Record keeping: Determine the purpose – Part 2

Explore how to keep good records and what youth need to get started.

In the first installment of this article series, “Record keeping: Learning the basics – Part 1,” we explored what “record keeping” means and what youth gain from developing this skill. The first step to take when youth are actually ready to begin keeping records is to determine the purpose of the record. There are many different purposes and many different ways to keep records.

In the Michigan 4-H program, where record keeping is developed as a critical skill, there are also many purposes for keeping records:

To document the total 4-H experience
The purpose for keeping track of the total 4-H experience is to see all the events, activities, awards and projects one participates in while involved with 4-H. This could be spread over many years, or just a few. As members grow in 4-H, it becomes more difficult to remember what type of activity or events he or she might have participated in the past. Keeping track of all the meetings, events, awards, etc. is important; it makes this task easier and accurate by removing the guess work.   

The Michigan 4-H Program has an award program that is designed to recognize youth for all that they have done in their 4-H career. Having a record of all the projects, activities and experiences that they participate in from the age of 5 to 19 helps them fill out that award portfolio. Awards and recognition is an important outcome for keeping good records.

To document a specific project
Another purpose of keeping records in 4-H is to keep track of specific projects. For example, in the livestock area, youth may have a swine project. They should keep track of all the details related to this specific project such as date of purchase, cost of feed, medicine it was given, etc. This is often called a “project record book,” and many counties have tools for youth to use to keep these records.

The goal of the project record book in 4-H is to help evaluate how projects did over the length of that project, and if changes need to be made next year. For example, maybe your swine project didn’t gain enough weight. By going back to the records to see how much food was purchased, you may learn that they didn’t eat as much feed in the summer. Then you can look for solutions to that problem for next year.

To keep financial records
Keeping records when it comes to money is another purpose in 4-H. Many clubs or groups do fundraisers to help cover the cost for experiences or provide scholarships to members. It is really important to keep records of money that is coming into the club and money that is going out. The Financial Manual for 4-H Treasurers is a good tool to use to help keep track of the money for your club.

The next part of this series of articles will explore methods of recording information.

To learn more about record-keeping and 4-H, visit your local Michigan State University Extension office. Also check out MSU Extension Educator Katie Vanderkolk’s article, “Keeping 4-H project records develops skills in youth for later success in life,” which explores the success youth experience as they practice this valuable skill in 4-H projects.

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