The Makings of a Board Retreat
RafiQ Salleh-Flowers is this month’s unofficial Verdigris MVP. Not only did he deliver for the board, he did so with style and efficiency.
RafiQ’s latest initiative was planning our first annual board retreat. For those experienced with non-profit board service, you are well-acquainted with this annual day of intense planning and collaboration. Like many other small organizations operating without paid staff, Verdigris has a working board. The people Sam has recruited for board service are dedicated volunteers who knowingly sign on for the labor-intensive task of growing a new non-profit. Check out our amazing board.
Ours is not (yet - fingers crossed) a board that offers name recognition, status, or prestige. Our members committed because they felt a connection with the mission of the organization and felt they had a specific skill-set valuable to Verdigris’ growth. We are fortunate to have several members who are highly experienced in board service and willing to help funnel the passion of all involved into forming a productive working board.
RafiQ developed a day of team-building and planning that honored our budget, energized the board members, and set up an environment of collaboration. Here are four key components to the planning and execution of this pivotal day in the operation of Verdigris: Season Two.
When RafiQ learned of Sam’s intention to have a board retreat, he knew that setting was key. The retreat needed to be held in a place where board members felt inspired while having the space and calm to focus. The Aldridge House is a historic mansion on Swiss Avenue that has been preserved as nonprofit event space, and its elaborate interior and beautifully maintained grounds offered an oasis of serenity within Dallas. A generous donor wrote a check that covered the cost of this beautiful setting. Having access to this historic space elevated the day from just another calendar commitment to a unique experience.
Feels obvious, but we continuously learn the importance of taking a break and eating together. A breakfast of bagels and coffee greeted board members when they arrived. While they had their coffee, they could take a tour of the home, or visit with other board members. Lunch was also provided. RafiQ set up a DoorDash group order which cuts out the time-consuming “what does everyone want to eat?” question by letting each person submit their own order and allows the group organizer to set a maximum cost per plate. Because - let’s be real - we can feed you, but we can’t feed you like that. (P.S. I promise this isn’t a DoorDash promotion. It genuinely made the lunch logistics flow the way we needed it to. Try it next time you have eight friends over who all want a different thing.)
3. Work and Play
The day had a schedule of events that laid out time for full-group meeting, committee break-out sessions, and social time. This day was essential for jump-starting the operations of this coming season. RafiQ knew that a significant part of getting our working board to function effectively was taking time to establish meaningful connections between the members. Time for shared meals and get-to-know-you activities was given nearly equal scheduling weight as active planning sessions. The end of the day featured time to reconvene and review so that the board adjourned with clear action items. Brainstorming and planning are only as good as the follow-through.
4. Many hands
At the end of the day, we took time to exit the world of ideas and help with the hands-on job of preparing a fundraising mailing. After adjourning, those who could stay helped the fundraising committee prepare a mass mailing. By setting up an assembly-line of folding, envelope stuffing, stamping, and addressing, we made quick work of a time-intensive task. A mindless, repetitive project like this was perfect after a brain-drain day, and offered us the mental space to share stories and laugh our way through the chore.
We love learning how better to do what we do. Kyra, another board member with many years of board service experience, sent the group an email at the end of the day congratulating all involved on skipping over the uncomfortable growth years many small organizations face and jumping to a place of efficient, effective operations. This wouldn’t be possible without the expertise and planning of people like RafiQ. We are so fortunate to have a group of people who volunteer their unique skills and experiences to the cause of making this mission work.
We are actively fundraising for this coming season. Please consider becoming another integral piece of our operations: a donor. And purchase a season subscription, because you won’t want to miss any of this awesome year of music-making.