More than once I’ve heard, “In 4-H we are concerned with the quality of our programs, not the quantity.” Every time I heard this it both shocks and scares me. YES, I believe in quality programs. YES, I believe that quality leads the way toward quantity. Most importantly, I believe that if we have quality programs, we have a responsibility to reach the largest quantity of youth possible.
Now, now two specifics in that last sentence:
- IF we have quality programs…
- …we have a responsibility to reach the largest quantity of youth possible.
You have to have a solid foundation on which to build a sturdy house. The same holds true with 4-H programs. Are your current programs of high quality? Ask yourself:
- How are my organizational strategies? You know- those things that have to happen in order for a 4-H program to happen. Things like- volunteer recruitment, training, and management, fund development, and marketing. If these are not functioning, you cannot build.
- How are my current core programs (Clubs, Camp, County/District Council, County Events)? These are the programs that our traditional supporters expect from our programs. You’ve likely heard the saying, “Dance with the one that brought you.” Well, it is important that our traditional clientele (ex: community club members) feel well supported before we start creating new programs.
Growth needs to be sustainable. To grow just for the sake of growing is irresponsible. It’s irresponsible to your clients in that you cannot maintain an effective level of support, and it’s not fair to you to struggle to maintain that which is not sustainable. Some things to ask yourself:
- Am I really working at my maximum capacity? This is hard, but be honest with yourself and for yourself.
- If I am working at my maximum capacity, what can be removed/changed in order to make room for a broader reaching program?
- Do I need to streamline organizational systems (ex: volunteer onboarding) to free up time for other efforts?
- Is there a program that I’m putting a lot of time into, with little reward?
- Is there a program that has the potential to reach many more youth, if I focused more effort on it?
The next few posts on the blog will focus on these topics of growth- both what is possible, and what is advisable. Over these next few weeks I invite you to take a critical look at your county program, the programs of your colleagues’, and the state program, as we determine what “Sustainable Growth” looks like for Florida 4-H and the Northeast Extension District.