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4-H Youth Development Council Functions

Successful 4-H Youth Development Councils work in conjunction with the 4-H Youth Development Extension Educators to plan and implement meaningful activities for participants. This arrangement results in the creation of a quality, county wide 4-H Youth Development Program. 

Program Planning

The first function of the 4-H Youth Development Council is to help plan a 4-H Youth Development Program that meets the needs of youth and families in the county. The steps to consider during program planning are listed and described at the links below. Programs must be based on the needs and interests of young people and the developmental stages of youth.

  1. Assessment
  2. Program Methods
  3. Implementation
  4. Risk Management
  5. Equal Opportunity
  6. Recognition
  7. Evaluation

Audience Development

Recruitment for 4-H youth programs occurs throughout the year. Recruitment for particular programs may be focused at a special time of the year, but the total program recruitment should take place year round. Therefore, program opportunities need to be available for newcomers having short-term interests. Program visibility and program development make recruitment more successful.

It may be advisable for a 4-H Youth Development Council to focus an audience development effort toward a specific group of young people or adults. Intentionally promoting the 4-H Youth Development Program to new audiences will likely be necessary as the demographics of a community and family lifestyles change. 4-H youth development needs to be available to all members of a community to assure non-discrimination and open access to the 4-H Youth Development Program.

The 4-H Youth Development Council is responsible to guide and aid in promoting the total 4-H Youth Development Program. There should be a written public notification plan that focuses on audience development and identifies specific promotion tasks for each council member to complete.

Volunteer Staff Development 

Supporting the 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator's efforts to provide adequate volunteer development is a significant function of a 4-H Youth Development Council.

The 4-H Youth Development Program will not exist without a significant number of qualified, screened, and approved volunteers. Volunteers with the 4-H Program are also considered to be volunteers of Purdue University. Various roles and opportunities for volunteers are explained later in this handbook.

While it is the responsibility of the 4-H Educator to administer the volunteer program, the 4-H Youth Development Council can work alongside the Educator to assure that there is a group of volunteers who are involved and ready to offer their time and energy to help make their county 4-H Youth Development Program succeed.

Volunteers must be recruited, selected, oriented, educated, evaluated, and recognized in order to be contributing members of the 4-H Youth Development Program. While the 4-H Youth Development Council can provide valuable assistance with the majority of these aspects, the 4-H Educator will have the responsibility to confidentially select and evaluate the 4-H Volunteers, following the policies set forth by the Indiana 4-H Youth Development Program.

A first step the 4-H Council can take with the 4-H Educator is to identify the many different roles volunteers can fill. Orientation of new volunteers is critical, because 4-H volunteers need to know what is expected of them, what skills they will use, and who will help them. The 4-H Youth Development Council can provide 4-H volunteers with ample opportunity to learn and grow. Learning opportunities need to be provided and supported locally and beyond. Learning relevant and appropriate information is a motivator for many volunteers.

Recognition is also critical to a volunteer's continued involvement. Different volunteers seek different forms of recognition. Educational opportunities and local acknowledgement are significant, but tangible awards are also often appreciated. 4-H Youth Development Councils are asked to assure that a well-balanced, relevant, and appropriate recognition system is in place for all volunteers who contribute to the 4-H Youth Development Program. Guidelines to help each 4-H Youth Development Council design appropriate recognition programs are found here.

Resource Development 

The 4-H Youth Development Council has the responsibility to support, in principle and with financial resources, the opportunities available to all youth in the community through the many 4-H delivery methods.

A 4-H Youth Development Council should prepare an annual program budget detailing the projected income and expenses for the fiscal year (January 1 – December 31). If part of these funds are to be provided by local tax dollars, a budget request is normally submitted through the county Extension board to the county council.

To supplement public funds, the 4-H Youth Development Council should also raise private funds, according to approved guidelines, to help support the wide variety of programs.

Below are some general tips and guidelines related to resource development:

  • Volunteers are well-suited for raising funds in support of the 4-H Program.
  • Private donors and public decision makers are interested in the needs and interests of the members of their community.
  • Private donors are careful to listen to people who live, work, and volunteer in their community.
  • Donors will be more likely to give funds to programs or groups that ask for it, that have a well-developed financial plan, and that have a reputation of being fair, community-minded, and well-organized.
  • People give to people. People who are excited, knowledgeable, and involved give of themselves.
  • Members of the Council should consider giving a personal gift to the 4-H Program first, before they ask others to also contribute.

4-H Youth Development Programs need funds to operate, and the 4-H Youth Development Councils are well-positioned to manage a coordinated resource development effort.

Resource Accountability 

4-H is a public organization. Funds received from dues, fund-raising, county appropriations, and other sources are 4-H property intended for the benefit of all 4-H participants. No single member, volunteer, or committee owns these funds.

4-H Youth Development Council members can ensure accountability of funds by following the basic operating procedures outlined in this section. Council members are obligated to document financial activity in accordance with state law and to follow guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture, Purdue Extension, and the Indiana 4-H Youth Development Program.

The "4-H Club/Unit Financial Checklist" incudes basic accounting procedures that the  4-H Youth Development Council and all other 4-H groups should follow to help ensure the appropriate and acceptable use and management of public and private funds given to support the 4-H Youth Development Program.

The local 4-H Youth Development Council is responsible for working with the 4-H Extension Educator to be certain that on an annual basis each 4-H unit (council, club, committee, project group, etc.) completes the following:

  • Maintains a record of its activities (4-H Unit Activity Report Form) including a calendar of events;
  • Prepares and keeps on file a record of its financial transactions and the contributions it has received;
  • Files all necessary state and federal forms (including the IRS Form 990 return by May 15th annually - contact the 4-H Youth Extension Educator for current filing procedures); and
  • Submits an annual report (Annual 4-H Club/Unit Financial Report) to the Extension Educator responsible for the county 4-H program.

Annually, a financial review using the "4-H Unit/Club Financial Review/Audit" form shall be conducted on one-fifth of the county's 4-H units, resulting in a review being conducted for each unit at least once every five years. A review shall also be conducted at any time there is a change in the primary adult volunteer working with the finances of the unit. A signed copy of the financial review results for each club/unit will be maintained in a file in the Extension Office. The Extension Educator will establish the schedule for financial reviews and notify the clubs of the review. Reviews for 4-H Clubs and committees may be conducted by a committee selected by the local 4-H Youth Development Council. Under no circumstances should the members of the financial review committee be related to the adult volunteer who is a signatory on the account.

4-H Clubs and 4-H Youth Development Councils which have completed the required steps to be part of the Purdue Group Federal Tax Exemption Number are considered to have federal tax exempt status. This status means that the participating 4-H groups are exempt from paying federal income taxes and may receive charitable contributions.

Program Visibility

The 4-H Youth Development Council also functions to promote the many different 4-H opportunities. Program visibility is ultimately a link to future 4-H program success. First, if people do not know about the program, they will not participate. Second, if decision makers do not understand what is happening in 4-H, they will become less willing to support the program with both private and public dollars. The 4-H Youth Development Council must promote the program to make sure that the program will remain successful. The use of the 4-H Name & Emblem must be conducted in compliance with federal USDA guidelines. 4-H brand guidelines can be found here. Purdue Extension guidelines for branding and marketing should be incorporated, and can be provided by the county 4-H Youth Development educator. .

Program visibility can be achieved in many ways. Several are listed below:

  1. Assure that all forms of media have timely and accurate information.
  2. Recognize participants in all programs.
  3. Publish information about volunteers' contributions.
  4. Publish complete program information in county 4-H Youth Development materials.
  5. Talk to many people and community groups about 4-H opportunities and accomplishments.
  6. Describe the total 4-H Youth Development Program, program direction, impact, and vision.
  7. Update 4-H social media accounts regularly with timely information.
  8. Publish special flyers explaining new program opportunities.
  9. Ask to explain program opportunities and successes to decision makers.
  10. Become a speaker and an advocate for 4-H Youth Development expansion.
  11. Help conduct a needs assessment and share the results.
  12. Staff an information booth at a community fair.
  13. Design an informational exhibit for community gatherings.
  14. Send program reports to decision makers, including evaluation data and accomplishments.

Developing a positive public image and a community awareness of the program makes recruitment for the program easier. People will want to belong to and join a program that is relevant, has flexibility, and provides an opportunity for achievement and recognition.

Social Media

Social media is technology that is used to connect people with others, and this includes such applications as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat and many more. Social media can be an excellent way to promote the Indiana 4-H Youth Development program, to encourage participation, and to keep connected to other 4-H members and volunteers.

National 4-H Council has 4-H training materials to help 4-H professionals and volunteers learn how to use social media to promote and support 4-H. A free and simple registration is required to access the materials available at http://www.4-h.org/resource-library/4H-marketing-online-resource-center/4H-training-templates/.

For your reference, Indiana 4-H and National 4-H social media sites are listed below.

National 4-H:

Indiana 4-H:

Interagency Programming

The council ensures that the 4-H Youth Development Program is operating cooperatively with other youth-serving educational programs. This includes schools (both curricular and extra­curricular), Boys' and Girls' Clubs, YWCA and YMCA programs, Junior Achievement, church and homeschool groups, etc. It is important for the 4-H Youth Development Council to view the community as a whole and to make sure that young people take advantage of available opportunities and learn to make choices that enhance their personal development. The 4-H Youth Development Council and other youth-serving groups can create a stronger total community by sharing resources, information, equipment, facilities, and expertise.                                                                 

Networking with other Extension-related groups is also important. The process of conducting 4-H Youth Development Programs at the county level is shared by several groups:

  • County Extension board
  • County Extension staff
  • 4-H Expansion and Review Committee
  • County 4-H leaders and other volunteers
  • County 4-H fair board
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources, Health and Human Sciences, and Community Development Educators and Advisory Committees

To be effective, each group must fully understand its own functions, be familiar with functions of the other groups, and be familiar with the relationship among the groups. You may refer to the organizational chart that shows the Extension organization that exists in most counties. It is incorrect to say that a particular function belongs exclusively to any one of the groups in every county situation, even though some functions are normally aligned with each group. The diagram may provide insights into needed associations among the groups.