Retreat Success: Los Feliz Improvement Association

“The activities Ron planned worked great and I was delighted at how fully the board members threw themselves into the skits and other things on the agenda.  I was also impressed at how well Ron kept to the time frames, getting us all finished in time for breaks and lunch at the times they’d been sent – I know that that’s not an easy task. I liked Ron’s enthusiasm and the way that he got everyone to participate, even those who were reluctant to speak up.  Ron was really “in the moment” with all of us, able to adjust and flow with the group’s energy and I never felt as though Ron was just going through the motions, even though I know that he has done many retreats before.” -Debbie, LFIA Board Member (& Retreat Planning Committee Chair)

What do you do when you have a large board of 30+ people and 11 of those members are new? Have a retreat! A retreat is a great way for an organization’s leadership to get to know each other better and increase their understanding and engagement with the organization they serve, even if the organization is almost 100 years old (the Los Feliz Improvement Association is one of the oldest its kind in Los Angeles). After working closely with the LFIA Retreat Planning Committee, we developed an engaging agenda that included lots of activities to accomplish these goals.

We started off with a some interactive introductions, mapping where people lived in the community, favorite restaurants in the community. I paired people up to share their passion for the community with each other and then gave everyone the opportunity to introduce the person they spoke with.

Having interviewed 10 members of their board, along with reviewing more input from an email survey I sent out prior to the retreat, I reflected back to the group some themes I saw emerging. I then facilitated a dialog among attendees.

Then came the fun part! With my Affiliate John Fort, we split the large group into four small groups and asked each person to share a story of the organization that highlighted its mission. After that, we charged each group to create a performance involving everyone in their group, picking one story that highlighted the mission of the organization. 10 minutes later, each of the four groups presented an epic story about the organization. I observed lots of smiling faces, both on stage and in the audience.

After the performances, we debriefed, reflecting on what makes for a good story, and on elements of successful teamwork. People not only got to share their own story, but heard the stories from others. Stories are so powerful. Knowing stories about your own organization is so important.

After that, we worked collectively to prioritize strategies to build the organization’s membership, which involved small group work, gallery walks, group discussion, post-it notes, creativity, conversation and snacks. By the end, the group picked some key strategies and discussed steps necessary to make them happen.

The retreat took place in one of my favorite places in Los Angeles: Griffith Park. Inside a historic building, the Griffith Park Clubhouse is a great place to retreat. We closed the retreat in one end of this great hall that has a spectacular view of the San Bernadino Mountains. Folks expressed their appreciation for the day and each other. For even better photos capturing the spirit of the retreat, check out the LFIA facebook page which contains really good photos from one of the attendees.

“I want to congratulate you and John on a wonderful job yesterday being a facilitator…I got to know some of the new members as well as the experienced ones personally, which is very nice.” -George, LFIA Board member

About Ron Milam

I work to build the capacity of organizations and collaborative change initiatives in Southern California through facilitation, training and coaching. I specialize in the areas of organization development, collaboration, strategic planning, team building, board development and fundraising. Since 2005, I have served over 145 organizations.
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