Today’s question comes from Margaret, who asks:
Amy, I want to hire you as our board retreat facilitator, but I want to make sure you make our retreat is fun and engaging. How can we ensure it’s not boring?
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Great question, Margaret!
I believe that fun and team building are essential ingredients of a good board retreat.
This might sound strange, if you are accustomed to boring board meetings, but fun is important, because it helps relieve any tension that could be in room and prepares people to work together throughout the day and over the course of the coming year.
And of course, people like to have fun. There’s no reason your board retreat needs to be boring — so incorporating some fun into the day will help board members want to be there — especially if they’re giving up their Saturday (or any part of their week, for that matter) to be with you.
So, I’d like to share a game I use at almost all board retreats I facilitate, called Board Member Bingo.
Board Member Bingo
Board member bingo is a fantastic ice breaker because it helps participants get to know one another and have fun at the same time.
It also helps raise important issues you may want to discuss throughout your retreat, which I’ll get to in a moment.
To play Board Member Bingo, you’ll want to use the card I’ve developed or you can develop your own — but you probably want to at least check mine out as a model. Also, in this game, everyone uses an identical card — there’s no need to different cards like in real Bingo.
Everyone gets a bingo card. The object is to fill in every space on your card with the names of people in the room. You need to fill in ALL of the boxes — not just a row or column like in traditional Bingo. Also, everyone in the room plays — including staff and guests.
When the leader says “begin,” stand up and start filling in the boxes with names of people in the room. To fill in a square, you have to find someone in the room with the quality or characteristic in that square.
For example, if the box says, “has lived abroad,” find someone who has lived abroad and write their name in that square.
You can use each person in the room for a maximum of two squares. (So, if Joe is retired and has grandchildren, you can use him for both of those squares, but no more).
I generally like to give people about 15 minutes, but I watch to make sure most people have filled in most squares before calling time. After all, the object is for people to get to know one another, and to do that, they need to fill in most (if not all) of the boxes. It may take a little longer or a little shorter, depending on your group.
Ending the game and debriefing
So when you’re ready to end the game, call time and ask people to take their seats.
Once everyone is seated, you’ll want to debrief. Ask some questions such as:
- Who was able to completely fill in their card?
- Are there any empty spaces on everyone’s card? For example, if you don’t have any lawyers in the room, that space would be empty.
- Did you learn anything new about someone in the room? Or were you surprised by anything you learned?
Take a few moments to let people answer the questions.
Other questions you can ask, which lead to fundraising discussions, include:
- Has anyone solicited a major gift? What about given a major gift? (which are on the bingo card)
- Does anyone have a bequest?
- What does this tell us about our board as a whole? (Or, what did you learn about our board?)
- Do we have a diverse board — in terms of age, profession, geography, etc.?
The point is, Board Member Bingo is not only fun, but should help start important conversations about fundraising and diversity on your board, and lead you right into the topics for the day.
I also want to mention that you really need a minimum of 10 people to play the game, and more is better. (If you have a smaller number of people, you can still play, but you’ll need to allow people to use each person’s name up to 3 times to complete the card.)
Lastly, Board Member Bingo should be played after a round of introductions, because not everyone in the room will know one another. Name tags also help, but are not necessary.
Click here to get a copy of the Board Member Bingo card to use with your next retreat.
This Week’s Task
Start planning your next board retreat. Pick a date and venue. Then decide if you will use an outside facilitator. If so, your facilitator will help craft the agenda. If not, you and your team will create the agenda.
Be sure to include Board Member Bingo as your ice breaker — it’s an excellent way to start your retreat.
What have you done to break the ice and have a little fun at your board retreats? Tell us in the comments below.
This post is part of my Year of the Fundraising Board series. Check out the entire series to learn how to create a stronger, smarter, and super motivated nonprofit board.