Select Page

4-H Club Organization: Club Planning Basics & Roles

Serving as a 4-H club leader is one of the most impactful ways adults can help youth develop into caring and productive citizens. Keeping the club organized can seem like a daunting task, but over the next several weeks, our blog series and monthly webinar will focus on breaking club organization down into simple steps. The foundation of club planning is built on understanding the club year cycle and who-is-responsible for what. Knowledge of these two things is essential for parent engagement and delegation to keep your club running smoothly. This post will provide you with tools and information to help you successfully keep your club organized!

The 4-H Club Year Cycle
How long and how often your club meets depends on the type of club you are leading. Most community, project clubs, and school meet during the school months (August- May). SPIN (Special Interest) clubs may only meet for a few weeks or months (usually a minimum of six to nine weeks). However, all clubs follow a similar timeline. In addition to understanding the club timeline, it is also good to know when district and state events are held. These events are designed to provide opportunities for youth to exhibit or demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have learned and to get feedback to improve. The 4-H Club Planning Guide is a tool for setting club goals, planning the club calendar, and planning club meetings. Sign up for our 4-H in the Panhandle monthly newsletter to receive updates, information and links to upcoming events.

4-H Club Roles
Keeping the club organized is not the sole responsibility of the club leader (but definitely and important one). There are several club roles designed to support club leaders. Before engaging parents and other volunteers in your club, it is a good idea to become familiar with these different roles. That will help you find the right fit to support your club. Trying to do everything yourself will only lead to burnout (and we don’t want that!). You can find a short video outlining the different volunteer roles, as well as service descriptions for each role on our northwest 4-H volunteer website. This video is a great tool to use for your club organizational meeting to help parents and guardians to know how they can support your club. In a future blog post, we will give more tips on getting them engaged to support club work!

For more information on club organization, sign up for our monthly Virtual Volunteer Leadership Academy (VVLA). You can also access a playlist of our sessions on our YouTube Channel. Your local UF IFAS County Extension Office is also a great source of information and support!

Public Relations for 4-H Clubs

4-H Public Relations CalendarLast week, we wrote about ways that marketing can support 4-H clubs, projects and individual members. Marketing is the first step towards public relations. While marketing helps establish general interest in your club, project or program, public relations is about building relationships with people in your community to establish and maintain a favorable public image.

While the 4-H agent works to maintain a favorable overall public image of 4-H, clubs, volunteers, parents and members contribute to that image whether they realize it or not. Why should parents, volunteers and youth be concerned with 4-H public relations?

  1. The 4-H program image reflects on its faculty, staff, volunteers and families (and vice versa)
  2. Positive relationships with the public can open doors and opportunities for 4-H youth
  3. A positive image attracts positive people who are willing to work hard to “make the best better”

How can you support positive 4-H public relations?

  • Share your story– You can support a positive reputation and image of 4-H by sharing your story as a volunteer, parent, member or alumni. It doesn’t have to be a formal presentation either. When 4-H comes up, share why you are a part of it, how it benefits you and how to get involved.
  • Give back to the community– Annually, 4-H asks members and volunteers to give their “hands to larger service” through service learning. Members identify a problem and plan to solve that problem through service. When clubs serve their community, it promotes a positive image of the 4-H program, club and everyone involved. Most importantly, youth are learning generosity and compassion by making their community a better place. Check out this recent post for some COVID-safe service project ideas.
  • Engage with the public– While large community events are not encouraged during these current COVID times, you can promote your club and the 4-H program by tying into National Days. For example, if you are part of a livestock club, you can read a book about agriculture to promote Ag Literacy Week, post your video on social media, and invite teachers to share the video with their students. Not only does this activity reflect highly on your club, it also promotes the agriculture industry. There are lots of opportunities throughout the year to tie into national days. For inspiration, 4-H PR Calendar.

Promoting a positive 4-H image sets the stage for advocacy, which develops support for your club or program. It’s important for volunteers, parents and members to be strong advocates for the 4-H program to secure support from your local decisionmakers and donors. Next week’s post will focus specifically on advocacy, which uses a positive image to take action to support your club.

Marketing, Public Relations and Advocacy: A Pyramid of Support

Pyramid explaining the relationship between marketing (base), public relations (middle) and advocacy (tip of pyramid)

Marketing provides a foundation for public relations and advocacy. All three actions have implications for volunteers, parents and members.

The terms marketing, public relations and advocacy are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. However, all three of these actions support our 4-H clubs and projects. Over the next couple of weeks, we will break down each term and talk about how 4-H volunteers and members can use these actions to benefit their clubs and projects.

Marketing is simply the act of generating interest in your 4-H club or project. It can be through word of mouth, media, or displays at community events or businesses. Public relations goes a step further than just generating interest; it is about promoting a club or program’s reputation and image. Advocacy is the most advanced action of the three, and it is the act of using a program’s reputation and value to generate public and even monetary support.

At first glance, you might think that marketing is the responsibility of the 4-H agent, and it is (at least for the total 4-H program). However, marketing has important implications at the club and individual member levels that volunteers, parents and youth should consider:

  1. Marketing the Club- recruit additional members and volunteers
  2. Marketing the Project- generate interest in project sales or secure a buyer for a market animal project
  3. Marketing your Skills- use 4-H experiences to market workforce skills for your resumé and prepare for school, scholarship or job interviews.

Marketing the 4-H Club

In order to be chartered, clubs must have a minimum of five youth from at least two different families. Marketing is a great way to recruit members for new clubs, but sometimes club rosters may dwindle due to circumstances beyond the volunteer’s or parent’s control such as a change in job, move to a different community, schedule change or even a change in school. A static display at the local library or school or even a press release or social media post can generate new members for your club.

Another reason why volunteers may want to engage in marketing relates to diversity and inclusion. 4-H is a three-way partnership between the federal, state and local governments. As such, 4-H is a non-discriminatory program and annually, 4-H programs must provide evidence that their programs are open to all. If your club is not representative of your community’s demographic make-up, your 4-H agent may ask you to conduct “All Reasonable Efforts.” This is a process to verify that the club has made efforts to engage youth who are representative of their community. Your local 4-H agent can help you identify opportunities to market your club and record those efforts on the “All Reasonable Efforts” checklist.

Marketing the 4-H Project

One of the great things about 4-H is it is a safe place for youth to learn about business and entrepreneurship. Many (if not most) 4-H projects offer opportunities for youth to learn financial literacy skills. Whether it is selling an animal for food, or so that other youth can start a herd or flock, there are opportunities for youth to market their project to generate sales or secure a buyer for their animal. Check out this website from Penn State on tips for identifying potential buyers, drafting a letter to buyers and how to prepare your personal sales pitch.

Marketing Your Skills

To be prepared for work and life, 4-H youth need to learn how to present themselves to potential employers. It can be hard to get that first job or internship when you have no previous experience. Use your 4-H project, leadership and citizenship experiences!  The 4-H “Marketing You” worksheet can help you identify marketable workforce skills you have learning through your 4-H experiences to make you a competitive applicant for a job, scholarship or entry into college or trade school. The Florida 4-H Next Stop Job program walks you through how to:

Ultimate Guide to 4-H County Events

young man demonstrating how to cook a recipe

This young man is demonstrating how to cook a healthy recipe

What is County Events?

4-H County Events (also known as County Showcase) is an opportunity for 4-H youth to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have mastered as part of their 4-H experience. Youth can share what they have learned through several contests, from public speaking, to demonstrations, visual arts, and theater arts. While fairs offer experiences to exhibit what a young person has grown or created, 4-H County Events is an opportunity for youth to demonstrate what they have learned and accomplished because of their project work.

Why does it Matter?

One of the Essential Elements of positive youth development is for youth to have opportunities to master new skills and knowledge. Competitive events provide ways for youth to demonstrate mastery and are part of the Florida 4-H Recognition Model. County Events is also a safe space for youth to get constructive feedback and build confidence and capacity for communication skills.

How to Prepare:

young lady holding awards and ribbons

County Events gives youth an opportunity to practice communication skills, demonstrate mastery, and receive recognition

First, become familiar with the different contests and rules.  Some counties may be offering in-person, virtual or hybrid competitions this year. Check with your local UF IFAS Extension Office for details about your county contest.

Second, host a workshop!  Many 4-H programs offer a day to help youth develop and perfect their presentations. If your local office isn’t providing a workshop this year, you can host one in your club. Here are my top 5 resources I like to use when I teach a workshop for youth:

  1. Public Presentation Guidebook from Escambia County 4-H (tips for prepared public speaking, demonstrations and illustrated talks)
  2. How to prepare visual aids
  3. Clever Clover Communications (games you can play in your club to practice communication skills)
  4. Grab Bag Demonstrations (grab a bag and do an impromptu demonstration for your club)
  5. County Events Virtual Volunteer Leader Academy webinar (January 2020)

Finally, practice, practice, practice!  Practice in front of the mirror, in front of your family, or friends. Clubs will often have a practice day where members give feedback to each other on how to improve.

Cultivating Communication Skills: Non Verbal Cues

Last week, we shared Five ways to Cultivate Listening skills with 4-H youth. These strategies focused on listening with your ears, but did you know that you can listen with your eyes too?  The quote to the left is an astounding fact- much of what we “hear” does not come from the words that are said, but how they are said. We use our whole body to communicate- not just our mouth and ears. Learning how to read non-verbal cues can help us (and the youth we serve) build empathy and understanding, which help us foster a sense of belonging in our 4-H clubs and groups.


What are non-verbal cues?

Non-verbal communication is about how words are spoken and less about which words are used. This includes things like voice tone, pitch and pace. It can also include sounds like yawning, sighing, clapping and hand gestures. For example, someone may be speaking at a normal pace, but you can hear trembling in their voice (which may indicate fear or anger). Body language is a also a great communication cue. This includes not only facial expressions, but also posture.  The infographic to the right is a handy guide for learning non-verbal communication cues.

Tips for “reading” non-verbal cues

  • The eye’s have it! A person’s eyes speak volumes. Look to see if the speaking is making direct eye contact or not. Inability to make direct eye contact can indicate boredom or even deceit. But it can also indicate shyness or lack of confidence. In some cultures, not looking directly into a person’s eyes is a demonstration of respect and in other cultures, it is a sign of disrespect, so be aware of how cultural differences can influence body language.  Where a person looks is telling. People often look to the right when they are using their imagination, but look left when they are recalling a memory.
  • Facial expression is harder to detect, because most people focus on controlling it. Is the person smiling? If so, is it a genuine smile? Sarcastic smile? A slight grimace before a smile is usually the indicator of a fake smile. Tight lips can also indicate annoyance, whereas a relaxed mouth means a positive mood. Covering the face (especially the mouth) often indicates lying. Nodding the head usually means the person is interested, as is tilting the head to the side. Titling the head backwards can mean uncertainty.
  • Hands can leak important information about another person’s thoughts and feelings. Hands in pockets can mean nervousness or even deception. Supporting the head with a hand means that the person is trying to focus on what is being said. Supporting the head with both hands means boredom.
  • Stance and posture provide hints about a person’s attitude. If the person’s feet are pointed towards you, they have a good attitude towards what you are saying. If their feet or pointed towards someone else, that probably means they would rather be talking to that person (even if they are carrying on a conversation with you). In addition to looking at a person’s feet, notice how they are holding their arms. Crossed arms could indicate a closed mind, but crossed arms with a smile normally means that the person is confident and relaxed.

While these tips are helpful, they don’t apply 100% of the time, and should be used along with active listening to foster true understanding and healthy communication.

Strategies for teaching non-verbal communication skills

Take this 5-minute non-verbal communication quiz!

Brainstorm It!  

  1. In one minute, have participants write down as many examples  of nonverbal communication as they can.  
  2. Go around the room and have people share their list, writing down all the  examples. This part can be turned into a competition (inspired by the game Scattergories) by giving individuals get one point for each unique answer they  have. (If no one else wrote down that same nonverbal cue they get a point.) The  person(s) with the most points after everyone has shared wins!  
  3. Review the list and group cues by the following categories:  
    • How words are spoken (tone, pitch, pace),  
    • Body language (gestures, facial expressions, posture),  
    • Non-language sounds (whistling, clapping, sighing),  
    • Visual cues (symbols, motions), and  
  4. Tactile responses (touching)
    Review and discuss. What type of cue was most commonly mentioned? What  cues do you think have the most powerful communication? What cues could be  misinterpreted?  

The Power of Nonverbal 

  1. Ask individuals to work in pairs. One person in the pair will be the designated  speaker and the other person will communicate with nonverbal cues only. 2.) Challenge: The speaker will continue talking (about any subject) regardless of  the cues the other person is giving to two minutes. The non-speaker will roll a  dice to determine what message they will be giving off with nonverbal cues. (If  the facilitator wants to keep the adjectives secret from the speaker, they can  simply whisper the desired cue or have pre-labeled pieces of paper.)

    • 1- Engaged – Super interested in what the speaker is saying!
    • 2- Apathetic – Not interested one bit.
    • 3- Angry – Very opposed to what the speaker is saying.
    • 4- Distracted – Interested in speaker, but really need to go to the bathroom.
    • 5-  Distracted – Not very interested; anxiously waiting for a call, text, or email.
    • 6- Tired – Exhausted and having difficulty concentrating.
  2. After two minutes, have the speaker try to guess what nonverbal cue was  communicated.  
  3. Switch roles and repeat for two additional minutes.  
  4. Discuss and reflect on the impact nonverbal cues have on the speaker  

Decipher the Message 

  1. Search YouTube for some non-verbal communication video clips. Play the video so youth can observe examples of nonverbal  communication.  Some examples are linked below.


2. Discuss possible interpretations (starting with the participants’ perspectives) and  describe why those interpretations are valid. (Share in small groups of 4-5 if the  audience is more than 15 people. Each group can report back to the larger  group.)  

3. If there is an alternative interpretation, the facilitator can share it to emphasize  the importance of context, culture, or other meaning in nonverbal communication.