Iowa 4-H Youth Development programs are delivered primarily through caring adult volunteers, and these volunteers make a positive difference in the lives of Iowa’s young people. However, an Iowa study shows volunteering with 4-H also has a positive influence on the volunteers, whether they’re leading 4-H clubs, helping youth with 4-H projects or sharing their expertise as a mentor.
Iowa 4-H volunteers were surveyed last year as part of a larger study of 4-H volunteers in Midwestern states, said Judy Levings, the ISU Extension 4-H youth development specialist who led the Iowa portion of the study. Volunteers reported that through volunteering with 4-H, they had improved their organizational and management skills, their ability to speak in public and their ability to lead and teach others.
“They felt like valued members of a community and that they belonged to something bigger than themselves,” Levings said.
The following comments are from Iowa 4-H volunteers.
• “My volunteer experience has helped me both professionally and with my family.”
• “It has given me the chance to make many friends and meet some really neat and talented young people, and encourages me to keep giving back to my community.”
• “I realized I had knowledge to give about things I never considered before.”
• “I have learned just as much from the kids as I feel that I teach the kids.”
Iowa 4-H has a substantial core of long-term volunteers and a growing population of shorter-term volunteers, Levings said. Seventy-nine percent of the respondents volunteer 10 to 12 months per year. Overall, volunteers are volunteering from one to 26 or more hours per week. They’re working directly with youth, as well as making phone calls, sending e-mails, traveling and collecting supplies and donations for 4-H.
Fifty-two percent of respondents were age 42 to 51 and another 15 percent were age 32 to 41, but volunteers range in age from 19 to 62 and older. Ten percent had a high school diploma or GED, 19 percent had some college experience, 34 percent had a bachelor’s degree and 15 percent held a graduate degree.
To learn how to become a 4-H volunteer, contact your ISU Extension county office.