Samish Retreat Manager notes

Retreat Manager Job Description (draft 10/28/00 by John Wiley, additions 8/2/01 by John Wiley, some edits 11/9/01 Tim Burnett)


Overall the Retreat Manager for a sesshin or retreat is the head organizer. He or she is:

  1. the person who knows that everything is being taken care of.
  2. the central, “point person” for all information and questions about the retreat
  3. the contact person for the facilities and businesses we are working with
  4. NOT the person who does everything, rather the coordinator and organizer of the whole operation. Delegate as much as possible, but also follow up with people. You don’t have to do it all, but your job is to be sure it IS all done.

0. registration and prep - quite a few things need to be written up that the retreat manager does before the retreat

  1. work with registrar to complete registration - make sure everyone's paid up, send "Pay Up" email
  2. description of pack up day - usually done for Samish 1st Saturday of June as part of a work party
  3. ride board email - add a new topic to the Ride Board forum for this retreat, saving the URL to the actual open topic, and notify participants (it would be cool to add this to the confirmation letter and event description too) with an email, a saved template called Ride Board email - edit link to new topic before sending can be used, just as it suggests put the new topic URL in there for one-click convenience

[NOTE: some of the specifics in this document refer to how we work with the Community of Christ at their Samish Island Campground]

l. taking care of the teacher—The jisha (teacher’s attendant) is responsible for taking care of the teacher, you support and check with the jisha on this. if the teacher arranges his or her own flight, make sure you find ut the schedule and arrange transportation to/from airport to retreat site. see that teacher is reimbursed for any out of pocket expenses. arrange the teachers living space--at samish island, ask the caretaker if the pastor’s cabin is available and reserve it if possible--good location, close to zendo--otherwise there is space in a couple of different houses near the camp. if in bellingham arrange a suitable place and transportation to from zendo. as part of sesshin planning, review with teacher the number of participants, schedule, what services are planned,whether the teacher has any special need--diet, equipment, etc


2.assigning jobs the retreat manager assigns all jobs but this can be done in consultation with others in sangha--samish island retreats usually have many jobs assigned to people from vancouver, bellingham sesshins usually not as many from vancouver--some jobs need to be assigned early such as registration person, retreat manager, ino, jisha--others can be done closer to the retreat when the names of participants are knownjobs that have alot to them--jisha, tenken, ino, work leader, materials person, flower chiden, can be arranged ahead of time--more basic jobs--clean up etc do not require advance notice. a job list with everyones job is brought to the retreat and posted in several locations.

make info packets for those with jobs that need them and have them ready for the registrar to hand out as people check in on the first day packets include ino--ino schedule, regular schedule, instructions for the ino, cabin assignment and list of attendees


jisha--several copies of schedule and list of attendees (some of this is for the teacher) instructions for jisha


job leader--job lists,instructions for job leader, info from camp re clean-up requirements etc


tenken--tenken schedule, regular schedule, instructions for the tenken


registrar--cabin assignments, job list, list of attendees, schedule


soku--instructions for soku



3. dealing with camp personnel (samish isl retreats) the retreat manager is in relular contact with camp samish administrators in seattle re cost per person, when sesshin starts and ends, the number of people attending. coordination with head cook re number of people, special dietary needs, the start time for each meal, if we need cookies for tea and by what time each day, also talk with the camp caretaker re work period each day how long it will be, how many people and the types of jobs we can do and the number of cabins --are they all available? also ask the head cook if any of the cooking staff will be in cabins or have their own lodging so we know which cabins we can use. for bellingham sesshin, we need to make sure we have the dharma hall scheduled for our use over the 2-4days, may need to trade sundays with one of the other groups, also coordinate with other groups if we need to borrow zendo equipment--zafus, zabutons, bells, etc find out how many cushions we need to leave at the dharma hall for other groups to use.


4. money stuff--find out cost per person from samish isl administrative staff to help set cost of sesshin. registrar collects deposits, fees once sesshin starts, and dana then passes money on to retreat mgr. to pay camp deposit in zen acct, pay teacher, reimburse those who have covered costs. registrar and retreat mgr work together (discuss) number of scholarships and amount of scholarships based on zen financial resources. retreat mgr with help from someone else does a financial report--expenses, receipts, dana and balance in checking and savings, after each retreat.


The retreat manager and registrar work together with money during the camp. Each independently counts registration and dana money so two people add sums and verify with each other. If cash is received for registration or dana, you can give it to the camp managers for payment as soon as it is received--they will give a receipt--and we don’t have to be responsible for safeguarding cash for several days. Checks received for registeration on the first day can be mailed in to the bank right away so the money will be in the account when we write a final check to the camp at the end of the sesshin--usually the camp managers go into town regularly and will take letters to the post office for us.


have an accurate count of attendance at the end of the sesshin, since, at this point the camp charges by the day--so 30 people full time, 5 for 3 days , 2 for 2 days etc, rather than 30 full time and 7 half or part-time


It is ok to "exhibit" various dharma related items like robes, cushions, books, or calanders but collecting money for these items at sesshin is not ok as it may affect dana for the teacher.


dana collected for norman is sent to the treasurer of the everyday zen

foundation.  her address is        

Everyday Zen Foundation

                        c/o Andrea Jacoby

                        431 Belvedere St.

                        San Francisco, California 94117


Large sets of checks should be sent via registered or certified mail because if the letter got lost it would be a real pain to recollect the money--if you do that, Andrea requests that you send the letter to her at work since it is much easier to sign for the letter at work and saves her a trip to the post-office.  her work address is

                              c/o MBT Architecture

                               185 Berry St.

                                San Francisco, California 94107



5. materials--materials person collects,transports and returns all materials to from zendo. an inventory list is made and checked several weeks prior to retreat so needed supplies can be ordered or bought or borrowed--also, check with vancouver for the supplies they usually bring to joint retreats. make sure all materials are labeled so they are returned to right person/place. bring a calculator, deposit slips and envelopes and stamps so a bank deposit can be sent at beginning of retreat.


6. coordinating with  vancouver--at samish isl retreat, coordinate re jobs, schedule, materials, the dates of the sesshin-send copies of things such as schedule, planned services,ino and tenken schedule etc


7. odds and ends--coordinate with ino re schedule, services, jobs etc when you give numbers of participants to samish isl administration, its better to underestimate a couple of people because if we overestimate we get charged even if some dont show up. once retreat starts, managers job--initial greeting and announcements, handle money, help get the sesshin set up and taken down, make sure sesshin is running smoothly, check in with ino and teacher a couple of times to see if they have feedback,deal with any problems outside zendo--cabin assignments, jobs etc--check with caretaker to see if things are going well from their point of view. cooks suggest we synchronize the zendo clocks with their clocks so meals are on time


8. assigning cabins--call caretaker to see if all are available and check with cooks to see if they will be using any. can assign one or two people to each. there will be some requests for no roomate, if so, assign a cabin with no roomate. make a list of all cabin assignments posted in several places and update it if people change cabins so we know where to look for people if we need to find them


9. coordinating with teacher--get teachers ok for who jisha is, the schedule, planned services, number of participants, any other input from teacher


10. info camp needs--number of people, special diet needs, time of meals, if we need snacks for tea--what do we need and how much and when--tell cooks there will be a crew of kitchen help-number of people and how long they will work so cooks can pick appropriate jobs


11. working with registrar--regular communication with registrar re scholarships, requests for part-time--if so try to fit parttime people together to make as many fulltime spots as possible, get regular update of who has signed up to help with assigning jobs, ask registrar to make a list with name address phone number and emergency phone number a couple of people at sesshin should have this list.make sure registrar has necessary forms to send out--map to location of sesshin, confirmation letter with list of materials to bring etc, make list of all participants with a note re any unusual arrivals or departures. keep track of fee each person agrees to pay as that impacts scholarships


12. paperwork--need schedules--zendo, ino, tenken, job list, list of services in am, noon, eve, cabin assignments, list of all participants


13. publicity--a couple of months before sesshin, put in northwest dharma news. for local events can use bellingham herald, every other weekly. can also put in dharma hall newsletter, zen gp mailing, our web page and make/distribute flies in various spots around town

14. end of the sesshin--we usually give a thank-you card to the kitchen staff after the last meal so the retreat manager can ask someone to make a card during the sesshin, and maybe bring supplies for same


near the end of the sesshin, check in with the kitchen staff and camp managers to see how things are going and if they have any suggestions for us


after the sesshin is over bank deposits made, dana sent off to the teacher, then a financial summary of the sesshin is a good idea--amount received, sesshin expenses, the difference between the two, and account balances in checking and savings.


CONTACT INFO for Samish Island:

Caretakers are Dwayne and Delta Campbell

email is

house phone 360-766-6386

cell 360-319-1294

other Caretaker’s house 360-766-8125


Notes:      Susan Skorr does scheduling in Seattle

Seattle Office 206-725-3660

PO Box 18469

Seattle, WA 98118-0469


--we may want to do some thinking about an in town sesshin and what is different there—

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