What Makes a Great Board Retreat: Wine not Whine

Rhonda Brown, the Board President of Willows Way, had a clear vision of the board retreat: Goal numero uno: Team building. She chose to hold the retreat at a winery 90 minutes from St. Louis, a perfect distance. Not too far towillows-way-retreat.jpg make the trip onerous, not too close to make it super easy to go back home for the night.

Steve Brennell, the executive director, was also very clear about what he wanted to achieve. It is so much easier to facilitate when folks know what success looks like! Plus, Steve and Rhonda were on the same wavelength. The stars were aligning.

I was worried about people not committing to both days. It is so hard to have folks come in the second day and have to play catch-up. But I was wrong. It was either Rhonda or Steve’s charisma or just good timing, but there was a great turnout. Everyone who came committed to both days. Most stayed in the local bed and breakfasts.

Its always interesting for me to meet new board members, but this group didn’t know each other well. There were Democrats and Republicans, relevant because of funding issues and approaches to government, folks with experience in various kinds of fundraising with other organizations, different ages, genders, races, all dedicated to the mission of Willows Way: to help adults with developmental disabilities.

There was the usual board member who said she “hated fund raising.” By the end, she agreed that she would be glad to get involved with stewardship and thank donors. The big surprise was the adorable young attorney who loved to cold call. Will wonders never cease! Also, a fabulous special events gal and a banker who clearer understood project management. Also, there was a guy who had both big and small business experience. The board was just beginning strategic planning, and whatever their plan, they had plenty of talent to keep the place financially afloat.

As always, some of the most interesting time was spend outside of the formal retreat. Brenda, an elegant elementary school principal who loved to travel, told us about being captured by terrorists in Peru. Should the agency be attacked, well…..

By the time we were done at noon on Sunday, I was pooped and happy. Willows Way had a great team, prepared to go into its strategic planning, and I headed home to hit a few outlets and  then a nap.


Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, Occational Red Wine Drinker



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