Welcome Friends!

The 4-H:  Looking FOURward blog and podcast is dedicated to helping 4-H volunteers make their best better!  To do so, we need YOUR feedback!

Share in the comment section below what you are interested in learning more about as a 4-H volunteer.  Be general or be specific!  Just be sure to share!

Featured post

ABCs of 4-H Volunteer Recruitment

Once you know the specific needs you have for volunteers, the search is on!  Read on for a variety of methods for recruiting volunteers.

Ask:  Find out who your current volunteers know and suggest in the community, and ask them to make the ask. Be sure to include specifically why you think the target volunteer would be a good fit (we aren’t just looking for warm bodies).

Be Present:  (You or your representative).  Civic Organizations, festivals, volunteer recruitment fairs and mixers are all great places to promote your opportunities.

Create the Good:  http://www.createthegood.org/ is a site to advertise volunteer opportunities in your community.

Develop a Recruitment Team: Put your current volunteers to work to find more like-minded people. Give them a goal of how many to reach, and celebrate their accomplishments.

Engage all Forms of Media: Your opportunities through all media streams- print news, social media, email, newsletters, flyers, etc. Engage your volunteers in sharing the message through all streams as well. Make sure your messaging is consistent across all channels.

Focus on Parental Involvement: You already know some of your greatest potential volunteers- parents. Find out what they can give, and create targeted opportunities for them to contribute.

Give Thought to Corporate Volunteering: Many workplaces strongly encourage community volunteering. Hyatt hotels, Nationwide Insurance, Publix, Bank of American, and Allstate Insurance are just a few businesses who encourage volunteerism. Might be a great place to start your database of short-term volunteers (e.g. County Events judges?).

Host a Gathering: Or a shindig, or a kickoff, or a campaign. Invite local people who know people. The movers and the shakers and influencers in the community. Share the good work of your program, and where you desire to go. Charge attendees to find people they know who fit the bill, and make the ask for you.

Idealist: https://www.idealist.org/ includes a special section to advertise for volunteers.

Just Speak Their Language: Youth Development, trajectory to thrive, land-grant, most of the words we use every day in our organization mean NOTHING to a potential volunteer. Ask them if they want to help kids. If they want to make a difference. If they’d like to see their community improve. Determine their motivation.

Kinship Volunteers: Most people enjoy volunteering with their friends. Consider targeting existing groups- Running Club to assist at your 5K, Photography Club to run a photo clinic or sponsor a photography club, etc.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn has a segment of their site dedicated to nonprofits, which can be used to search for volunteers: https://nonprofit.linkedin.com/

Mini-Campaigns: Instead of casting a broad net, target your efforts to find the specific volunteers you determined you need to help your program grow.

Nice and Easy: Think about how you would choose to donate your valuable leisure time. Chances are you’d want to be around nice people (everyone a prospective volunteer encounters should be customer-service minded) and make onboarding, training, etc. easy as possible. Yes, we want quality control. But we also must be reasonable with our expectations.

Open to All: Our programs are, and so are our volunteer opportunities. Check out this resource for increasing the diversity of your volunteers: http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/recruiting-and-retaining-divervse-base-volunteershelpers

Points of Light: A quick search of Gainesville opportunities at http://www.pointsoflight.org/ shows some great volunteer opportunities for Girl Scout Troop leaders.

Questionnaire: Develop (or find) a volunteer interest survey that can be handed out, dropped off, or found on your website. Engage your volunteer recruitment team in following up with those who are a match for current needs.

Recruitment of Broad-Based or Targeted Volunteers: The type of volunteers you are seeking will dictate some of your recruitment approach. Check out: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/broad_based_and_targeted_volunteer_recruitment_what_works for more information.

Skill Based Volunteers: Maybe you could benefit from someone with grant writing or marketing experience? Or perhaps they are a 4-H alum who grew up being active in livestock showing and wish to stay involved. Look for talented people and determine how they can advance your efforts.

Team up with your current volunteers:  Chances are your current volunteers have people in their networks who might be prime candidates for volunteering. Work with your volunteers to create a list of individual, and then have volunteers make the ask to those they know.

University Volunteers:  If you are lucky enough to have a school of higher learning in your community, use it! Engage with faculty (Colleges of Education often require student to earn volunteer hours), to find students who will intern or volunteer for your causes. No, they may not lead a club. But they might host a day camp, serve as a judge, or take over your social media account. It’s good for you and it’s good for their resume.

Volunteer Match:  Probably the most famous of the volunteer matching sites on the web: https://www.volunteermatch.org/

Web:  Make sure your web presence (including social media) is up-to-date. Potential volunteers will go looking for more information if they are interested.

X-tra Small Volunteer Gigs:  Some people just want to donate their lunch hour. Check out: http://skillsforchange.com/ for microblogging opportunities.

Youth First, Volunteers Second:  This defies traditional logic, but I’ve seen it work.  Start something (e.g. a really cool project club), at the first meeting let parents know you are getting it started, but that you need to turn it over by meeting 2 or 3 to someone else, so you can focus on your other programs.  If you get the kids hooked, parents will buy in, IF you make it simple enough.

Zealous Goal:  People like to be a part of something big. World’s Largest Baby Shower, and World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, are just two projects which have used this to their advantage. What if we had the World’s Largest Science Experiment (4-H NYSD) of the World’s Largest Youth Led Community Service Day. Hook candidates with a day of fun, then find a continued place for them in your program.

What volunteer strategies have worked for you?  Share your ideas and successes in the comment section!

Helping Youth Find their Spark

Sparks are the individual passions of a young person.  Think of a young person who has a strong interest in technology or animals- they are expressing their spark.  Often in 4-H we see that manifested through their participation in a 4-H project in that area.

Research shows that sparks help youth develop as they give them a sense of direction and encourage goal setting.  Adults in a young person’s life, like 4-H volunteers, can play an integral role in helping youth find their sparks.

Check out this video from the California 4-H program which demonstrates how to have intentional conversations to help youth uncover their sparks:  Spark Video.

For more information on sparks you may also check out this fact sheet from Oregon 4-H:  Youth Sparks.

Planning Project Club Meetings

Are you in charge of your next 4-H Project Club Meeting?  Whether its a photography, poultry, rocketry, or another project club– check out this helpful source for designing memorable 4-H Project Club meetings for your members.  There are some excellent strategies included for keeping your 4-H members active and engaged throughout your entire time with them.

Project and Meeting Design Kits

The Olympics as a Platform for 4-H Sportsmanship and Global Education

I have a medal count poster hanging in the kitchen.  I have printed the  Opening Ceremony BINGO cards.  I just ordered copious amounts of Korean snacks online, and I have pinned an embarrassing number of patriotic decorations on Pinterest.

February 9-25 marks the 2018 Winter Olympic games and this “teachable moment” offers many applications for teaching concepts such as sportsmanship, citizenship and civic engagement to 4-H youth.

Fair play is an important component of the Olympic spirit.  Likewise, 4-H members have the opportunity to exercise their sportsmanship skills through a variety of competitions and events.  It’s our responsibility as leadership to guide them as they develop as competitors, and more importantly- good human beings.  For ideas on sportsmanship education, check out:

Michigan State 4-H Sportsmanship Activity Series

Pennsylvania State 4-H: Developing Sportsmanship

Colorado 4-H: Sportsmanship for Participants

Show Me Character: Sportsmanship

An impressive total of 92 countries are expected to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics.  This global showcase brings to light just how big (and yet small) this world really is.  This is a great opportunity to play upon youth interests in this area through diversity and global education.  For ideas for your next club meeting, check out:

4-H Games Around the World

Exploring Citizenship VII: My World

Windows to Asian Culture

Diversity: The Source of our Strength Curriculum

Pennsylvania 4-H: Diversity Activities for Youth and Adults

…And My World

Que Rico! Latin Cultural Arts

Finally, If your 4-H members are ready to take it to the “next level” share with them the opportunity to travel internationally with 4-H:
Florida 4-H States’ Exchange International Program



Cultivating Youth Voice

Youth voice can be refers to the knowledge, opinions, and ideas of young people.  In 4-H, we value youth voice because:

  • It is good for us (youth offer a unique perspective)
  • It is good for youth (opportunities to exercise voice will increase their own abilities)

However, cultivating youth voice isn’t always easy.  Ever stand before a group of youth and asked for their ideas and been met with blank faces?  That is because you have to build the culture of youth voice within your 4-H club.

For ideas on how to build such a culture, check out:

Youth Voice Tip Sheet

Keys to Youth Voice

Creating Safe and Supportive Environments for Youth Voice

Creating Youth Adult Partnerships:  This for-purchase curriculum can be downloaded for FREE and includes activities you can use at your next 4-H club meeting!

Helping Yourself (and others) Resolve Conflict

I get a lot of calls in the office about conflict.

Now, that is not at all to say that I’m constantly resolving conflicts, but rather- conflict is something that makes all of us a little uneasy.  To be honest, I am able to respond to the majority of these calls with a simple quote:

“Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”– Steven Covey.  

Because in truth, a large portion of the conflict I hear about is the result of misunderstandings, misconceptions, and assumptions.  In our busy, busy world it can be difficult to stop and take time to process all the details we need to be aware of to determine the true root of a conflict.

As squeamish as we may be about conflict, the reality is that it is also necessary and healthy. However, conflict can also be malicious and misguided.  So of course (and you  knew this was coming) the trick isn’t to always avoid conflict, but rather- manage or reframe it.

And just how, you ask, do you do that?  Check out the following resources:

Reframing Conflict from Missouri 4-H.  This document shares lesson plans and activities that can be used with youth and adults.

Michigan 4-H: Do Youth Need Conflict Resolution Skills?  An excellent four-part series!

Understanding and Dealing with Conflict:  Conflict resolution activities for 4-H youth.

4-H Club Managment: Managing Conflict:  From Wisconsin 4-H.


4-H Demonstrations Through PowerPoint

I vividly recall creating posters for my 4-H demonstrations as a child.  Spending hours tracing stencils and cutting out pictures.  Bonus points for managing to not rubber cement yourself to the poster board!  This laborious process was necessary however, if you wanted great visual aides for your 4-H demonstration.

ENTER POWERPOINT.  (These kids today… they’ll never know how good they have it).

Now its seemingly much easier to create several slides (instead of posters) to demonstrate the key points for a demonstration.  When used effectively, PowerPoint can indeed be an extremely useful tool.  However, the 4-H’er must learn how to use the tool appropriately.

Some suggestions for using PowerPoint with 4-H demonstrations:

  • Much as with posters, I recommend:  a title slide, objectives/introduction slide, at least one slide for each main point,  a conclusion slide, and a bibliography slide.
  • Use more photos and less words.  In many cases, the less words the better.
  • Be careful with body placement.  It is common to want to shift your body toward the screen as you are sharing a slide with an audience.  When possible 4-H members should practice with a screen so they learn to consistently face their body and face toward the audience instead of continuously glancing back at a screen.

For more helpful hints, check out:



4-H Demonstrations: A Guidebook

4-H demonstrations, illustrated talks, and speeches have historically been (and still are) a core component of the 4-H experience.  Generations of young people have repeatedly reported that one of the most valuable skills they gained through 4-H was, you guessed, it- public speaking skills.  However, until you have experienced them firsthand it can be difficult to know how to coach the 4-H members you work with on these events.

Fortunately there is a guidebook to assist!

Check out:  Do a Visual Presentation  for more information and check back later this week for additional coaching tips when working with 4-H members to prepare demonstrations.

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