Planning Your Student Organization Retreat

Planning Your Student Organization Retreat


A clearly defined purpose will provide clarity for your organization’s retreat. Answer the following questions:

1. Why have a retreat?

  • Provide workshop sessions for your members
  • Motivate your members for a new year or semester
  • Set/redefine goals and objectives
  • Engage in team-building
  • Introduce new members
  • Have fun!

2. What are you trying to achieve?

3. What organization goals or business needs to be accomplished?

Perhaps the retreat itself is strictly recreational, or it could be intended to facilitate team building. Whichever path you choose to take, be sure organization members and your advisor are well informed of the events and purpose for the retreat. Keep in mind that retreats serve a double purpose of accomplishing organizational goals or work, while also reenergizing the group and its members.


Think about the timing of your retreat:

  • Beginning of a year or semester
  • Mid-semester for evaluation
  • Mid-year as a refresher
  • For one day or overnight
  • At a time with no other conflicts

Check with your organization members and your advisor to be sure they are available at the time(s) scheduled, and have a backup weekend or date in mind as an alternative!


Choosing an ideal location can be a challenge. Your organization could hold the retreat somewhere on campus, or a quick web search of "conference centers" gives you thousands of hits. Allow yourself to have ample time to sift through the information. You may also wish to meet with your advisor to see if she or he has suggestions for possible locations for your retreat.


As team leader, it is your responsibility to ensure everyone has transportation to and from the retreat site. Carpooling or rental vehicles are potential options, depending on the location of the retreat and the size of the group. Check with your advisor to see if he or she has recommendations for transportation.


What length of time will this retreat be? One day, overnight, weekend? The retreat agenda should combine organization work and downtime, as well as fun activities for the group. If this schedule necessitates an overnight retreat sleeping accommodations may have to be shared by one or more members. In this situation, be sure to inform group members that they made need to pair up or share rooms and bathrooms.


While some retreat sites offer meals with the rental price of the facilities, other sites expect that you will bring your own food or arrange for catered meals. If you plan to cook, delegate tasks to organization members (including menu planning, buying food, cooking and cleaning up). If arranging for catered meals, be sure to know how many people will be attending your retreat and if there are special dietary restrictions that need to be considered when planning the menu.


When designing your agenda think of your organization and its reasons for holding a retreat. Use these questions to guide your planning of a detailed agenda:

  • Do members need to get to know one another or team-build?
  • Do leadership transitions need to take place?
  • Does the organization need to clarify its mission or purpose?
  • Does the organization need to set goals or objectives for the future?
  • Is there unfinished organizational business that needs to be resolved?

Your agenda should include:

  • Name of session/retreat agenda item
  • Presenter(s) or facilitator(s)
  • Time(s) for each session
  • Materials, equipment, or handouts needed for each session

Retreats lend themselves to completing bigger tasks. Items such as examining roles and responsibilities, revisiting the group's Constitution, or designing an action plan for next year’s programs can be areas of focus at a retreat. Remember to be Flexible! Your agenda does not need to be written in stone. If the group is engaged in a productive brainstorming session, let them ride with it. Other agenda items can be moved around depending on the group's needs.


Design an evaluation for members of your organization to solicit their feedback on the retreat. This feedback will help in planning future organization retreats and other activities.

Timeline for Planning a Retreat

Three months in advance:

  • Decide on the data of the retreat and announce it to all members and your advisor
  • Reserve your retreat site
  • Ask other organization members to be part of the retreat planning committee
  • Identify funding sources for retreat expenses

Two months in advance:

  • Secure funding for the retreat
  • Determine the format and goals of the retreat
  • Begin to develop retreat agenda
  • Contact any outside resources needed to facilitate the retreat and/or sessions

One month in advance:

  • Finalize retreat agenda
  • Send information to members detailing the retreat and travel arrangements
  • Arrange for equipment (i.e. overhead projectors) or needed materials
  • Plan a menu and secure food reservations/purchase

Two weeks in advance:

  • Send a reminder to members about the retreat and what members should expect
  • Send maps, an agenda, and a list of what to bring to participants

One week in advance:

  • Contact the retreat site to finalize arrangements
  • Organize a final committee meeting to make sure people know what they are responsible for
  • Make a checklist of who is responsible for bringing what