4-H Volunteers Impact North Dakota Positively

What is the value of an adult 4-H volunteer?

Is it the number of hours they spend at a 4-H club meeting each month? Is it the way they mentor a 4-H member in a specific project area? Is it how many 4-H members they recruit in a given year? Maybe the value of a 4-H volunteer is so much more.

The North Central Region 4-H Volunteer Study, recently conducted across a 12-state region, aimed to understand and document the specific value and impact that 4-H volunteers have on the 4-H youth development program and in communities.

The electronic survey was sent to 1,000 randomly selected volunteers in each state and a total of 2,978 volunteers, including 225 from North Dakota, completed the survey. Specifically, the goals were to:

  • Document what individuals believe they gain from their experiences as a 4-H volunteer
  • Investigate the organizational benefits the 4-H program gains from volunteers
  • Assess volunteers’ beliefs about the public value of volunteering with the 4-H program

“We have always known the value of 4-H volunteers, but through this study, we learned their impact goes beyond the scope of the program and leads to changes in communities,” says Rachelle Vettern, NDSU Extension associate professor and leadership and 4-H volunteer development specialist.

The survey research demonstrated three key findings.

1. 4-H volunteers gain personal skills

Volunteers come into the 4-H program hoping to support youth and make a difference, but they also gain skills in teaching, leadership and communication. These skills transfer to other environments in which volunteers work and live.

Survey respondents indicated:

  • 95% built new relationships with youth
  • 87% gained skills that were useful in other settings
  • 82% increased their confidence as a leader 

2. NDSU Extension benefits significantly from 4-H volunteers

Volunteers give their time, talents and energy to the 4-H youth development program. On average, North Dakota’s 4-H volunteers give seven hours per month to the 4-H program in their communities. Annually, that time is worth $2,165 per volunteer.

Survey respondents reported:

  • 89% made connections in the community on behalf of 4-H
  • 85% spoke about the value of the 4-H program
  • 83% recruited new youth to 4-H
  • 70% recruited and helped train new 4-H volunteers

“Extension volunteers are at work in nearly every community in North Dakota and their communities need them,” says Brad Cogdill, NDSU Extension Center for 4-H Youth Development chair. “This study reaffirms that the private growth of an individual volunteer transforms into public benefit and stronger communities.”   

3. Communities are stronger because of 4-H volunteers

Volunteers impact the communities where they live and work. 4-H volunteers network with other volunteers, helping communities and organizations stay better connected. Volunteers donate their time and service to community gardens, retirement homes, cleanup projects, fairs and other civic engagement endeavors.   

  • 93% say volunteering with 4-H makes communities stronger
  • 91% say volunteering with 4-H contributes to better connected communities
  • 87% say volunteering with 4-H improves the health of communities
  • 87% say volunteering with 4-H increases civic engagement

Stutsman County 4-H volunteer Ben Weber says, “The 4-H program has created new friendships that have grown into opportunities for myself and my children.”

Brenda Weber, also a 4-H volunteer, adds, “On a personal level, I have learned valuable leadership skills that extend beyond 4-H, but seeing the kids learn a new skill or take on a leadership role is my favorite part of being a 4-H volunteer.”


For more information:


Rachelle Vettern, 701- 231-7541, rachelle.vettern@ndsu.edu

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