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Your Non-Profit Needs a Retreat

Nonprofits can be organizations from a one-person counseling service to a church food pantry to a multimillion-dollar disaster relief organization. Each nonprofit has its own particular mission statement and sphere of influence that typically attempts to make the world around them a better place to live. But no matter what their ultimate goals or belief systems are, they all seem to have similar characteristics. 

They typically use a high percentage of volunteers to carry out their mission, and at least in the case of the smaller organizations, they have people who love what they do but typically work long hours for little or even no pay, as in the case of the volunteers.

When you ask a volunteer why they do what they do, they typically answer that they believe in the mission or that it is important for them to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They like being a part of an organization that is doing something that they have a deep belief in to make the world a better place.

Many times the volunteers of a nonprofit can overwork themselves or burn out because they have difficulty saying no and continue to work toward the goals, thinking that they can continue on without negative consequences.

It is very important that the leaders of the non-profit ensure that their team does not burn out. This is very important to the health of the individual as well as the continued success of the organization. There are many things that can be done to lower the stress associated with working at a nonprofit on a day-to-day basis; however, a team retreat may be just the event needed. But first, it is important to understand the signs of burnout within a nonprofit organization.

Signs of Burnout in the Nonprofit Team

Burnout is a state of exhaustion that is work-related. Exhaustion is usually a mental or emotional condition. But it also can leave us physically exhausted as well. Burnout is not a specific medical condition or mental illness, but it is more a state we are in. 

Common symptoms of burnout in individuals that can spread through the entire team include:

  • Loss of motivation
  • Feeling drained or exhausted all the time
  • Having a sense of failure
  • Difficulty sleeping, change in sleep habits
  • Feeling isolated or alone
  • Being unusually irritable or impatient
  • Lack of productivity or poor performance
  • Loss of enjoyment

Questions to Ask the Nonprofit Team

  • Are you cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you have trouble getting to work and getting started when you are there?
  • Are you irritable or impatient in your work interactions?
  • Are you lacking the energy to be productive?
  • Is it hard to concentrate?
  • Are you lacking satisfaction in your achievements?
  • Are you disillusioned by your job?
  • Do you use food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or feel numb?
  • Are your sleep habits changing?
  • Do you have any unexplained headaches, stomach issues, or other physical issues?

If the answer is yes to many of these questions, then you can be assured that the individual is experiencing burnout and you need to take positive steps to assist the individual, such as giving them time off, spending more time working directly with them, changing job assignment or working with them to do something that they feel empowered by. You may need to get them counseling.

It is important that they feel appreciated, and you need to spend the time necessary to ensure that they receive the assistance they need.

If The Team Is Experiencing Burnout As a Whole, The Nonprofit May Need a Retreat

Burnout in a nonprofit organization can spread through the team if left unchecked. Soon, productivity will decrease, and the higher goals of the organization will become not as important in the belief structure of the volunteers as they once were. Typically a strong belief in the goals of a nonprofit team is a major driving force, and if that belief wavers, then the nonprofit will suffer.

A team retreat may be just the thing that is needed to jump-start a nonprofit team, give a renewed focus on core beliefs and nonprofit goals, improve team relationships, refresh enthusiasm in the team, birth new, creative ideas, and create a new passion for the goals and beliefs of the organization.

You Have Decided That Your Nonprofit Needs a Retreat; Now What?

First, understand that a retreat is a retreat. Check the dictionary. Retreat means “a period of withdrawal for meditation and/or study.”

So you should recognize it for what it is. An opportunity to step away from the day-to-day business of the nonprofit organization as usual. It is a chance to exhale, to consider your work, goals, and future away from the office, your cell phones, and your work environment. 

Here are a few ideas that can help to make the nonprofit retreat a success:

  • The retreat must be owned by the participants. The team should have a shared investment in the goals and outcomes of the retreat.
  • Reach out to every single retreat participant for input on what they wish to see accomplished at the retreat individually and for the organization.
  • Review the participant feedback with leadership.
  • Develop an overriding theme for the retreat.
  • Pick a retreat location where you can provide a time of recreation, comfort, and a positive experience for the participants.
  • Debrief afterward with all participants to gauge the success of the retreat and what can be done in the future to provide an even better experience.

Nonprofit staff retreats are very important to do so on a regular basis, especially if the team is in a state of burnout.  A retreat can be one day away from the office just to have a picnic at the park together, or a full weeklong event at a retreat center such as the Salvation Army High Peak Camp and Conference Center in Estes Park, Colorado. Visit our website at for more information.

The retreat, if done properly, can breathe refreshing new life into the team, build relationships among team members, renew vision and creativity in the team, and propel the organization into the future in a positive way. Reach out to us if you’d like to discuss maximizing your retreat experience, in order to help your team the best you can.