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!
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 Mr. and Mrs. Leonard,
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.
When in doubt, write a thank you card. Your recipient will feel extra special that you want to show them your gratitude!
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.
- 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!
- 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)
- 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
- 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?
Creating a Welcoming Environment in 4-H Clubs
The “secret sauce” for successful 4-H clubs is often the not-so-secret time management skill of the club leader. Time management is a learned skill. This week’s blog post will explore strategies for time management. One important detail about time management – what works for one person may not work for everyone. Choosing time management strategies that suit the person increases the likelihood that these skills will become permanent, frequently used tools in a personal “toolbox.”
Teaching Time Management Skills
One strategy to learn a time management skill is to teach it. Both club members and volunteer leaders can benefit from learning and practicing time management skills. Youth and adults alike can begin with some basic elements of planning to start developing time management skills.
To complete a time management activity during a club meeting, the following items will be needed: a weekly schedule template, a Post It adhesive flipchart or a white board/chalkboard, pencils/pens, scratch paper for note taking.
Write the five elements of S.M.A.R.T goals on the flipchart or white board:
S – Specific
M – Measureable
A – Attainable (or actionable)
R – Relevant (or realistic)
T – Time-bound
During this activity, participants will learn about time management, scheduling, and goal setting. Begin the activity with a task. Ask adults and youth to consider and write out their schedule for an average week. Use a weekly schedule template so that everyone can use a visual organizer to describe their individual schedules. There are a number of free schedule templates online. One free option is available from Microsoft office: https://templates.office.com/en-us/schedules.
Once everyone has completed their schedule, ask each participant to write down a personal goal related to school or 4-H. Then, explain the S.M.A.R.T goal concept. Next, ask everyone to consider their goal within the S.M.A.R.T framework. Does their goal fit the five elements of a S. M.A.R.T goal? Why or why not? If their goal needs to be adjusted, what changes should be made?
After discussing several different goals, ask everyone when the time is scheduled to work on achieving this goal. Spoiler alert: very few of the participants will include anything related to the goal in the initial weekly schedule draft.
During the next phase of this activity, introduce one or more time management strategies from the blog resource list to the group. Engage participants in discussion about which strategies might be effective for them than others.
Setting Individual Member and Club Goals
Conclude the meeting by setting short and long term goals. What do members want to accomplish by the next club meeting? What goals do club members want to achieve for the year? Time management is a skill that can be practiced and improved throughout the 4-H club year. Be sure to schedule in time to report on progress toward goals as part of 4-H club business meetings.
After a year like 2020, there is lots of excitement and anticipation around the arrival of 2021. Here at 4-H in the Panhandle, we have been making plans to grow together with our 4-H families and volunteers over the next several months. This past year has been tough, but 4-H members, volunteers and families are resilient! We have decided to go back to the basics and focus on building skills that every 4-H agent, staff, volunteer and member needs to be successful in 2021 and beyond. The Volunteer Knowledge and Research Competencies are six essential skills that every youth and adult needs to be successful 4-H leaders. The skills include: communication, organization, 4-H program management, educational design and delivery, positive youth development strategies, and cooperative interpersonal characteristics. Each quarter will focus on a different skill. Our blog articles, social media posts, and webinars will all focus on building that skill into our personal, professional and most importantly- 4-H culture! Each week will will have tools and videos to help our 4-H community across the panhandle grow.
We are kicking our series off with communication skills- one of the most basic, but most important skills to have! Over the next few weeks, we will dig deep into cultivating listening skills, speaking skills, writing skills, advocacy skills and how to use social media effectively (and safely) to communicate the value of your 4-H club or project. To take advantage of this series, you will want to make sure you are signed up. We have intentionally provided several different ways you can receive materials (and it is all free of course!).
- Follow us on Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest (Twitter and Instagram coming soon!)
- Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, 4-H in the Panhandle, with links to all of our blogposts, videos, checklists and tools
- Sign up for our monthly webinar, where we meet to network, share and develop our skills
We hope that you will join us on our journey this year to build strong 4-H clubs, programs and communities across the panhandle of Florida! For more information about your local 4-H program, please contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.
Volunteers are a vital part of the Florida 4-H program, and we want to provide our volunteers with the tools needed to be a successful volunteer with your county 4-H program. 4-H Agents in the Northwest District developed a Volunteer Resource Site this year to assist volunteers in their roles. A large part of volunteer success comes from training and preparation, as well as, having access to relevant resources and materials to assist you in your role. The Volunteer Resource Site contains valuable information to prepare, train, and provide support in your role. There are three main sections to the site and you can explore what you will find in each section below. A virtual tour of the site is also available and can be accessed by clicking here.
Not a volunteer, but interested in how to become one? This section is where you want to start! There is a short video available on how to become a 4-H volunteer along with more detailed step-by-step instructions. You will also find a link to five volunteer orientation videos provided by Florida 4-H. After making contact with your county 4-H Agent to learn what volunteer roles are available in your area, come back to the volunteer site for a direct link to create your volunteer profile in 4-H Online.
Florida 4-H offers a variety of ways you can volunteer with the program. Under this section of the site you will find a short video discussing the potential volunteer roles. The Serve page also contains direct links to position descriptions of each role for you to further explore each volunteer opportunity. Each position description lists the purpose of the role, your duties and responsibilities, basic qualifications you will need, the resources we will provide you, benefits of volunteering, and the time commitment. The different types of volunteer roles can vary by county and it is recommended to contact your county 4-H agent to learn about the role opportunities in your community.
This section contains critical resources on specific topics related to your role as a volunteer. We understand that volunteers have busy schedules, therefore, each training item has the completion time listed with it. This allows 4-H volunteers to plan their trainings based on their own schedules. You will find resources on 4-H club management, events, risk management & safety, club meetings, and more in this section.
The Northwest District Virtual Volunteer Leadership Academy training and resources can also be found in this section. You can review the training schedule for the Volunteer Leadership Academy, register for trainings, and watch previously recorded webinars. The Virtual Volunteer Leadership Academy is offered to volunteers and those interested in becoming a volunteer. This series provides monthly webinars to learn new information and skills that will positively impact 4-H youth.
It also allows you to network with other volunteers in the NW Extension District and participants have the potential to earn a social media digital badge!
4-H judging teams are a wonderful way to help youth learn life skills such as decision making, teamwork and public speaking. These events are also a way for youth to demonstrate mastery of subject matter skills. Florida 4-H offers a wide variety of judging contest opportunities. Because there are so many contests, it can be a little overwhelming for 4-H volunteers, however, there are simple strategies you can learn to teach any type of judging contest. While the subject matter changes from contest to contest, how you prepare young people to learn the material and compete is the SAME! One you master these simple strategies, you can coach any type of judging team. Join us Thursday, October 15th at 6PM central/7PM eastern to learn how to incorporate judging teams into your club program. Brian Estevez and Aly Schortinghouse, 4-H agents in Escambia County, will present the program as part of our Virtual Volunteer Leadership Academy Series. For more information, or to register, visit http://bit.ly/4HVVLA.
Also, check out some of our previous blog posts about the impact of our judging programs…