Planning a strategic board retreat may seem daunting at first. However, it’s largely similar to planning an agenda for a regular board meeting.
Your board retreat should be a meeting of the minds between the Board Chair and the CEO.
In an ideal world, you have a Governance Committee to plan your board retreat.
Planning an annual board retreat is actually one of the Governance Committee’s core functions.
But, the reality is, this isn’t the case for far too many charter school boards. If you’re in your early years, you might even be too small to have a Governance Committee yet.
Instead, for a host of reasons, board retreat planning is often led by the CEO and their team.
If that’s your situation, make a top priority of this year’s retreat to be an action plan for setting up and staffing a Governance Committee to take this off of your plate. You’ve got enough to do.
The CEO and your key designees will always have some involvement in your board retreat.
Just as you have some involvement in each of your committees, the senior staff will always have a role to play in planning and completing a retreat. Even once the Governance Committee has taken the lead.
There’s a difference between owning these things and contributing to them. We’re here to help you build a self-sustaining board. Your board should own your annual board retreat.
First, think of the core things you want to accomplish at your retreat.
The three things that are usually key for board retreat are:
- Team Building
- Professional Development.
- Strategic Planning
How do you know the core things are that your board needs to focus on?
You want to think about both where you are as an organization, and where you are as a board.
If you take a board self-assessment, as you can do in BoardOnTrack, then you know where your board’s strengths are and where you’ve got work to do.
Should we be spending our time at a very macro level talking about the forest, and not the trees?
Where is our organization going?
Big Picture. Are you going to continue being a specialty art school or should you expand? Are you going to be a middle school only or are you going to expand into a high school and the elementary school?
You might need to answer these major strategic direction questions and there isn’t another time or place to tackle them so the board retreat is a perfect time.
Where are we headed as a board?
Professional development is a great addition to any board retreat while the rest of the time is typically used to make any of those organizational changes.
This could include changing your bylaws or maybe electing your officers. It might also be a conversation about your board culture.
Survey your board to decide what goes on your board retreat agenda.
There are some judgment calls that need to be made by somebody, typically the Board Chair and the CEO. But what are the things that they most need to discuss?
It’s oftentimes a good idea to survey your board members and ask them about what they think should be included. Ask them, “If you were to plan a board retreat, what are the top three agenda items that you would put on it?”
Interviewing board members helps to get a sense where people’s minds are and what you need to focus on. While the BoardOnTrack assessments gather most of this, it is good for members to feel heard and valued plus there may be culture issues you uncover that need to be addressed.
With the help of BoardOnTrack and your board members, you can have a strategic and successful board retreat agenda planned in no time.