Providing Quality Experiences for Volunteers

Esther Boe  |  7/29/2019 7:56:50 PM

Deshotel Girlsjpg4-H programs across the state rely on volunteers as key team members for almost every experience and opportunity. Volunteers provide stability to parish programs through years and even decades. With a new 4-H club year about to begin, it’s a great time to also recruit and train new volunteers. Our more seasoned volunteers are critical for this goal as well.

Traditional roles for volunteers include 4-H Club Leaders in schools and Advisory Committee Members. Another avenue to bring in wonderful volunteers is with project clubs. These clubs coincide with the needs of the parish or a focus area that has been identified as a program area that is of interest to 4-H club members. These include livestock, shooting sports, robotics, sewing/fashion, gardening, healthy living (cooking, exercise, making good choices), art, and so much more.

Project Club Leaders aren’t necessarily a new twist, but they are definitely a way to generate new life and encourage more participation. Let’s pretend that we want to develop a new Rabbit Club in the parish.We would go through the steps outlined below:

Step 1: Identify Need - the parish advisory committee has identified small livestock projects as a basis for youth to learn responsibility and a way to increase enrollment of the livestock program. A list of 4-H members has been developed by a pole of families through a doodle survey.

Step 2: Identify Volunteer - the 4-H agent, along with community stakeholders, are in a good position to identify volunteers to be asked to participate in the development of a new Rabbit Club. Parents, grandparents, store owners, or business people should all be considered. Locating the right people to start the club will go a long way in the success of the youth.Individuals who have knowledge, time, and resources should be considered.

Step 3: Recruit Volunteer - simply asking an individual face to face is a meaningful way to recruit volunteers. Often electronic emails, texts, and social media, fall flat because they are impersonal. During the recruiting process, it’s important to be honest about time commitments and expectations. If time commitments are minimized, the potential volunteer will feel tricked or disrespected.

Step 4: Train Volunteer - after a volunteer has agreed to step up to leadership, it’s time to train them on the project area as it relates to 4-H. Risk management and safety are a priority for everyone. Location of meetings, insurance, transporting animals, and the rules of the state livestock program should be part of training. Volunteers should be encouraged to follow the procedures set in place by the state 4-H office and the 4-H agent needs to outline appropriate and expected behavior.

Step 5: Agent Support - Project resources, regional trainings, social media campaigns, and newsletter access are all ways that an agent can support a volunteer in kicking off a new project club. Providing good feedback and thorough communication are also key elements in providing support. Volunteers and agents should work together on project club schedules and marketing.

Step 6: Impacts - Participation in 4-H project clubs is a deliverable method for reaching youth, however, it doesn’t stop there. In fact, this is just a beginning. How can youth put their 4-H project to good use? Below is a list of ways that a youth can share their knowledge:

  • Hold a mini-presentation at their 4-H club.
  • Submit a record project book in the Records’ Only contest.
  • Participate in 4-H University with an Ag Demo.
  • Collaborate with junior leaders to host a summer day camp.Rabbit Camp!
  • Attend parish, region, and state livestock shows.
  • Attend rabbit shows outside of the LSU AgCenter.

As you can imagine, a project club can take on a life of its own as more and more youth begin to take interest and belong. Volunteers allow 4-H programs to reach so many more youth than what a 4-H agent can work with alone. Consider taking the leap and beginning a new project club. Cheers to a new club year!

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