The Massachusetts 4-H Foundation and the UMass Extension 4-H program are planning a bright future for 4-H. And not just planning—the Foundation and Extension are working together to build a stronger, better-funded support system for the volunteers, staff and educators who make 4-H such a great experience for our youth.
The Foundation has provided more than $1.3 million in funding to 4-H programs in the past 5 years. Now the Foundation’s Trustees have committed an additional $250,000 over three years to chart a stronger course for Massachusetts 4-H, through an initiative to build public awareness and position the organization for future growth.
Over the past six months, Trustees and 4-H Educators, working with the help of an outside professional, began by forming an Integrated Marketing Team (IMT), with smaller working groups to determine the best approach to advertising, legislative relations, publicity and other critical topics. Also, an extensive market research survey was conducted to collect information and impressions from volunteers, parents and staff— these results are being analyzed and will help refine the overall plan.
At the Foundation’s Annual Meeting, Trustees and Educators shared their initial, four-month progress report with the 4-H community.
Massachusetts 4-H Advantage
The Foundation chose 4-H Advantage as the banner theme for its initiative to build awareness and support growth.
“4-H Advantage helps us to tell the story to people who don’t yet know the benefits of the Massachusetts 4-H,” said Trustee Charles McColough, introducing the program.
“Potential sponsors need to hear about the positive youth development and the wide range of programs that 4-H provides. They need to understand how they can access the strong 4-H network of community relationships. 4-H Advantage gives us a common reference point to wrap the benefits in a package,” explained McColough. “When I’m calling a potential donor or sponsor, I’m communicating opportunities, a whole menu of ways that companies, organizations and individuals can be part of 4-H Advantage.”
Summing up, Massachusetts 4-H Advantage:
• Grows 4-H Resources
• Supports 4-H Programs
• Widens the 4-H Circle
Volunteers Top the List
Massachusetts 4-H has a tradition of strong volunteerism and lean staffing, so IMT working groups had a lot to learn about the workings and potential benefits of administrative functions—public relations, digital and social media, outreach to peers, market research and others—all with the goal of increasing effective support for 4-H programs and volunteers.
The need to recruit and support volunteers tops everyone’s list of priorities.
“We want to continue to encourage the 4-H club model. The long-term relationship between a 4-H club leader to the club members is invaluable,” said Trustee Sherrie Guyott, speaking of behalf of educators on the team.
“Our volunteers need more support and we’re excited about working with the Foundation to widen our circle of contributors and ensure the necessary funding. “We’re also exploring alternative delivery methods, such as working with collaborators,” she said. “Libraries love us—we arrive with well-researched, prepared programs. Also, our SPIN (special interest) programs, offer short duration volunteer involvement.”
The marketing team will continue its work to develop a comprehensive public relations program, create 4-H banners and signage, update and improve marketing materials, widen the circle of sponsors and get out the message about the 4-H Advantage.
Raising the Funds
Trustees and Educators know that every person involved in 4-H today makes a maximum contribution with minimum resources, so expanding the available resources is a top priority. Building on the 4-H Advantage theme, the team will develop an aggressive campaign to increase funding levels for the General Fund as well as for the Foundation’s Endowment Trust. Find out more, including details on joining the Heritage Circle, in the Compass, Spring 2014 issue.