Friday, May 20, 2011

YNPNSD Leader Retreat 2011, or, A Lesson in Being Both Productive and Fun

The first weekend of May marked a turning point for YNPN San Diego. It was our first weekend planning board retreat, an idea the board had a while back, and with the help and sizeable donation from The Leichtag Family Foundation, this vision became a reality.

We wanted to ‘up the ante’ if you will, this year by blocking out an entire weekend to nail down our strategic priorities for the coming year, outline our workplans, and solidify our budget –an extensive agenda for the weekend, but we figured that by locking ourselves in for 2 straight days (albeit in the luxury La Costa resort), that we would be able to knock it all out in one sitting.

This was a great idea for a couple of reasons:
  1. We’re an all-volunteer organization that meets once a month as a board. So, oftentimes the lag time on decision-making can get drawn out, particularly when it comes to the overall organizational big picture since our daily ‘to do’ list often takes over when we let it; and
  2. We recently completed our spring recruitment and added five amazing new board members. Since they make up half our board, we couldn’t have asked for a better board immersion experience.

So the weekend goal was twofold: plan out what we’re trying to accomplish over the next year (based on last year’s progress and our current context), and get to know each other so we begin operating as a cohesive team from Day 1.

How did we do? Mission achieved, if I do say so myself. We started off the weekend with a board in-service on leadership training with Alexis Dixon. This an essential aspect of our role as board members, and the essence of what we try to instill in not just our board, but our committee and membership base as a whole. This session helped to set the stage in our minds to always be thinking about fostering leadership in every aspect of our work.

After a quick break, we dove into planning. By first reviewing our vision, mission, theory of change, and program model (outlined with the help of NP Strategies in last year’s planning retreat), we reviewed our successes and challenges over the past year to achieve last year’s goals. Then, we walked through the finding of our recently closed 2011 Membership Survey, providing valuable information to the board about what our members liked and want for the future. All of this helped to outline what we need to focus on during our next fiscal year. After boiling up findings from detailed SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analyses, the board clarified 5 strategic initiatives for the next fiscal year. Since, at this point our brains were leaking logic and our stomachs were crying for help, we broke for lunch.

When we re-grouped half an hour later (did I mention that this was a packed agenda?), we were met by a handful of committed and eager committee members who gave up their gorgeous afternoons to assist in our planning efforts. Their fresh faces re-energized the group and we dove in, breaking into 5 teams based on the aforementioned initiatives to outline our SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goals and action items. These were eventually shared by the full group, picked apart, added to, and agreed upon as a team until board and committee members alike were satisfied.

Exhausted but content, we looked around the conference room lined with butcher paper outlining our ideas and plans and shared, one-by-one, our excitement. The consensus was that it was an honor and a privilege to have spent the day with a smart group of people thinking about how to make the nonprofit sector stronger in San Diego, and specifically, what our organization – led, run, and supported by a group of emerging leaders volunteering their time – can really do to make a difference.

After having led the research, planning, and facilitation for the day, the group unnecessarily broke out into applause. I took a quick bow and said a silent prayer of thanks to have met such incredible minds and committed people all working towards making this region a better place to live and work. It was then that I was able to reflect on the momentum this organization has created after having been founded just three years ago. What started as a vision and strong foundational leadership has smoothly transitioned into an organization owned and operated by the community it serves.

So, a quick thank you is in order for all of you who have participated with your time, dollars, or membership to make this organization what it is today. I’d also like to extend an offer to the rest of you to get involved and be a part of what YNPNSD will become tomorrow.

And then it was off to the hot tub…

So, without further ado, here’s what we’ll be working on over the next year.

YNPNSD’s 5 Strategic Initiatives:
1. Create a culture that fosters leadership growth for organizational sustainability
2. Define, engage, and retain members
3. Develop an outreach strategy to increase membership of the next generation of leaders
4. Create and implement a brand identity and communications strategy
5. Grow and diversify funding

Thanks to Cynthia Davila, our Retreat Team Leader, for this contribution as well as her time fostering many productive discussions during the retreat. Her skills proved truly invaluable, and we're thankful to have her!

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