7.1 What is a 4-H Club?

7.1.1 4-H Club Definition:

A 4-H Club is an organized group of at least five youth from three different families who meet regularly with adult volunteers or staff for a long-term, progressive series of educational experiences.

7.1.2 4-H Club Purpose:

The purpose of a 4-H club is to provide positive youth development opportunities to meet the needs of young people to experience belonging, mastery, independence, and generositythe Essential Elementsand to foster educational opportunities tied to the Land Grant University knowledge base.


7.2 Structure of a 4-H Club

  • Enrolls at least 5 youth members from at least 3 families.
  • Conducts a minimum of 6 regular club meetings per year, with many holding 9-12 regular meetings throughout most or all of the year, and often supplemented by project meetings, camps, fairs, and other 4-H learning activities.
  • Selects youth officers or youth leaders to provide leadership to the club.
  • Meets in any location -community center, library, public housing site, school, afterschool program, military installation, and/or many other places that is easily accessible to all participants.
  • Adapts to and supports mobility of youth and parentslinking them to 4-H programs in other counties and states.
  • Meets interests and needs of youth in same-age or cross-age groupings and using single project or multiple project formats.
  • Is advised by adult staff or volunteers who have been screened and trained.
  • At least two approved adult volunteers/staff are present before the first youth arrives and after the last youth leaves.


7.3 Starting a 4-H Club

  • County 4-H Extension Educator determinesthe need for a 4-H Club in the geographic or subject matter area.
  • Recruit, screen, and approve Adult 4-H Volunteers to lead the club (at least two are needed).
  • The 4-H Volunteer will sign the standardized 4-H Club Constitution.
  • The 4-H Volunteer will sign the letter authorizing the 4-H Club to be included in the Purdue Group Exemption Number.
  • Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS using the SS-4 Form template and instructions described in the Financial Management Policies Section.
  • Submit 4-H Club name, contact name, EIN, and signed documents to State 4-H Office (electronically is preferred) for inclusion in the PU GEN records and in 4-HOnline.


7.4 Program Management and Implementation for a 4-H Club

A 4-H Club:

  1. Selects its own club name. Club names must:
    1. Be specific to the 4-H club or organization either through a unique name or by identifying the county or location;
    2. Not be overtly religious or represent the beliefs of one denomination over another;
    3. Not imply that membership is limited or exclusive; and
    4. Not be offensive or generally seen as demeaning to any group protected by equal opportunity regulations.
  2. Develops a set of by-laws or rules approved by the members to govern the club (optional).
  3. Develops an annual educational plan.
  4. Keeps records of their meetings and finances and submit to financial reviews on county schedules.
  5. Complies with applicable state, Land Grant University and USDA-NIFA policies.
Several resources are available to help clubs as they operate. These are located at: https://extension.purdue.edu/4-H/volunteer/resources-and-development/club-resources.html.


7.5 Chartering 4-H Clubs

From United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture:

The 4-H Charter, issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and signed by the Secretary of Agriculture’s designated representative, is the only document that officially recognizes a 4-H Club and its use of the 4-H Name and Emblem for the conduct of 4-H Youth Development programs. The official 4-H Charter, issued by USDA, is obtained from the Division of Youth and 4-H at USDA NIFA. State and local charters that do not include a USDA signatory, are not considered official 4-H Charters.

Land Grant University 4-H offices are expected to maintain documentation on the issuance of 4-H Charters to 4-H Clubs within their respective boundaries. Charters should be issued when establishing a 4-H Club. With 4-H Clubs that have been long established, and verification of a valid Charter is not available, issuance of a new 4-H Charter is necessary.

A 4-H Charter is an agreement by the 4-H club and the Division of Youth and 4-H at USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. And it is an agreement by the club with the Land Grant Institutions’ State or Local 4-H Extension Office to follow and abide by all state and local 4-H policies, procedures, and other requirements.

4-H Charters are agreements within the context of the overall 4-H Program. 4-H Charters do not qualify a 4-H Club as a legal entity according to state government and business policies and definitions. 4-H Charters do not allow a recognized 4-H Club to share their rights and privileges with any other person, group, or business.

The USDA NIFA Division of Youth and 4-H Charter, once issued, will be valid for as long as the 4-H entity receiving the 4-H Charter exists. If the 4-H entity disbands, separates into multiple entities, or changes its name, a new charter will need to be issued. The USDA does not mandate a Charter expiration date. Additionally, even with a change in the USDA designated representative, the USDA 4-H Charters remain valid. However, 4-H Charters may be revoked at any time by the Land Grant Institutions’ State or Local 4-H Extension Office for failure by the club to meet any aspect of the agreement.

From Indiana 4-H/Purdue Extension:

Each 4-H Club that has signed both the authorization letter and the standardized constitution (see below) to join the Purdue Federal Tax Group Exemption Number, and that has a unique Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, will receive a 4-H Club Charter. This charter serves to verify the legitimacy of the 4-H Club and provides it with authority to use the 4-H Name and Emblem under the auspices of the 4-H Youth Development Program of Purdue University.

It is the responsibility of each 4-H Youth Extension Educator to maintain a current, master list of 4-H Clubs that have been chartered. Upon dissolution, renaming, or combining of a 4-H Club(s), the 4-H Educator will notify the State 4-H Program Leader to ask that the 4-H Club Charter be removed from the statewide list. If applicable, a new charter may be requested for combined 4-H Clubs.

Each 4-H Affiliate (e.g., 4-H Council, 4-H Fair Board) obtains official recognition and authorization to use the 4-H Name and Emblem by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the respective Purdue Cooperative Extension County Office. No 4-H charters will be issued to 4-H Affiliates.


7.6 4-H Club Documentation

7.6.1 Constitution

Each 4-H Club will sign the standard 4-H Club Constitution as a part of joining the Purdue Group Exemption Number for federal tax-exempt status. The approved 4-H Volunteer appointed to serve with the 4-H Club may submit the completed constitution. The constitution needs to be submitted one time only.

7.6.2 4-H Club Authorization letter to join Purdue Group Exemption Number

Each 4-H Club will have a signed authorization letter on file, indicating the club’s desire to join the Purdue Group Exemption Number. This letter will be signed by an approved 4-H Volunteer, appointed to serve with the 4-H Club. This letter needs to be submitted one time only.


7.7 Guidelines for 4-H Club Finances

Guidelines for handling 4-H Club Finances are included in the Financial Management section. These include annual financial report, financial review/audit, treasurer’s report, IRS procedures, and fund-raising guidelines. Financial Management forms are available through the 4-H Extension Educator. It is crucial that 4-H Clubs maintain an accurate accounting of their finances and are transparent in their reporting to the 4-H members and their families. 

7.7.1 Financial procedures Annual financial report Financial review/audit Treasurer’s reports 

7.7.2 IRS Procedures Obtain EIN Annual reporting

7.7.3 Fund raising

NOTE: Forms referenced in this section are available through the 4-H Extension Educator.