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Here’s How To Plan a Nonprofit Staff Retreat Your Team Will Love



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Gallup estimates that only as little as 39 percent of Americans actually feel engaged at work – and that’s an increase over 2019’s numbers!

To combat employee disengagement, both for-profit and nonprofit organizations look to group activities like team retreats to foster connection amongst team members and build shared commitment to the work at hand.

But pulling off a successful staff retreat can feel like a minefield of possible disasters. How do you ensure that your event helps – not harms – your team’s level of engagement?

my board wants a local consultant to help plan a great nonprofit staff retreat means focusing in on the details. In this photo, a woman in a denim vest has her back to the camera. She's in front of her laptop at a white table with vases of flowers and other people across from her.

Success is in the details.

If done right, a break from routine can supercharge your team’s productivity. Plan your nonprofit staff retreat as a welcome respite from the day-to-day grind.

Choose your location wisely.

You can host a staff retreat pretty much anywhere – a conference room, an oceanside Airbnb, or a woodland retreat center. Stay local to invest in your community, or travel to let your staff really disconnect.

No matter where you choose, the idea is to get folks feeling comfortable and cared for. Provide balanced meals, plenty of snacks and beverages throughout the day, as well as small toys and other fidget items to keep folks’ attention throughout meeting sessions.

When it comes to dress, be sure to match your location and keep comfort in mind. You can choose casual or business casual attire – and yes, jeans are okay!

Tackle the bigger picture.

A team retreat is more than just an extra-long staff meeting, so take care not to structure it this way. Think about the bigger-picture issues you’d like to tackle with your team and develop your retreat around one of these.

Maybe you’ve been looking to improve or refine the way your organization centers equity in its work, for example. A retreat is a great way to get your entire team on the same page and brainstorm new guidelines and processes together.

Set ground rules.

Ground rules are critical to the success of any retreat. As your first order of business, ask retreat attendees to offer suggestions for how the team should show up and work together. Write them on a piece of newsprint that will hang in your space for the duration of the retreat.

Be sure to have a few essential ground rules in your back pocket, as well, in case no one offers them. For example, you’ll want everyone to be mindful of how much they’re contributing, or ask folks to observe boundaries and good time management by addressing non-emergency communications during their break times.

Prioritize time management.

Not providing enough free time or breaks, running over time, and not scheduling appropriate transition time are all common retreat-planning mistakes. But respecting people’s time is one of the most effective ways to show your staff you value them. It’s essential to get time management right.

Watch the clock, stick to your agenda, and don’t skimp on breaks – they’re valuable tools for letting you and your team catch your breath, process learning, and take care of personal needs.

Good facilitation is key.

Consider hiring an outside facilitator who is skilled at getting the best from teams – not just watching the clock. A facilitator’s job is to engage you and your team in discussion, often with the aim of reaching a particular goal or outcome.

If an outside facilitator isn’t in the budget, have no fear! It’s absolutely possible to run your own staff retreat effectively. You can participate in a facilitator training, for example, or implement pieces of a method like Study Circle training on your own.

Plan a nonprofit staff retreat with sustainability in mind.

More than anything else, your team should feel like they have a voice, and that you respect their time, energy, and feedback. By creating this kind of an environment, you’ll allow trust, accountability, and success to thrive – both during and after your team retreat!