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6 Reasons Why You Should Broaden Your Search For Your Next Nonprofit Board Retreat Facilitator

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Nonprofits play a critical role in addressing societal issues, but their effectiveness often hinges on the strength of their leadership, especially the board. One way to enhance the performance of a nonprofit’s board of directors is by organizing retreats. They can improve engagement, performance, governance, and fundraising skills — all of which can propel the organization to the next level of impact. This is all the more reason to hire a high-quality nonprofit board retreat facilitator. And though you may feel it’s risky to hire a facilitator from outside your region, they may also provide a unique perspective and even greater results. Retreats and planning sessions are too important to skimp on. 

Here are 6 compelling reasons why you should look beyond your region or state when searching for your next nonprofit board retreat facilitator

1. Quality experience

Watch out! More than 80 percent of board retreat facilitators have never run an organization. Looking outside your region, you may find a facilitator with many years of high-level, in-the-trenches experience. This is important because they can empathize with where you are because they’ve been where you are. They know firsthand the hardships of engaging board members, raising money, and building capacity. And they can share stories and provide key insights that prove invaluable because they can draw from the successes and perils of their leadership experience.

2. Fees

You may think you’d have to pay a premium for an out-of-state facilitator. That’s not necessarily the case. Many facilitators adjust fees so they can compete with local facilitators. And many facilitators adjust their fees based on the budget size of an organization, number of hours, and number of people attending the retreat. So, if you want to have a fun, memorable, and high-impact retreat, search the country for the best, because there’s no need to be pennywise and dollar foolish.

3. Specialized knowledge

Depending on the purpose of your retreat, you may benefit from a facilitator with specific expertise. You may need expertise in the area of succession planning, running a capital campaign, or expansion. Or, you may need expertise in a specific industry such as healthcare, hunger relief, or the environment. Hiring someone from outside your region allows you to tap into a broader pool of facilitators with diverse knowledge and skills tailored to your organization’s needs.

4. Expertise in facilitation

No one wants to sit through a retreat led by a boring facilitator. And we’ve all taken part in retreats where the day was steamrolled by strong personalities. It may be worth your while to look beyond state lines to find a facilitator who will confidently take you on a journey of exploration, education, and discussion. You’ll want to look for someone who knows how to control hijackers, manage disputes, give everyone a voice, create buy-in, and keep things on track. This level of expertise can be instrumental in achieving your retreat goals.

5. Fresh perspective

When you hire a facilitator from outside your region, you bring a fresh perspective into the boardroom. An external facilitator isn’t burdened by the local politics, history, or biases that may exist within your organization, or in the community. They can provide an unbiased viewpoint and innovative ideas that might not have been considered otherwise.

6. Objectivity

An external facilitator has no vested interest in the outcomes of your board’s decisions. This objectivity can be a tremendous asset during discussions on sensitive topics. They can help keep the focus on the organization’s mission, goals, and outcomes rather than personal or local agendas. Sometimes local facilitators personally know board members, which can skew or taint outcomes when touchy topics pop up.


Nonprofit board retreats are an invaluable tool for strengthening an organization’s leadership and achieving its mission. By hiring an external nonprofit board retreat facilitator from outside your region, you may be able to unlock a wealth of benefits and specialized knowledge—all at a fee that’s competitive (or better) than that of a local facilitator. 

In a world where nonprofit organizations face complex challenges with limited resources, finding the best, not most convenient or least expensive retreat facilitator, can be a strategic decision that pays dividends in the form of more effective leadership and a greater ability to make a positive impact on the world through your noble mission.

What are things you look for in a nonprofit board retreat facilitator? 

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About the author

Tom Iselin is the president of First Things First, a business specializing in board retreats, strategic planning, fundraising, and executive coaching. He has built eight sector-leading nonprofits and written six books.

To learn more, visit: Best Board Retreats | First Things First Homepage | [email protected] | 858.888.2278

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