More Than a Bonfire and S’mores

| by April Anthony

This past weekend we gathered our neighbors and roasted s’mores over a bonfire. We met some new neighbors and got to know old neighbors better. Conversations arose naturally about ideas for neighborhood improvements, safety, and future gatherings. New neighbors were asked for their thoughts and ideas. Everyone agreed to get involved in an area of need: Neighborhood Watch program, getting out the vote, landscaping, future events, volunteer opportunities, etc. We all had a fun evening and went home feeling great that we had the opportunity to catch up and now feel motivated to get more involved and take action.

It dawned on me that the bonfire served as a neighborhood retreat in a way. Over the last two weeks I have had the honor of facilitating board or staff leadership retreats for three different clients. A best practice for nonprofits is to plan an annual retreat when board members and/or staff can reflect and set goals for the future. Time away from the office, meetings, and interruptions is important. Retreats give board members the opportunity to get to know each other better and, through critical thinking and consensus, create goals and the strategies to reach each. Most board members only see each other at monthly or quarterly board meetings which may not allow time to really get to know one other.

The dictionary definition of retreat is “a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax,” or “a period of seclusion for the purposes of prayer and meditation.” At Armstrong McGuire we hold our retreat each February. We reflect on the prior year and set goals for the coming year using the EOS Model and consensus. 

Retreats are also a great way to jumpstart the process of strategic planning. Whether creating a strategic plan for the first time or moving into your next strategic plan, time away from other distractions allows the creative juices to flow. Strategic planning retreats help organizations align their priorities, create tactics for each priority, discuss how to measure the impact of each, and decide what resources are needed to carry out each tactic.

Hiring a facilitator allows a third-party to talk about perhaps sensitive subjects such as all board members need to participate in fundraising efforts or the roles of board vs. staff or the growing pains of moving a nonprofit from the founder’s stage to a more staff-driven organization.

Whether your retreat includes a bonfire and s’mores or other fun team building exercises, make time each year to retreat, celebrate, and plan for the new year.

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