Inside 4-H: What does fundraising have to do with life skills?

Far too often we assume that the educational process of fundraising occurs at the end of the project, once the funds are raised and money is being used. We must consider the educational process and life skills gained before and during a fundraiser.

Pizza dough, window clings, popcorn, magazines and flower bulbs. Whatever the product or service, whatever the season, 4-H’ers are engaged in fundraising. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why we fundraise and what our youth really get out of it?

Sure, we do 4-H fundraisers to raise money for a purpose: purchase educational curriculum, improve the barns at fair, sponsor scholarships or try new project areas. There are also tools to guide youth through the process of planning a fundraiser. For example, in Michigan 4-H Youth Development, 4-H clubs are expected to complete a 4-H Fundraiser Application found on page 28 in the Financial Manual for 4-H Treasurers.

An application like this ensures youth use a critical thinking process to discover how they want to raise funds and a timeline for accomplishing their goal. Far too often, we assume that the educational process of fundraising occurs at the end of the project, once the funds are raised and money is being used.

We must consider the educational process and life skills that are gained before and during a fundraiser. We must ask, what life skills do youth gain from being a part of fundraising? By incorporating the Iowa State University Life Skills Model into fundraiser planning, life skills will intentionally be brought to the forefront of the learning experience.

For instance, we already know that youth use critical thinking skills when they complete the fundraiser application form. Through fundraising, youth may also expand their life skills to include:

  • Goal setting
  • Decision making
  • Wise use of resources
  • Creating a plan
  • Keeping records
  • Communicating
  • Cooperation
  • Self-responsibility

Simply said, “4-H prepares young people to step up to the challenges in their community and the world. Using research-based programming around positive youth development, 4-H youth get the hands-on, real world experience they need to become leaders.” (National 4-H Council- 4h.org) By intentionally incorporating the Life Skills Model into fundraiser planning and development, 4-H youth have the opportunity to work according to the Michigan 4-H Mission: To create non-formal, educational opportunities to help youth thrive in a complex and changing world.

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