Why become a 4-H volunteer?
Nationally, a combined network of over 500,000 volunteers provides caring and supportive mentoring to 6 million 4 H members, helping them grow into true leaders. Volunteers are managed through each local 4-H office.
Volunteer with Massachusetts 4-H to help grow true leaders in your community, and empower young people with skills to lead for a lifetime. Share your skills, expertise, knowledge and creativity with young people in your community. You do not need to be an “expert,” just be willing to work with young people! Volunteers are stewards of the Massachusetts 4-H Community and representatives of UMass Amherst. Volunteers serve at the discretion of the Massachusetts State 4-H Program Director in conjunction with the UMass Extension Director.
Contact your local 4-H office to learn how you can get involved.
Being a 4-H volunteer is challenging, fun and personally rewarding! Listen to what some 4-H volunteers have to say about it:
“As an outdoor science club leader, I am charged with the responsibility to teach children why it is important to reuse, recycle, limit our demand for natural resources and do what we can to protect nature. It’s a rewarding feeling when I see these children turn around and teach the same lessons to their parents.” Charles Chase, Nature’s Navigators Science 4-H Club
“Being a 4-H leader is so fulfilling; there is nothing like watching a child reach his/her potential and then pass on their knowledge to other kids. This is better than any other experience I have ever had.” Cathy Acampora, 4-H Dog Program
“I volunteer for the 4-H program to meet and work with like-minded people and to give back to the organization. Each year as I watch new children enter the program, I am reminded of the positive influences on my child and am motivated to strengthen the program and create opportunities for others.” Pieter Van Slyck, Plymouth County 4-H Advisory Council
“I love being a 4-H leader because it is kind of like being a coach. Instead of a sport, I get to teach these youth how to be knowledgeable, confident and independent for life.” Meghan Riley, Sheep Start and Ruminators 4-H Club
You can dedicate as much or as little time as you are able to volunteer with 4-H: an hour, a week, a month or a year! There are so many options for giving your time! You might consider
- Being a chaperone at a 4-H event
- Leading a 4-H club
- Offering a professional skills training for young people
- Helping at a 4-H fair
- Conducting an online 4-H workshop
- Becoming a mentor
- Judging at a visual presentation, fair, or other event
- Participate in a 4-H volunteer advisory council or board
No matter your availability, there’s a 4-H volunteer opportunity waiting for you!
I think I want to volunteer! What do I do?
- Check it out! Learn more about the 4-H program and if it is a good fit for you. You must be 19 years old to be a volunteer and at least 21 years old to be the primary leader of a 4-H club. Teens under the age of 19 may be junior leaders but must enroll as a 4-H member.
- Decide! 4-H is for you if you have an interest in working with young people, learning along with them and helping them grow and develop.
- Contact your local 4-H Educator. Check out the office locations for the office closest to you and get the contact information for the 4-H Educator there.
- Meet with your local 4-H Educator. He or she will meet with you at your convenience to answer any questions that you have and guide you through the following application process.
- Completing a volunteer application
- Providing three references
- Completing and passing a CORI Background Check
- Passing a Sex Offender Background Check
- Completing orientation meetings with the local 4-H Educator.
4-H volunteers are trained and supported by knowledgeable UMass Extension professionals who are there to help them every step of the way. All 4-H club leaders have access to a variety of UMass Extension resources, including instructive workshops, educational curricula, and ready-to-use activities, all of which enable and prepare volunteers to make an impact on youth across the state. No matter the topic, you’ll get the help you need!
Great, now you have decided to share your time and talents, have fun with young people and make a positive difference in their lives!
How to Start a 4-H Club
How do I get started?
- First, you must successfully complete the application process including a CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) check. Your 4-H Educator will inform you when this process is complete.
- Then, you will meet with your local 4-H Educator for an orientation.
- Work with your 4-H Educator to decide on the details: the age group you will work with, projects your group will do and when and where your club will meet.
- Plan an information session for new 4-H members and their parents. That’s it—you’re on your way!
Who can be a 4-H volunteer?
Volunteering is a responsibility and a privilege. Any adult with an interest in young people is welcome to apply to be a volunteer. You do not need to be an "expert." Parents, professionals, homemakers, teachers, youth leaders, and other caring adults serve as 4-H volunteers. Adult volunteers “Learn by Doing” along with the 4-H members they work with. Former Massachusetts 4-H employees may serve as volunteers at the discretion of the State 4-H Program Director and they are required to follow the standard volunteer application process. Former employees are expected to observe a 6-month post-employment moratorium before applying to become a volunteer. All applicants must pass a background (CORI/SORI) check in order to volunteer.
What does a 4-H Club Leader do?
He or she:
- Works with the members to plan club activities and events.
- Chaperones youth activities and field trips.
- Facilitates education through “hands-on” learning experiences.
- Supports and creates local community service opportunities.
- Serves as a role model and mentor for youth.
- Teaches youth important life and work skills.
- Shares his or her special knowledge and interests with young people.
Are there other 4-H volunteer opportunities?
Yes! 4-H volunteers also serve on Advisory and Program Councils, teach workshops, raise funds, recruit new members or volunteers, judge at fairs and contests, or work with an Educator as a middle manager organizing and implementing events. Volunteers also serve on camp and fair boards. 4-H is flexible and volunteer work can be suited to a variety of lifestyles!
How is 4-H unique?
4-H is unique because:
- You work with young people in a home- or community-based setting.
- You select the focus of your club’s activities and determine the size of your group.
- You decide on your level of involvement, based on your skills and time available.
- Programs involve connecting family and youth in their local community setting.
- All programs are co-educational.
- Your child can find his or her special talents, gain confidence and practical life skills for the future.
What support is available to 4-H leaders?
Youth development and project literature is provided to 4-H volunteers at little or no cost. You may view the list of curricula available in your local office on this site. Volunteer workshops take place at the regional and state level on a regular basis. 4-H volunteers receive on-going support from University of Massachusetts Extension 4-H Educators.
What are the benefits of volunteering for 4-H?
- Guiding young people in hands-on learning experiences that help increase confidence and self-esteem.
- Accomplishing more within the tried-and-true 4-H organization than you might be able to do on your own.
- Building new organizational and personal alliances.
- Working together with young people on issues both you and they care about.
- Being part of building strong, vital communities and families in your local area.
- Experiencing good times, learning from youth and discovering something new about yourself and others.
- Increasing your interpersonal and professional skills with non-profits and volunteer organizations.
- Knowing you are part of a successful one-hundred-year-old organization which conveys youth development skills and knowledge through a world-wide volunteer network.
- Having access to the extensive library of National 4-H curriculum.
- Being a local representative for high-quality 4-H programs based on UMass Amherst and Cooperative Extension teaching and research.
- Knowing that your volunteer work helps the University reach into many local communities to increase practical skills and knowledge and improve support for youth families, and communities in Massachusetts.
- Becoming part of USDA’s premier youth development program.
- Receiving stipends, matching grants and other support for your group through the Massachusetts 4-H Foundation, the Massachusetts 4-H program’s private partner.
- And most of all, you’ll gain the satisfaction of knowing that you have worked to make a positive difference in a young person’s life.