The Dreaded Ice Breaker

| by Katie Weeks

It was Friday at 3pm and I was the only thing standing between the Board and their weekend.

And I did it anyway…

The dreaded get-to-know-one-another ICE BREAKER!

In this case it was relatively easy, we paired up and talked about where we lived when we were 5, what music we listened to in college, and what motivates us to be involved with this nonprofit.

We learned a lot about one another, the room felt more trusting, and we talked more about Hootie and the Blowfish than I could have imagined.

Board Source categorizes the responsibilities of nonprofit boards into three roles; establishing organizational identity, ensuring resources, and providing oversite. They also describe board  legal responsibilities as:

  • Care (Pay attention to the organization’s activities and operations)
  • Loyalty (Put the interests of the organization before personal and professional interests)
  • Obedience (Comply with applicable federal, state, and local laws; adhere to the organization’s bylaws; and remain the guardians of the mission).

We expect so much from our nonprofit board members and yet, board members don’t always know one another’s names, let alone where they grew up, what music they like or why they are motivated to serve on the board. 

Boards need to be intentional about building relationships with one another.

In doing some reading about ice breakers and building relationships within a board, I came across Joan Garry’s article “The Best Ice Breaker of All Time For Nonprofit Retreats” and I had to know more! You can read the full article here https://www.joangarry.com/ice-breakers-nonprofit-retreats/

But here is the gist:

Ask every participant to write a two-page bio 3 to 4 days before the retreat.

Here are the guidelines.

  1. This is a personal bio, not your formal professional bio.
  2. It cannot be longer than 2 pages.
  3. If it takes you more than 2 hours, you’re overthinking it.
  4. You must include at least 1 photo, which cannot be a professional headshot.
  5. There must be some reference to the roots of your commitment to the work of the organization.
  6. The format is entirely up to you.
  7. Let folks know there will be a quiz.
  8. Always include an example.

Once you get everyone’s bio, compile it into a single PDF so it feels like a book. Send this “book” out to everyone. Ask everyone to read the book before the retreat and then take time during the retreat to have a “quiz” regarding the content.

So… you want to see an example?  Here is my personal bio.

It would be interesting to see this activity used with both boards and staff as a way to develop a greater understanding for one another and build stronger teams.  I am excited to try this out at an upcoming board retreat!

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