By Molly Penn
Summer season offers a great opportunity to do a retreat with your board or staff members. Business as usual tends to slow down a bit and summer is a great season for reflection. If you can handle the nightmare that is aligning schedules in the summer, getting people together for a thoughtful, engaging session can be a valuable way to build your team and to generate increased engagement. We thought we would reflect on some possible topics for holding a retreat this summer and what is involved in each:
Strategic or Annual Planning
This is among the more involved types of summer retreats. Can we do a strategic plan in 1 or 2 days? Yes, but it takes some very thoughtful pre-work and careful design. Pre-work usually involves speaking to various stakeholders, either just internal participants, or also your organization’s constituents. By bringing their perspectives and voices into the retreat, the planning session becomes much more engaging and responsive to the needs of those with a vested interest in your work.
Our board development retreats usually touch on topics ranging from diversity, equity, inclusion and access to board role and performance, to how to be a better ambassador for your organization. Often they are preceded by some kind of assessment of board members to understand the current culture and performance so we can tailor the design to meet them where they are. Board members tend to leave these retreats more deeply engaged with each other (which is one of the primary reasons people join boards) and with your organization’s work.
Summer can be a great time to get your internal team together to talk about how to build a culture of philanthropy in your organization. Preceded by some internal interviews to better understand the current culture, we can design engaging activities across departments (even including your board) to establish and/or strengthen a culture of philanthropy throughout your organization. Alternatively, you might wish to use a summer retreat to do a deep dive on fund raising strategy for the coming year!
Building Intentional Culture
Whether it is DEIA, values, team building, or performance management – culture is the invisible force that either helps or hinders your ability to live into your mission. Culture is shaped by the individuals around your metaphorical table – and the backstories they each bring to your organization. Culture can also be shaped deliberately, by engaging these individuals in explicit conversations around the type of culture you collectively want to build.
Summer can be a great time to engage some professional development training for your staff. Whether it is specific to their department’s work, or more general, we can work with you to design trainings that meet your organization’s needs and engage your staff in meaningful, generative dialogue and participation. We know adults learn best by working together towards a common goal, so we design all of our trainings with these principles in mind.
Our Approach to Retreats:
Every retreat we design is deeply customized to the needs of each of our clients. Therefore, we start every process by meeting with (or surveying) those we will be working with to hear from them which aspects of the topic they are most interested in and have the greatest need for. We are also interested to know if they feel really confident about some of the topic areas so we can de-emphasize those in favor of areas in which they seek to build their capacity. From the beginning, this builds trust with the participants and respects their experience and expertise.
We then design a session on each topic that is customized to the specific needs surfaced in the preliminary conversations. Working with organizational leadership to ensure we are touching on the most pressing areas, we design retreats that are:
- Rooted in each organization’s specific mission and work;
- Designed to address the unique needs of each group of participants;
- Highly interactive – we know that everyone has different learning styles and many adults learn best by actively participating vs. lecture style listening
- Community building – we design customized exercises for participants to work together towards mutual learning goals
- Fun! It’s hard to accomplish anything if it’s not enjoyable. We aim to infuse our retreats with lightheartedness to ensure they are engaging and help people break out of their mental models and think differently.
Have a burning topic you want to explore in a retreat? Give us a call – we’d love to discuss whether we’re the right fit for you!