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Our Volunteer Philosophy

Here in the Florida Panhandle, we recognize what an important asset our volunteers are. Volunteers extend the reach of 4-H, but more importantly, they are an essential part of the positive youth development process. While our programs are led by Extension faculty, our volunteers create communities were youth can learn and develop emotional and workforce skills to help them grow up to be caring citizens and productive members of society and the workforce. This week happens to be National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and there’s no better way to kick off our volunteer celebration than to start by affirming our volunteer philosophy.

4-H in the Panhandle encourages the teamwork of faculty, staff, and volunteers so that we can offer Florida youth and families the best services possible. Volunteers contribute their unique talents, skills, and knowledge of our communities to provide personalized attention to youth, enable faculty and staff to focus on achieving the overall educational outcomes of the total 4-H program, and educate the public about 4-H and its impact.

Volunteers really are the heart of 4-H. All week, we will be highlighting some of the amazing volunteers who are working with us to make a difference in their communities and in the lives of young people in Florida. Videos with the highest numbers of “likes” and “shares” on the 4-H in the Panhandle FaceBook Page will win 4-H swag bags for the volunteers featured. The contest will be open through the end of April 2021.

If you know of a 4-H volunteer who has made a difference in your life or community, consider nominating them for recognition on our blog or social media. While this week is National Volunteer Appreciation, we believe in recognizing excellence in our volunteers all year long. Contact your local UF IFAS Extension 4-H agent to make a nomination. Last but not least, check out our volunteer appreciation videos from last year!  We have a playlist of 33 videos, recognizing 142 volunteers in 2020!

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.