After several months of examining budgets and learning from other states, Kansas 4-H will implement a $15 program fee for participants beginning Oct. 2.
The fee is necessary to begin filling a gap left by declining state funding, according to Wade Weber, state 4-H program leader.
“As an organization, we have sought input on how to diversify funding streams and grow the 4-H program,” Weber said. “Our commitment is to provide the best 4-H program and operational support to local extension units.”
Families’ investments in 4-H youth development will fund:
- Efforts to enhance projects so they have maximum value to youths and their communities
- Volunteer and staff training to support such enhancements
- Measuring the effectiveness of programs to ensure they are the best fit for young people and their communities
- Efforts to improve communication and information sharing throughout the state, especially via the web and social media
- 4-H’s presence at the Kansas State Fair
- Stronger partnerships in every community and with Kansas State University
- High-priority project areas
Sustaining and growing Kansas 4-H has become more difficult as state budget shortfalls added to the gap between revenue for the program and what is needed to sustain it and work toward becoming a nationally-recognized, high-quality program.
The decision to implement the fee came after a task force representing all regions in the state conducted a series of statewide surveys and solicited suggestions and feedback.
The months-long review of finances, budgets and projections was part of a larger conversation about organizational change, which also included hiring a new statewide director for 4-H youth development. Weber began working in that role earlier this month. He reviewed the proposal and agreed with the task force’s recommendation for adding the $15 annual fee.
“They worked diligently to investigate a viable means to diversify funding streams to sustain, enhance and grow the K-State Research and Extension 4-H Youth Development Program,” Weber said.
The fee is one part of a broader solution to grow program excellence and fulfill priorities. Weber’s intent is for Kansas 4-H to be widely known for engaged youth, empowered volunteers, equipped professionals and expanding partnerships.
Those partnerships will be especially crucial to the efforts to build a stronger foundation for Kansas 4-H, Weber said. Increased help from partners and participant fees are all part of the mix of resources needed to ensure enough support for young people around the state.
Among the partners already on board with commitments to grow Kansas 4-H are John Floros, dean of the College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension, and Daryl Buchholz, associate director of Extension and Applied Research, who have placed a high priority on training and development of local volunteers.
Likewise, the Kansas 4-H Foundation is committed to partnering on volunteer development as well as marketing and growth initiatives.
As the task force looked at its options, the idea of a small fee rose to the top of the list, especially as other states’ operations were explored.
A 2016 survey of 38 other states’ 4-H programs showed that 25 have some type of fee in place. Those fees range from $3 to $50 per year. Some states also charge by the number of projects in which a young person participates.
The Kansas 4-H fee will be required beginning Oct. 2, when annual enrollment begins. Families that cannot afford the participation fee may request a waiver at the time of enrollment.
Clubs and sponsors may also pay fees for youths. The Kansas 4-H Foundation has also committed to raising funds specifically for program fee waivers to ensure every young person in the state can have access to high-quality 4-H programs.
Kansas 4-H is the youth development program for K-State Research and Extension. Through 4-H’s educational mission, young people learn by doing so they can be equipped to reach their full potential and become engaged adults who make valuable social and economic contributions in their communities.
Nearly 78,000 young people participated in such activities across Kansas last year, aided by 11,000 adult and youth volunteers in partnership with local extension agents who, collectively, work in all 105 Kansas counties.
To learn more about Kansas 4-H, visit www.ksre.k-state.edu/4h-youth/.