Sector Share: Tips for Your Retreat: Do’s & Don’ts

June 19, 2017


  • Use icebreaker activities to help participants relax and get more comfortable with one another in this setting. Choose the activity based upon the culture and style of your organization and your goals for the retreat. Schedule a social event or group exercise before each formal session in the retreat.
  • Get to work. Create the agenda for your retreat based on your goals. The retreat should include content specifically tailored to meet the objectives set by the Executive Director with Board and staff input.
  • Take frequent breaks: Your retreat time should allow time for members to talk informally and relax. Encourage participants to stand up, move around, and talk with one another.
  • Close the meeting on a high note.  The Executive Director will probably have the last word, affirming his/her commitment to the retreat and summarizing what has been accomplished.
  • Follow up after the retreat. Send out an online survey to participants to assess results. Distribute any documents developed at the retreat and how what was discussed will be put into the organization’s practice.


  • Overschedule for fear participants will get bored. Allowing opportunity for discussion and participation is more important.
  • Arrange the seating in theater or classroom style. These arrangement discourage participation and open discussion and make it easier for individuals to stop paying attention. Consider a circle, u-shape, rounds or angling long tables towards a central aisle.
  • Vote or make official decisions. Retreats are designed to encourage participation and encourage creative thinking, not to make binding decisions about the organization. This is particularly important if participants do not typically have organizational decision-making authority.
  • Plan a retreat without full commitment of the board and executive leadership. Without the commitment of leadership, it will be difficult to get full attendance and board and staff will not likely be engaged in follow-up activities.
  • Fail to establish realistic, meaningful objectives. Clear objectives are important for increasing participants’ willingness to act on the outcomes of the retreat or to commit to future retreats. It’s important that the objectives of the retreat not be the product of one person or a small group of persons.  Staff involvement in retreat outcomes and organization are essential for retreat success.
  • Wait until the last minute to get a facilitator involved. The more a facilitator knows about your organization, the more effectively he or she can help you achieve retreat objectives.
  • Facilitators can also ensure the retreat schedule does not adhere to a traditional meeting style or normal business presentations.

See Tips for your Retreat, extrapolated from Board Source: “The Board Retreat: How to”.

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