Impact of Indiana 4-H Volunteers

Indiana 4-H youth development programs are delivered primarily through volunteers. These volunteers are critical partners to the success of 4-H and are making a positive difference in the lives of young people.

Purpose of study

In 2008, the North Central Region 4-H volunteer specialists identified a need to better understand roles and contributions of the region’s adult 4-H volunteers. As a cooperative effort, a survey was developed to gather state and regional data. The goals for this descriptive survey were to identify demographic information for current 4-H volunteers, ways in which adults volunteer within 4-H, the time and personal resources volunteers provide, and the influence the 4-H volunteer experience has on volunteers and youth. Survey results provided by 258 Indiana 4-H volunteers are summarized below:

Key findings from the study

  1. Demanding 4-H volunteer roles are often filled by those in their “peak” volunteer years.
    • 41% are 42-51 years of age; 19% are 52-61; and 18% are 32-41.
    • 38% serve as project leaders; 29% are club leaders.
  2. In general 4-H volunteers have completed more formal education than the general population.
    • 28% have completed a Bachelor’s degree; 29% have some college background. All have completed high school.
  3. Volunteers frequently have a long-term commitment to the 4-H program. However, there is also a growing trend of short-term, episodic volunteers.
    • 41% have served as a volunteer between 1 and 5 years; 23% 6-10 years; and 14% over 20 years.
  4. Volunteers are typically more actively involved in 4-H during the summer months.
    • 46% volunteer 10-12 months during the year. During the school year, 67% volunteer 1-5 hours/week. In the summer months, 35% volunteer 1-5 hours/week, 28% 6-10 hours/week, and 17% 11-15 hours/week.
  5. Volunteers spend nearly equal time preparing to work with the youth as they do in direct contact with the youth.
    • 67% spend 1-5 hours/month planning and preparing for their volunteer roles; 15% spend 6-10 hours/month.
    • 58% spend 1-5 hours/month in direct contact with youth; 19% spend 6-10 hours/month.
    • Additional 4-H Volunteer roles reported include: 1-5 hours per month on councils, boards, and committees, and a median of 19 hours spent in support of fair events.
    • 71% of volunteers reported working with groups of 10 or less for grades K-2; 25% worked with groups of at least 26 in grades 3-7; 26% worked with groups of 5-10 in grades 8-13.
  6. Volunteers make significant contributions to the 4-H program in addition to giving their time.
    • Other contributions reported by volunteers included: making more than 6 phone calls per month (41% of volunteers); sending at least 6 e-mails per month (41%); spending up to $25 on non-reimbursed supplies (36%); making additional financial contributions to 4-H (66%); and traveling 11-25 miles per month for 4-H volunteer-related activities (28%).
    • 52% of 4-H volunteers also volunteer for a faith-based organization, while 43% volunteer for another education or youth-serving organization.

How does volunteering impact the 4-H volunteers?

  • 4-H provides adult volunteers with the opportunity to be involved with youth and youth learning.
  • 4-H gives adults opportunities for personal growth.
  • 4-H enables volunteers to contribute to the 4-H mission and give back to the organization.
  • 4-H provides adults with social benefits including building social capital and community.

Selected comments reported by 4-H volunteers related to 4-H’s impact on their lives include:

  • "I think that I may have learned as much from my volunteer experience in 4-H as the children with whom I have worked. I have become much more comfortable with public speaking and much more aware of issues affecting children and their families. I have had to go outside my comfort zone when working with inner-city children and their families, and have learned that even suburban children and their families face many difficult issues today."
  • "4-H teaches me to be better organized and it allows me to serve youth on becoming better organized. I love working and sharing skills and knowledge with others! I love it that everyone can be successful no matter what their handicaps or disabilities are and that they don't have to be rich to participate. Knocking down barriers to allow access is so important."
  • "I love helping the kids get the full benefits from the 4-H program. 4-H has influenced my life in so many ways including watching the children grow in their understanding of their role in the community and their role as an individual and friend. It also helps remind myself of the responsibility I carry as an individual even as an adult."

How does volunteering impact the 4-H volunteers?

  • 4-H volunteers serve as a positive role model for the youth.
  • 4-H volunteers are able to help, listen, and "be there" for the youth.
  • 4-H volunteers help youth develop community connections, provide service to others, and demonstrate active citizenship.
  • 4-H volunteers help youth learn new content and knowledge that leads to the mastery of a topic.

Selected comments regarding the impact 4-H volunteers believe they have had on the 4-H members include:

  • "The best thing is being able to share knowledge I gained through the 4-H program and give it back to others. I believe the program gives kids so many awesome opportunities to grow and develop their leadership skills, and I enjoy being one of the many people that can help them on their way!"
  • "I try my best to show the parents that it is better to have a blue ribbon member than a champion PROJECT. That is when I feel I have done my best for the youth in our county."
  • "I believe that I have helped the children with whom I have worked gain many valuable skills that they will use throughout their lives. Especially when working with inner-city children, I have been able to show the many possibilities that exist in the wider world & to help emphasize that there are people of different races who do care."
  • "I believe every child in 4-H gets the opportunity to do something that is rewarding and that teaches them so many things. I have actually seen a troubled child do a complete turnaround after joining the 4-H program."
  • "I try to be a positive role model for the youth that I work with. I hope to make a good impression on them to lead responsibly, be a good sport in competition, and learn to treat others with respect."
  • "One family told me that their son's involvement in 4-H and with other 4-H families kept him from joining a gang. Many of my 4-Hers have chosen their college course of study because of 4-H projects. Numerous members of my club have received college scholarships from 4-H or because of their 4-H involvement. Some parents have said that 4-H involvement has brought their family closer together."
  • "I have had many different youth approach me many years after leaving my club and thanked me for pushing them to do things like public speaking because they now have the confidence to communicate effectively with others both personally and in business. I have also had others that have said that they have learned the value of volunteering from watching what we have done as leaders of their club."