold retreat.

Board President or Executive Committee

Create budget for retreat

At time of creating annual plan and budget for next fiscal year

Retreat Chair and Treasurer

Delineate purpose

Preferably at least 6 months prior to retreat

Retreat Planning Committee with approval by Board

Select retreat date

At least 6 months prior to date

Retreat Chair with input from Board

Arrange for meeting site

4-6 months prior to retreat

Retreat Chair or member of Retreat Planning Committee

Articulate goals and desired outcomes.

At least 3 months prior to retreat date.

Retreat Planning Committee with approval by Board

Select and engage facilitator

4-6 months prior to retreat

Retreat Chair or member of Retreat Planning Committee with recommendations from Board members, if appropriate

Determine if pre-retreat questionnaires, surveys or other data gathering tools will be used or if any materials need to be mailed out in advance.

3-4 months prior to retreat

Retreat Planning Committee and Facilitator

Copy any needed materials for advance notice mailing.

3 months prior to retreat

Retreat Planning Committee and/or Facilitator

Mail out retreat reminder notices along with surveys and deadline for return and any materials for reading prior to retreat.

2-3 months prior to retreat

Retreat Planning Committee and/or Facilitator

Decide on retreat evaluation method/s (e.g. written or oral, day of retreat, post-retreat)

1 month prior to retreat

Retreat Planning Committee in conjunction with Facilitator

Prepare final room set-up arrangements and audio visual equipment needs list for meeting site manager

1 month prior to retreat

Retreat Planning Committee in conjunction with Facilitator

Collate questionnaires/surveys/ data gathering tools, if used

2-4  weeks prior to retreat

Retreat Planning Committee and/or Facilitator

Place preliminary catering order

2 weeks prior to retreat

Retreat Planning Committee

Copy any last minute handouts

3-7 days prior to retreat

Retreat Planning Committee and/or Facilitator

Final phone reminders to all board members

5-7 days prior to retreat

Retreat Planning Committee

Give final number to caterer

2-5 days prior to retreat

Retreat Planning Committee

Check set-up and on-site logistics

30 minutes prior to start of retreat

Retreat Planning Committee

Conduct end-of session retreat

Day of retreat

Retreat Planning Committee or Facilitator

Prepare any agreed-upon write-ups, drafts or follow up

Within 1 month after retreat

Person/s assigned

Post retreat discussion at board meeting/s

1-2 months after retreat and thereafter, as appropriate

Person/s assigned to follow up

Remember that a retreat is a wonderful opportunity to build cohesiveness and team spirit among board members. That, in itself, may contribute to improved chapter functioning. As you plan the retreat, don't forget to think about ways of promoting camaraderie - proper room arrangements (informal setting, comfortable chairs), informal dress, opportunities to mingle and become better acquainted, pleasing snacks and meals. If retreat participants leave the meeting feeling their time was well spent, they will, indeed, be motivated to carry out their commitments on behalf of your Chapter.

 

The Author: Susan Kaplan

Susan Kaplan has worked in the independent sector for the twenty-five years and volunteered for all sorts of causes for thirty-five. All of her work has related to developing organizational capacity for groups to achieve their purposes. She has developed training programs for boards and staffs, created organization development materials, consulted for organizations on program development, board and staff development and infrastructure, management issues, strategic planning, public relations and fund raising. Until her retirement and return to organization development consulting in May, 1999, Ms. Kaplan was an Associate Director of Chapter Services at the Alzheimer’s Association. Ms. Kaplan received her BA degree from Brandeis University and her MA from San Francisco State University.

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