How to Plan a Successful Board Retreat?


Taking a break, reassessing, brainstorming, restrategizing, and then keeping marching towards the organizational goals is a culture every business should adopt. It is important for the board members to sit together and evaluate where the corporation is heading and what needs to be done. This is where board retreats are vital to do exactly as mentioned above. 

So, what is a board retreat? What are different board retreat activities? Why is a board retreat so important? How to plan a successful board retreat? What to do after a successful board retreat? A long list of questions, isn’t it? Well, let’s move to their answers step by step.

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What is a board retreat?

A board retreat is an integral part of board governance that happens once a year. Basically, board retreats are held to create, implement, and maintain a strong board culture. Board retreat activities are designed in such a way that they allow the board members to keep everything aside on focus on two important things:

  • Why are they doing what they are doing?
  • What do they want to achieve?

Board retreat activities make sure that board members share their ideas, meet new board members, evaluate where the corporation is moving, and what needs to be done to achieve the ultimate organizational goals.

What are the purposes of board retreat?

The definition of a board retreat pretty much explains why organizations arrange them. However, here are some more specific purposes of a board retreat.

  • Develop or revisit the vision, mission, and strategic plan of the organization/group/corporation.
  • Clarify the roles and responsibilities of the board members and the organizational staff.
  • Introduce and get acquainted with new board members.
  • Discuss new opportunities and address critical issues that the organization is facing.
  • Reenergize and reconnect a static board.

How to plan an awesome board retreat?

Board retreat does look like a great get-together, but at the backend, it is very challenging to bring all the board members together. 

Therefore, it is utterly important to make sure that the board retreat is an enjoyable, meaningful, and focused activity. Here are some helpful board retreat ideas to get desired results. 

Pre-board retreat activities

It would be ideal to arrange a planning meeting with the board chair, executive directors, and other board members (as per requirements) to:

  • Determine what organizational matters or issues need immediate attention
  • Evaluate board weaknesses, strengths, and engagement
  • Clearly define the core purpose of the retreat and what are the expected outcomes

Here are some questions that must be asked of the planning team.

  1. Is the board looking for strategic planning?
  2. What is the actual purpose of the board retreat?
  3. Do you want to reenergize the static board?
  4. Is it a specific organizational issue that needs immediate attention?
  5. Do you want to understand the board dynamics in a better way?

Discussing the location, duration, timing and total number of attendees is also helpful. 

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Apart from having a meeting with the board leaders, interacting with other board members, and taking their views, opinions, and board retreat ideas will be effective. Try to make them excited about the retreat. 

Board retreat agenda development

Now that you have met the board leadership and taken valuable ideas from the board members, it is time to develop the board retreat agenda that resonates with the core goals or objectives of the retreat. Here are some valuable tips while developing the board retreat agenda.

  • Make schedules for the board members to walk together, dine together, and get ample time to know each other. Holding a social dinner is not a bad idea either.
  • Based on your retreat goals, build the sessions in sequential or logical order. Make sure the board members get enough breaks to digest the information during the sessions easily. 
  • Try to cover the critical issues or “hot” topics during the daytime.
  • Be sure about the desired outcomes from each session. i.e., what results do you expect from each session? 
  • Make a plan for capturing ideas, key issues, resources, action steps, and outcomes from every session. This will be very helpful in retreat documentation.
  • Remember that preparatory work, resources, and supporting material will be very handy for the board members to keep their focus intact. 
  • Last but not least, prepare and provide a board retreat agenda, instructions, and material to all participants at least a week prior to the board retreat.

5 useful tips for a successful board retreat

  1. Clearly define what the core objectives of this board retreat are? What needs to be discussed and accomplished through this retreat?
  2. Involve the board leadership, executive directors, and other board members to come up with productive board retreat ideas.
  3. Don’t make the retreat boring by just making it a series of lectures. Try to get maximum participation from participants. Arrange brainstorming sessions and invite board members to ask questions from executive members. 
  4. Give board members enough social time to interact informally as well. This is important for them to get to know each other better.
  5. Outside facilitation is highly recommended for board retreats because hiring an external facilitator will minimize the influence and biasness.

Board retreat outcomes and next steps

Any board treat is useless if the participants are not sure whether their decisions or ideas will be practically considered in the future or not. Most importantly, all the participants must understand their responsibilities and the future actions expected from them. 

Following suggestions can be very helpful in not only documenting the retreat but also developing accountable action steps.

  • Capture significant points, outline future steps, schedule time frames, and assign accountable parties at the end of each session. You can use action verbs (write, call, schedule, review, plan, etc.) to make sure every participant understands what needs to be done.
  • Remember that pairing the retreat participants will not only boost their efficiency but allow them to strengthen their relationships.
  • Come up with ideas or suggestions for integrating the progress checks (for the decisions made in the retreat) into coming meetings of board members.
  • Organize the board retreat agenda in such a way that its last item also covers all the next steps. Participants need to know how they can hold others and themselves answerable for taking action. You can ask the retreat participants to share their personal commitments, appreciations, takeaways, or any other comments. 
  • Congratulate your team and yourself for doing everything successfully.


Holding a successful board retreat needs brainstorming and proper planning. To organize a successful board retreat, don’t forget to:

  • Set a clear purpose or objectives for the board retreat
  • Invite board leadership and board members to come up with board retreat ideas and suggestions
  • Prepare a well-organized board retreat agenda
  • Properly document the retreat and set an actionable plan