Financial management: Protect your reputation as a 4-H volunteer

Michigan 4-H financial management procedures are designed to protect the reputation of 4-H volunteers against allegations of misuse of funds.

Imagine standing in line at the grocery store and hearing this exchange between the clerk and a customer:

“Hi Ann! I saw your son and his 4-H friends had a bake sale in cafeteria yesterday. How did they do?”
“They had so much fun making all those cookies! I’m not really sure how much money they made. Our leader always takes the cash box home afterwards to count the money.”
“Your club holds a lot of fundraisers. What do they do with all the money they’re making?
“Not much. Hmmmmm, come to think of it, we haven’t gone on a field trip or attended a workshop in almost a year.”
"Oh..."

What is your first impression of 4-H in that scenario? Of that 4-H club leader? Would you trust them to record the funds accurately? Unfortunately, casual conversations like this can have the unintentional consequence of tarnishing an individual’s reputation and/or the reputation of the organization.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development has outlined financial management procedures that every 4-H organizational club leader is required to follow. The procedures have four main objectives:

  • Protect the reputation of 4-H volunteers. The procedures ensure that the proper records are in place and 4-H club members are involved in and informed of the club’s finances.
  • Model and teach money management skills to 4-H members. Involving young people in the club’s finances teaches them good money management practices that they can use throughout their lives, a valuable life skill. Volunteers can serve as mentors or guides in this process as youth can take leadership over the group funds and decisions around them.
  • Remind the members and the leaders that funds raised in the name of 4-H are public funds. As such, the custodians of those funds are held to a higher standard of accountability. For instance, the public doesn’t have a strong interest if you over draw your personal bank account, but it is highly unacceptable for the 4-H treasurer or leader to overdraw the 4-H account. The standard for wise fiscal behaviors and accountability applies whether the 4-H group has $2.50 or $25,000.
  • Avoid lawsuits and negative press coverage that might tarnish the name and reputation of the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program.

The 4-H Financial Management Toolkit contains links to the financial manuals, fillable forms, financial minute videos, and check-lists to help with fundraising and W-9s, all to assist 4-H volunteers and youth managing 4-H funds. The 4-H financial management procedures that 4-H organizational leaders and members are required to follow are explained in detail in the Financial Manual for 4-H Volunteers: Leading the Way to Financial Accountability and in the Financial Manual for 4-H Treasurers: A Guide to Managing Money Wisely.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or entrepreneurship, contact 4-HCareerPrep@anr.msu.edu.


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