Retaining a qualified, unbiased facilitator from outside the Association will assist greatly the success of your planning retreat. A professional facilitator will:
* Provide expertise... a facilitator knows the process and what goes into developing a successful strategic plan.
* Provide objectivity... a facilitator has no stake in the outcome and will treat all points of view equally.
* Provide balance... the facilitator's job is to ensure all competing participant perspectives are heard and to strive for consensus building.
* Provide impartiality... because of the facilitator's independence, he/she can approach sensitive political topics or controversial issues without being perceived as having an agenda.
* Provide leadership... it is virtually impossible for the CEO or Board Chairman to both facilitate and participate in the group discussion. A facilitator permits the elected leaders and staff focus on the issues rather than on the process.
* Provide structure... a facilitator can assist in identifying individuals both within and outside the association who should participate in the process.
* Provide demographics... many facilitators are experienced at developing and analyzing questionnaires or surveys designed to assess emerging trends, member opinions and critical issues for your association.
* Provide documentation... after the session, your facilitator should provide a written report of your strategic plan, complete with goals, action steps and timelines.
* Provide credibility... if an independent facilitator conducts your retreat, member suspicion that individuals on the committee controlled the process is eliminated.