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Keep Your Members Coming Back for More!

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will identify strategies that lead to successful community club experiences for youths.
  • Participants will list the key components of a strong 4-H club.

Essential Elements: Belonging, Independence, Mastery and Generosity

“It is clear that community 4-H club meetings must offer true, valuable experiences for members in order for 4-H to be a vital and meaningful in the lives of young people.”

The 4-H club model is designed for youth members to lead 4-H community club meetings with caring adults serving as advisors in supportive roles. 4-H club opportunities directly affect the types of experiences that youths will have in 4-H. This is especially true for the beginning members. Carefully crafted 4-H club meetings are vital to youths’ success with the experience. 

Youth Leadership

Club officers have an important responsibility to their club, the 4-H program, and to the public. Youth members make the club’s decisions, with leadership provided by the club’s officers. The Growing Up Speaking Up fact sheet shares ideas for youth engagement. Adult volunteers are present as advisors, project leaders and facilitators to nurture and guide the youth leadership process. (England, et al 2008)

Elected youth officers must understand that they are responsible for planning, managing and implementing the club’s business and programs. Officers must learn and carry out the duties of the office, attend meetings and club activities, actively represent 4-H in the community, and let the leader know if they are unable to attend a meeting.

Youth develop life skills in the following areas when they serve in leadership roles.  

  • Planning and organizing skills
  • Teamwork, leadership and social skills
  • Communication and public speaking skills
  • Self-responsibility and decision-making skills
  • Record keeping and management skills

Making it Real

Strong clubs have in common proper planning, good communication, fun activities, teamwork, a welcoming environment, following 4-H guidelines, and wise use of time together (England et al, 2008)

Proper Planning - High quality youth development experiences don’t just happen - they are carefully planned. Before the club year begins, the 4-H club volunteer leader and the officers should meet to complete the following tasks:

Review the duties of each officer.

  • Set annual club goals for membership, programs and community service. This can be accomplished as a planning meeting with all members.
  • Develop a year-long club program calendar.
  • Plan the club budget.
  • Planning should occur monthly before each meeting.
  • The president works with the volunteer leader to formulate the meeting agendas.
  • Touch base with the secretary to ensure that the minutes are complete, ready for the meeting, and include the necessary items (new and old business, motions made, the treasurer’s report, and committee reports).
  • Touch base with the treasurer to ensure that all financial items are in order and a treasurer’s report is complete and ready to share with the membership.
  • Have the details been coordinated for the planned educational program?
  • Are volunteers ready to lead any planned community service activities, recreation, etc.?

Communication - Members needs a copy or online access to the club’s annual plan. This keeps everyone on the same page and lists responsibilities and expectations for each member. These expectations can include a monthly breakdown of who is responsible for the following: refreshments, readings, demonstrations, community service activities, recreation, programs, clean-up, etc. A club must create a plan for reaching out to members about information, updates, cancellations or short notice meetings.

Offer Fun activities - It’s important that 4-H club meetings are fun!  Recreation and programs, planned by the recreation leader or teen leaders, will be successful if they are hands-on, physically active, and fun. Activities that allow members the opportunity to get to know each other, make new friends and enjoy each other’s company, build relationships among members and improve member retention. If a guest presenter is invited, the program should be engaging, hands-on and provide information on topics of interest to most members.

Practice Teamwork - During 4-H club meetings youth officers and volunteer leaders must work together as a team. Clear communication, expectations and follow through are essential for a positive experience for all participants. Work together with team members on all activities including the set-up and clean-up of the meeting space.  

Create a welcoming environment
- A survey of first-year families indicated that a lack of understanding of the 4-H program, and never feeling welcome or part of the group, were major contributors to a family’s decision to drop 4-H (Astroth, 1985).

  • Greet members, parents, and guests as they arrive.
  • Be aware and offer help as needed to members and their parents or guardians.
  • Be ready to answer questions and assist new or younger 4-H members as they become acquainted with 4-H terms. They will have questions and be unsure about activities.  

Follow the Rules and Meet Deadlines - 4-H clubs must provide physically and emotionally safe environments for members. Ensure that all volunteer paperwork and training is up to date and maintain proper volunteer to member ratios. As a youth event, it’s important to submit all required items by the deadline to the faculty member in charge of 4-H in the county. This can include, but is not limited to the following:  fundraiser forms, budgets, secretary and treasurer books, sign-in sheets, and an annual 4-H club year plan. Submitting items in a timely manner and keeping volunteer paperwork up to date will ensure the club complies with extension’s guidelines. Fiscal responsibility also falls into this category. All 4-H clubs must follow WVU’s Best Financial Practices to ensure a transparent process.

Use Time Wisely - Families and youth members live very busy lives. It’s imperative to the success of the 4-H community club that the club meeting is considered time well spent. We can help ensure this when:

  • Meetings start and end on time,
  • The business meeting runs smoothly and efficiently,
  • Distractions during the meeting such as talking, unsupervised underage siblings, etc. are limited, and
  • Meaningful, worthwhile educational programs and community service activities are planned.  

Club Tool Box

Remember these tips when planning for your successful 4-H club year:  

  • PLAN
  • Communicate
  • Expect youths to lead
  • Make sure meetings are fun
  • Practice teamwork
  • Be welcoming
  • Follow the rules and meet deadlines
  • Use time wisely


  • Astroth, K. (1985). The Challenge of Retaining 4-H Members. Journal of Extension [On-line],  23(3) Article 3FEA4.
  • Cassels, A., Post, L., Nestor, P. (2015). The 4-H Club Meeting: An Essential Youth        Development Strategy. Journal of Extension [On-line], 53(1) Article v53-1a4.
  • England-Lord, S., Coleman, R., Hartley, D., Tate, D., Lipscomb, J., Post, L., Whitt, M., Pollard, M., Nestor, P., Woloshuk, J. (2008). Handbook for 4-H Club Officers: Leaders Guide. West Virginia University Extension Service, Morgantown, WV.
  • Lewis, K., Ewers, T., Miller, J., Bird, M., Borba, J., Hill, R., Rea-Keywood, J., Shelstad, N., & Trzesniewski, K. (2018). Addressing Retention in Youth Programs: A Survey for Understanding Families’ Experiences. Journal of Extension [On-line] 56(3) Article v56-3tt3.National 4-H Peer Reviewed Checkmark of Approval.
Authors: Kelly Hicks, WVU Hampshire County Extension Agent, and Michael Withrow, WVU Berkeley County Extension Agent
Published: September 2022

Strong 4-H Clubs Series passed National 4-H Peer Review in February 2022