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How to write a thank you note

How do you know when it is appropriate to send a thank you card? Have you ever received a gift from someone? Did a volunteer donate their time for an event or for a club meeting? Are you in 4-H and someone purchased your project animal at auction? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should have written a thank you note to them!  It does not just have to be a life changing event, such as a wedding, birthday, or baby shower, that warrants a thank you card. Whenever someone has done something nice for you, it is definitely worth sending them a thank you card.

Writing thank you notes is a skill that many people should have, but many overlook. What exactly do you need to say in your thank you note? Here is an easy guide for a few things that you should include in your thank you note, regardless of the reason you are writing it!

Make sure that you start off by thinking of why you are writing a thank you note! Thank you notes let the individuals know that you care, that you are proud of your accomplishments, or make them feel appreciated for something that they have done for you!

  1. A decorated academic cap at commencement. Photo taken 04-29-17.

    Make the letter personal by starting with a salutation. Address the individual(s) by their name. If it is someone that you are well acquainted with, it is alright for you to address them by their first name. If it is someone that you are not as familiar with, stick to Mr., Mrs., Ms, and/or Miss last name. Below are a few examples of how to address someone:

Dear Aunt Renae,

Dear Lilly,

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Leonard,

  1. Get right to the point and express your gratitude. Some examples could be:

“Thank you so much for your generous wedding gift.”

“Thank you for the birthday present.”

“Thank you for donating your time at the Horse Club Meeting.”

“Thank you for purchasing my steer at the Calhoun County Livestock Show.”

  1. Maybe mention a specific detail or two. There is no need to exaggerate about their gift, but tell them what it might be used for or what you appreciate about it. Here are a few examples of things to say.

“I am so excited to get to use the birthday money on my upcoming trip to Disney World.”

“I’ve had my eye on a smoothie maker, and now I am a smoothie making machine!”

“We are saving the wedding money to help build our future home together.”

“The knowledge you shared at the meeting is incredibly valuable and the kids were soaking it up!”

“I am going to save the money from my 4-H steer project in my college fund.”

  1. Look ahead to the future. You may be excited about your trip to Disney World or the new smoothie machine, but make sure they know that you appreciate them or enjoyed working with them. If you are likely to spend time with them again in the future, this is a good way to move your letter towards wrapping up.***This suggestion may not apply to every letter.

“I can’t wait to have dinner with you again.”

“I’ll be up that way here in a few months and would love to see you.”

“I am interested in the position and look forward to hearing from you soon.”

“We cannot wait to have you teach us again at the club meeting next month.”

  1. Wrap it up with another thank you and sign off. Make sure that your letter is clear, you want to thank them for their time, donation, money, etc. You do not have to use fancy language to end your letter.

“Thank you again for thinking of us on our special day!”

“Thank you for being so generous to our organization.”

“Again, thank you for spending your time with us.”

Albert the Alligator Florida Gator mascot holding a thank you sign. Photo taken 11-16-16.

Make sure to end your letter appropriately, whether that be professionally or casually.

“Warmly,”

“With love,”

“Sincerely,”

 

When in doubt, write a thank you card. Your recipient will feel extra special that you want to show them your gratitude!

Creating a Sense of Belonging in 4-H

Like me, you make ask, what is a “sense of belonging”? Have you ever felt out of place when going to a club, meeting, or gathering? Do you remember how it made you feel? Maybe you were nervous, had a funny feeling in your stomach, a knot in your throat, or weren’t sure if you belonged?

Volunteer working with youth. Calhoun County Animal Science Camp 2021

One of the essential elements of 4-H Youth Development is belonging. Youth members need to know that they are important to you, cared for by others, and feel a sense of connection to the group they are in! As a facilitator of a 4-H activity, whether that be volunteer, adult, or Extension agent, it is important to provide youth with a safe, inclusive environment when participating in groups. When the facilitator creates a space where youth feel physically and emotionally safe, youth tend to form positive relationships with their peers and role models.  Feeling connected to others will affect their behavior, mental health, academics, as well as other life skills. Creating this sense of belonging for all participants is a solid foundation to build a program on!

Now you may be asking, how on earth can I create a sense of belonging?

Since you are the adult facilitator in this setting, it’s your job to provide youth with the opportunity to feel safe during activities. To do this, use discussion questions that engage all the youth members, and encourage them to learn from each other. Below are a few ideas to foster this sense of belonging.

  1. Welcome new members. Youth who are already part of the group will feel more comfortable than those that are just starting. Assign existing members a role in welcoming newcomers, similar to a welcoming committee. 4-H and other group activities like team sports, can be overwhelming because there is a lot of information given, so think about preparing welcome packets for new members or families. These packets could include information on how to enroll in 4-H Online, club calendars, brochures, frequently asked questions, contact information, and more!
  2. Ice breakers. Ice breakers and team building activities are really important to help all members feel

    Calhoun County Animal Science Camp Ice-Breaker. What is Agriculture? Summer 2021

    comfortable with each other! These types of interactions help build relationships within the group. These are helpful when a group is just starting out, as well as continuing to build bonds overtime. Being deliberate in choosing these types of activities will help any group feel more cohesive. Adjust the activity to suit the group that is participating. Keep it simple for cloverbud age youth (5-7) or add challenges if the group is older or has been together for a period of time. “Ice breakers, get acquainted games, or even roll calls that ask questions about member’s interests (answer roll by making the sound of your favorite animal) can help members get to know each other better.” (Kent, 2015)

  3. Create a safe space. It may seem easy to create a safe space for youth and other adults but it’s much more difficult in practice! We all think about keeping youth safe physically, but what about the emotional aspect of safety? We must be aware of “microaggressions”, which is defined as a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority. As a leader, you will want to be able to identify these so you can educate and redirect the situation. It is our job, as adults, to help youth, and other adults, understand the impacts of their words. Creating a shared set of ground rules for everyone to follow can help everyone feel comfortable, knowing the expectations of the group as well as having a voice in creating the space.

    Intro to Animal Handling- Gulf County Summer Camp 2021

  4. Encourage engagement. Engaging youth members can be done in multiple ways! Various options include using discussion questions, club committees, or even silly ice breaker games – anything constructive to grab and hold their attention. Using discussion questions allows youth to learn from each other while also encouraging a sense of curiosity for life-long learning. Having different committees allows for smaller work groups, which is much less intimidating than a single large group. It is easier for opinions and thoughts to be heard in a smaller setting. Ice breakers may seem silly, but they are a fun and wonderful way to get youth involved.

While a sense of belonging is important for youth, it may take some time and intentionality to create the space to provide the sense of belonging. Our youth members come from all different walks of life and as the adult leader, you must think about the challenges youth may face that makes them different.  Some youth may look different physically; some may come from a family that has never done 4-H; some may have experienced trauma; some may have special needs.

A 4-H club, program, or activity can provide a space that youth belong to, as well as allowing them to learn invaluable life skills. Adults, volunteers, and agents are essential to creating this space, while also helping other members see how to increase the sense of belonging for others. What will you do to help make all members feel welcome?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/essential-elements-of-4-h-belonging

Creating a Welcoming Environment in 4-H Clubs

 

 

10 Ways to Volunteer with 4-H

Youth with 4-H volunteer4-H offers many different ways for volunteers to get involved. No matter how much time you have, volunteering with 4-H makes a difference by helping youth grow skills and knowledge that last a lifetime. Here are a few ways you can engage as a volunteer with 4-H:

  1. Help youth lead a club- our 4-H clubs are led by youth officers and members, but they need adult guidance. Most clubs meet once a month during the school months, but some clubs meet more frequently for a shorter period of time.
  2. Teach a skill- share a skill by speaking at a club meeting, teaching a workshop, or leading a project. Florida 4-H offers more than 60 different project areas!
  3. Judge projects- we need judges to provide constructive feedback to youth on their project work.
  4. Plan or help with an event- 4-H offers many events throughout the year and we need volunteers to help with the planning, set up, registration, refreshments, and of course- clean up!
  5. Serve on an advisory committee or board- each county has an advisory committee to help provide direction and financial oversight of 4-H funds.
  6. Be a project mentor- Advise a 4-H member on their project work- help youth set goals, implement a plan, and reflect on what they learned.
  7. Help deliver a program- Volunteer at an afterschool project, summer program, or school garden.
  8. Serve on a fair committee- Volunteer with your local or regional fair to help provide learning experiences for youth.
  9. Share your professional skills- share your technical skills and knowledge with youth. Coach youth on how to build a resumé or interview for a job. Volunteering with 4-H can also be a great resumé builder!
  10. Share your experiences- share your passion by serving as a guest speaker or short term instructor. Allow youth to shadow you for the day.

Check out this video about different 4-H volunteer service roles:

You can also find detailed descriptions of these service roles on our 4-H club hub site. 4-H can work with you to tailor a service role that fits your interest and schedule. Whether it’s once a week, once a month, or once a year, 4-H needs caring adults like you to inspire the next generation. Contact your local UF IFAS Extension office to start a conversation about how you can contribute to growing #TrueLeaders!

Exploring the Origin of 4-H

Have you ever wondered how 4-H came to be?  4-H has a rich history that started in the late 1800’s (around the time of the civil war). The Morrill Act of 1862 gave each state in the US land for agriculture research and teaching. This established the land grant university system.  The second Morrill Act in 1890 made racial discrimination illegal for land grant universities receiving federal funds….unless a separate institution was established and maintained. This second Morrill Act gave rise to many of the historically black colleges. However, university researchers struggled to get these new practices adopted by farmers. Adults just didn’t trust new technology, but young people were. So researchers took these new practices into public schools and provided hands on lessons in the hopes that the new concepts would be shared at home and adopted on the farm.  These early 4-H clubs were known as Tomato or Canning Clubs for girls and Corn and Pig clubs for boys.

boy with corn

National 4-H Historic Preservation Project. Marius Malmgren , a member of a corn club in Virginia, grew 209 bushels of corn on one acre in 1912 when national corn yields averaged only 45 bushels per acre.

Before there was 4-H, agriculturally based youth clubs began in 1902 as a result of these hands on agricultural learning experiences, years before Cooperative Extension was created! Specifically in Clark County, Ohio and Douglas County, Minnesota, youth clubs were born. The Corn Growing Club for example, was an after-school club. Fairs also began in this same year allowing a venue for youth to share what they had ‘learned by doing.’ To honor youth’s efforts, Jessie Field Shambaugh created a four-leaf clover pin to honor the efforts of the youth. In 1910, the H was added on each leaf of the clover and shortly thereafter the title ‘4-H Club’ was born.

The original mission of the 4-H club was to introduce school aged youth to the agricultural community in which they lived with the intent of helping youth to gain practical, hands on experiences and aid with becoming productive members of their communities. These clubs empowered youth by teaching them valuable life skills enabling them to be better prepared for their transition to adulthood.

Cooperative Extension was born as a result of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. As a result, 4-H became a nationwide club opportunity, and the clover emblem was adopted. Otis Hall, a state leader from Kansas created the 4-H pledge that was adopted in 1927 at the very first National 4-H Camp held in Washington DC. The motto ‘to make the best better’ was also proposed by Miss Carrie Harrison and adopted that same year. The 4-H pledge is still used today with one small addition in 1973, the words ‘and my world’ added to the end.

In less than 50 years, specifically in 1959, the National 4-H Center was opened and provided trainings and experiences for volunteers, youth, and professional staff. Eventually, the National 4-H Foundation and the National 4-H Service Committee merged to create today’s National 4-H Council. This rapid growth is a testament to the important positive youth development role 4-H has provided. Sadly,

4-H will celebrate it’s 120-year anniversary in 2022! Today, 4-H proudly serves youth from rural to urban areas and everything in between. Experiences still include school enrichment, agriculture, and livestock related projects, but have also branched out to include science, robotics, food safety, healthy living and more. From such humble beginnings, 4-H has grown and adapted to remain relevant while continuing to offer educational opportunities to teach concepts and skills guiding today’s 4-Hers to become productive citizens.

4-H and Extension have had (and continues to have) a huge impact on our country. Teaching today’s 4-her’s about the rich legacy of our organization can help develop a sense of belonging and connection. Focusing on 4-H history can also build excitement and anticipation for our 120th anniversary next year. Here are a few ways you can incorporate some 4-H history into your club meetings this fall:

  1. Share this video at your next club meeting. What was different about 4-H back then?  What is the same?

2. Design a fair booth highlighting 4-H History in your county

3. Ask 4-H alumni from different decades to come speak with your club. Ask them to bring photos, record books, and memorabilia to share with youth. Help youth prepare questions in advance about what alumni did and learned when they were in the program. Talk about what is different, and what is the same.

4. Host a 4-H history quiz bowl. The National 4-H Historic Preservation Project has lots of information. You can also refer to Florida 4-H: A Century of Youth Success (your local 4-H office or library most likely has a copy you can borrow).

5. Work with your 4-H agent to form a committee to plan your countywide 120th anniversary celebration.

10 Tried & True Strategies to Foster Family Engagement in 4-H Clubs

4-H youth around a campfireParents, grandparents, and other family members are assets to the 4-H program. One of the best things about 4-H is that it promotes (and welcomes) family engagement! And there are benefits of family involvement- Duerden et al. (2013) found when adults were involved in youth programs, it strengthen family relationships and improved parent-child communication and bonding. Family involvement is a win-win-win for youth, adults and volunteers!

 

 

 

Make them Feel Welcome– Just like you would do for youth, make adults and other family members feel welcome!

  1. Encourage them to participate in get to know you games, or introduce them to other adults associated with the club.
  1. A parent meeting at the beginning of the club year is a great idea to help new parents feel like part of the group.

Communicate Clearly– Communicating with parents is essential. In fact, in a survey of new 4-H families in Florida, communication with the club leader was a major factor in whether or not the families returned to the program the following year (Hensley, 2020). Try these strategies to build strong communication with families.

  1. Set up clear lines of communication with parents by asking them how they prefer to receive communication. Some clubs use social media, texting apps (like GroupMe or Remind), or email. Find a method that works for your 4-H families.
  2. Make sure the club schedule works for everyone and that the location is accessible for all.
  3. Give each family a copy of the club program calendar, and ask another parent or club officer to send out reminders before meetings.

Help them Learn 4-H– 4-H is a large organization and has something for everyone, which is great!  But it can also be a little overwhelming when you are new to the program.

  1. Explain the club cycle, such as when things normally occur during the year (service projects, fundraisers, competitions, awards programs, camp). That way, they can plan ahead and set goals for engagement.
  2. Ask a seasoned 4-H family to mentor a new 4-H family. This can help them learn about the program, and identify things that their children will want to participate in.

Discover their Skills, Knowledge & Interests– New 4-H families may think that they need special training or experience to contribute to the club. As a volunteer, let them know that we all “learn by doing” and everyone has something to contribute!

  1. Use the parent interest survey to find out how the adults might be willing to serve.

Identify Tasks and Make the Ask

  1. Make a list of things that you need help with, then write each item on an index card (one item per card). Ask each family to select one or two items they are willing to be responsible for by writing their name on the back of the card.

Make Individual Asks for More Complex Tasks

  1. Reach out to parents individually (when they are not distracted) and share some of the tasks you need help with that are a little more complex. For example, you may need a parent to help train club officers, teach parliamentary procedure or work with the service learning committee. Provide any resources they may need (such as an officer handbook or service learning guide) and let them know that the 4-H office will provide support for them in this role. If the task requires a level II background screening, then be upfront about that.

References: 

Duerden, M. D., Witt, P. A., & Harrist, C. J. (2013, Winter). The impact of parental involvement on a structured youth program experience: A qualitative inquiry. Journal of Youth Development, 8(3), 1-17. Retrieved August 31, 2018, from jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/88.

Hensley, S. (2020). Florida 4-H Retention Study.

Three Ways to Increase Parent Involvement

4-H club leaders are amazing instructors and terrific at running club meetings and events, but this job can be very time consuming. They deeply appreciate all the help they can get from the parents of the club members to help make the club even more successful. Even something as little as picking up snacks for a meeting or leading a group at a judging event can be a huge lifesaver. In addition, there are benefits to parent involvement.  When parents, grandparents and other family members get involved in supporting 4-H clubs, it strengthens family relationships by improving “parent/child communication, bonding, and perceptions of one another” (Duerden, Witt, & Harrist, 2013).  In addition, research shows that family involvement  “prolongs the experience’s positive post-participation effects” (Duerden, Witt, and Harrist, 2013, p. 1).

Aside from the benefits listed above, it is important to recognize reasons why parents volunteer. There are three types of motivation: achievement, affiliation and power (Atkinson and Feather, 1966). Henderson (1981) found most 4-H volunteers to be motivated by affiliation.  Individuals motivated by affiliation value relationships with people and organizations.  Affiliation-motivated volunteers would respond best to thank-you notes, verbal praise or informal “pats on the back.”  One of the best ways to recruit parents or grandparents to help with clubs is to provide opportunities for them to develop positive relationships with other parents, members, and volunteers. Here are two simple suggestions for recruiting more parents and grandparents:

  1. When advising parents to sign their child up on 4-H Online, mention that they can also create their own profile so they can get involved as well. Make sure when you are recruiting new youth to your club, to also be very welcoming to their parents and encourage them to stay for the meetings and programs.  Give them a copy of the club program calendar so they know when the meetings are and what is on the agenda.
  2. Introduce parents to other parents.  Help them build connections with each other. Better yet, ask a more experienced parent to mentor new parents.
  3. Let parents know you welcome their involvement and give them the Parent Involvement Form. This form will allow parents the opportunity to see all of the different jobs and responsibilities that they can do to help the club succeed and sign up for the things that interest them. This will help you as a club leader to have a little less on your plate and allow the parents to help get involved with their child’s interests.

Every chance that you get to be involved in 4-H, whether you are a youth, parent, or club leader, you are giving your community a brighter future. All of the opportunities that 4-H provides will help build youth into positive members of society one day. So, club leaders, go out there and recruit the parents of your club members to help out and make your programs even stronger! Next week, we will talk about how to engage parents in your club!

References:

  • Duerden, M. D., Witt, P. A., & Harrist, C. J. (2013, Winter). The impact of parental involvement on a structured youth program experience: A qualitative inquiry. Journal of Youth Development, 8(3), 1-17. Retrieved August 31, 2018, from jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/88.
  • Atkinson, J., & Feather, N. (1966). Theory of achievement motivation. New York: Wiley.
  • Henderson, K. (1981). Motivating the adult 4-H volunteer. Journal of Extension. 19(1). Retrieved from: http://www.joe.org/joe/1981january/81-1-a4.pdf