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Home / Special Sections / Retreat Planning Guide / Do you need a retreat? Here’s how to plan

Do you need a retreat? Here’s how to plan

Planning a retreat? Here is your chance to be a hero! The more you plan in advance, the more organized you will be, and the overall outcome will be higher quality.

Most companies and organizations will not simply hand over money for you to host a retreat – even if they asked you to plan it. Your company will want to know rough budget estimates and details about your event. Even if you are in charge of your own budget, it is still helpful to take the step of preparing a basic plan to organize and save your thoughts. So let’s get started!retreat

How to Prepare a Basic Plan

Your plan should include at least four things: a summary, a goal, the audience, and the budget.

  1. Summarize the Event: Your summary is a basic snapshot of your retreat in three sentences or fewer. With no additional information, anyone that reads your plan should be able to understand what the event is from a high-level perspective. It is appropriate to include a basic goal in this summary. For example:
  • This leadership retreat will bring together the leaders of   (fill in the blank)   company/church/school for program and budget planning for the next year.


  1. Determine a Timeline: When is this retreat? Are you planning it in the winter or in the spring? Include the target time frame of the event, the promotion period, and any other important milestones. Make sure you understand the timing of your participants. How much lead time do they need? Tip: start from the end (the retreat date) and work backwards. For example:
  • Retreat planning: six months before your retreat date
  • Website page created: three months after planning begins
  • Promotion: Three months before retreat.
  • Retreat Date: Retreats can happen any time of the year depending on the activities.
  1. Decide the Retreat Goal: All retreats should have at least one simple goal. Are you planning a retreat on behalf of a business, university, or other organization? If so, consider the mission of the organization and create a goal that aligns with this mission. Goals can be high-level, or they can be very specific. Set enough goals that someone reading your plan can start to picture your retreat. For example:
  • 3 days
  • 20+ participants
  • Overnight accommodations at a camp retreat center
  • Team-building activities
  • Completed program plans and budget for next year
  • Enhance leadership skills
  • Promote togetherness and a sense of community
  1. Define Your Audience: First, ask yourself these questions: Who are you inviting to your retreat? Are they males and females? Adults only, or are children invited? Next, dig a little deeper into your audience. What do your attendees care about? What are they interested in? This does not dictate who is allowed to come. Rather, it outlines the group for which the retreat is intended. Doing this small brainstorm and jotting down a few notes will help you later as you plan activities and promote the event. For example:
  • Males and females
  • Age range
  • Church staff, leaders, lay people, doctors, CEOs, administrative professionals, team leaders, other
  • Many have children
  • Volunteers
  • Live in _____ city/state/neighborhood
  1. Propose a Budget: Money is a big factor for most retreats. Research and compile estimates for the larger cost categories. The costs should be realistic – not too high, and not too low. If they are too high, you might not get approved. Too low? You might be stuck with a penny-saver budget. 

Your venue will be one of your larger expenses. A four-star retreat center will require a much higher budget than a camp retreat center. Be sure to include an estimate for overnight accommodations and meeting space. Other large budget items to consider include: travel and transportation; food and beverage; and marketing and promotion. 

Also, be sure to subtract the estimated cost per person in your budget to show how costs will be offset. If the goal of the retreat is to raise money, include estimated earnings from fundraising activities, which could be a silent auction, offering, etc. 

Your retreat plan should be able to fit on 1-2 pages.

Now that you have finished creating your retreat plan, you have a nice guide to use moving forward. The items that you have already identified should help you get budget approval, provide direction on event promotion, help you choose a retreat theme, and overall, organize your thoughts. Having your plan ready also helps the retreat center – the staff can better support the goals of the retreat. Often they have ideas about ways to use the facility that you never would have known.