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!
There’s no one size fits all approach to marketing your 4-H club or letting people know the good stuff that’s going on in 4-H. But, it just got a little easier. Social media can be an efficient way to communicate with 4-H families and also recognize the great things 4-Hers are doing! Like Facebook, you can now have multiple Instagram accounts. I just created an Instagram account for Washington County 4-H, so naturally, I want to make it work for my 4-H program. Here are some tips to make your Instagram page stand out.
Which Type of Account?– Instagram offers three different types of accounts: personal, creative, and business. For 4-H Clubs, the best bet is a Business account.
Think Visual Impact – Facebook is a text/visual platform, Twitter is a text only platform, and Instagram is a visual platform. So use Instagram to share images and videos with your audience. Choose a single image that is impactful, that tells a story, that showcases one thing. Build your post around a single person, an event, behind the scenes, re-post from your followers, motivate, or educational posts on how to do or make something.
Don’t Overshare – Be choosy about which photo you share on Instagram. You might upload an entire album to Facebook, but use Instagram to feature your most dynamic photo. Stay away from posting similar photos, and don’t post more than once a day.
Filters – When you upload your photo, you can enhance it using filters. You can also adjust brightness, contrast, structure, and warmth. Remember, you want that one photo to stand out and be impactful.
Build Your Audience – Let your club members, parents, and supporters know where to find you. Include links to your pages in all of your emails, texts, marketing materials, articles, etc.
Videos – You can also upload videos that are one minute or less in length.
Go Live – Here’s a great way to show what’s going on right now in your club. Share a 4-Her shooting skeet, showing livestock, taking a cake out of the oven, working on a sewing project or practicing a showmanship pattern.
Check out these resources to help you get the most out of Instagram. Be sure to review the UF policies on social media to protect youth privacy, or plan to attend our webinar March 18th at 6pm central/7pm eastern to learn policies, tips and tricks for using social media to enhance your club!
As we look at the ever-changing social media journey, we think how can we keep up? Honestly, we probably never do and that’s okay. Social media can be an efficient way to communicate with 4-H families and also recognize the great things 4-Hers are doing! While you should never rely on only one form of communication to connect with every age group, social media can be an effective strategy. While Facebook is not the “go-to” platform for youth, most parents and community stakeholders are on Facebook. This article covers the basics of setting up a Facebook Group for your 4-H club the right way. Facebook is an approved platform through the University of Florida to use for 4-H, but there are some guidelines that need to be followed:
1. Ask your local 4-H agent to be an administrator with you. Two sets of eyes are better than one and they can help you follow the right path for youth protection and be a resource for correct branding and logos. Also, if your 4-H agent is an administrator, it is really easy for him or her to share posts to the county 4-H page (when appropriate).
2. Create a Facebook Group instead of a Facebook Page for your club. Unlike Facebook Pages, you can change Group privacy settings and limit who can see information. Anyone can follow a Facebook Page whereas a Group can allow only approved members to see information. We must be sensitive to the personal information we share about our youth. How do I create a Facebook group? Steps for creating a FB Group
3. Follow the emblem guidelines for the proper use of University of Florida’s 4-H name and brands. UF IFAS Extension 4-H Graphics. Don’t forget that your club needs to be chartered in order to use the 4-H Name and Emblem.
4. Know who has a publicity release in your club. Youth with no photo release should not be shared in private groups and club leaders who will share information in the group must be aware of these limitations. Participation Release
5. If social media isn’t your “thing,” enlist help from another volunteer! You could also delegate responsibilities to one of the youth officers in your club to help with posting and interactions (with supervision of course).
Now you might be thinking what should a 4-H club talk about on Facebook? How will this Group be helpful? Here are a few ideas:
- Upcoming events
- Sharing of information and questions
- Advertisement for your club
- Recognize youth (if you have parental consent)
- Pictures, videos, and articles
- Challenges and surveys
- Information from the District and State programs
4-H volunteers are the true leaders who help our youth succeed by providing meaningful experiences every time programming is delivered. Our hope is that you feel empowered to incorporate positive engagement with youth by using relevant and innovative communication as technology advances. To learn more about incorporating social media for 4-H clubs or becoming a 4-H volunteer, join us next Thursday, March 18th at 6pm central/7pm eastern for our webinar on social media for 4-H clubs. You can also contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office UF IFAS Extension Office or visit Florida4-H.org.Social Media Tips
Last 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?
- The 4-H program image reflects on its faculty, staff, volunteers and families (and vice versa)
- Positive relationships with the public can open doors and opportunities for 4-H youth
- 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 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:
- Marketing the Club- recruit additional members and volunteers
- Marketing the Project- generate interest in project sales or secure a buyer for a market animal project
- 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:
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:
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:
- Public Presentation Guidebook from Escambia County 4-H (tips for prepared public speaking, demonstrations and illustrated talks)
- How to prepare visual aids
- Clever Clover Communications (games you can play in your club to practice communication skills)
- Grab Bag Demonstrations (grab a bag and do an impromptu demonstration for your club)
- 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.