Ep 121: Creating a 5-Star Board Retreat (with Dolph Goldenburg)

by Joan Garry

We discuss why boards matter, when to have a board retreat, how retreats have gone virtual, and what it takes to make a retreat a home run.


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While I believe deeply in board retreats, I also believe they are often a big fat missed opportunity. How come? For starters, lack of clarity about the why. Lack of understanding about how outside support can help bring out the best in the group. No clear action items. And when there are action items, often the retreat ends with a list of things that should happen but no accountability mechanism for how to make them happen. Leaving you with the same retreat agenda next time around.

Struggling nonprofits rely on boards more than ever for expertise, growing reach, and influence so it’s really important to build strong boards.

Today’s guest, Dolph Goldenburg, helps do just that. He and I discuss our views on why boards matter, when to have a retreat, how retreats have gone virtual, and what it takes to make a retreat a home run.

Dolph Goldenburg has experience as a nonprofit CEO, interim CEO, he has years of fundraising experience and he has written a bunch of grants resulting in millions of dollars. His consulting practice focuses on board development, strategic planning and executive transitions.

About Dolph Goldenburg

Dolph is recognized as a leader within the nonprofit sector who has a track record of guiding organizations through leadership transitions, strategic planning and board development.

He started Successful Nonprofits in 2014 to provide consulting, podcasting and publishing services that strengthen the nonprofit sector. His clients have included large nonprofits like Sheltering Arms and HOPE Atlanta and also small but mighty nonprofits like the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and Zebra Coalition.

Prior to starting his consulting practice, Goldenburg was a successful nonprofit CEO for 12 years with a demonstrated history of leading organizations to financial stability and growth. As a CEO, Goldenburg helped organizations transform deficits into healthy surpluses, increase fund balances, dramatically expand services, and increase revenue.

In addition to extensive CEO experience, Goldenburg also has more than a decade of fundraising experience, which includes soliciting six -figure gifts and writing millions of dollars in funded grant proposals.

Goldenburg holds a masters degree in public administration from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelors degree in social work from Georgia State University.

In his free time, Dolph:

  • Hosts the Successful Nonprofits Podcast (because when you own the company, you get to be the host)
  • Has trekked on six of the seven continents (if you count New Zealand as part of the Australian continent. He is planning a trek to Antarctica next year for his 50th birthday)
  • Is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (and has taken second place in his division at the Pan American Championships three times – which means he’s lost the title match three times – to the same person!) and
  • Reads about half a book a week (because his guilty pleasure is not finishing the vast majority of books he reads).