Fundraising efforts help build soft skills — Part 1: Communication, organization and teamwork

Soft skills like communication, organization and teamwork skills are critical to being successful in the workforce. A 4-H fundraiser exemplifies how 4-H gives youth the opportunity to practice these skills.

Research with origins dating back to 1918 conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center has concluded that 85 percent of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills, and only 15 percent of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).

As I sat in the hot June sun observing some of the Delta County 4-H Exploration Days participants as they washed cars at a local auto parts store as a fundraiser, I considered how their participation in this activity was building the soft skills they will need to attain a good job and succeed in the workplace. In a survey conducted by Purdue University Extension, 4-H members in their last year of participation were asked to rate the influence 4-H had on their development of 35 important life skills. Sometimes referred to as "soft skills," these are the skills that researchers believe help to bridge academic achievement with post-secondary and workplace experiences, thus enhancing an individual's chances of moving successfully into adulthood.

In August 2016, LinkedIn published the results of a year-long study they conducted on soft skills, and listed the 10 that were the most sought-after by employers. As I watched these kids from different clubs and backgrounds form into a cohesive team and practice some of these soft skills, it confirmed that participation in 4-H activities does assist in the development of and give youth a place to practice many of the soft skills future employers will be looking for.


At the top of the list was communication, particularly the ability to explain technical concepts to coworkers. Being able to show someone else how to perform a task is a great skill to be able to perform. I watched how an older participant explained and demonstrated how it is important to rinse the car prior to scrubbing.

“It is important to get the surface grime rinsed, otherwise you are just spreading the dirt around,” he stated. I also watched as communication skills increased as members worked through the process of washing a car from start to finish. I heard statements like:

  • “This side is ready to rinse.”
  • “We need someone scrubbing the bugs off that bumper.”
  • “Will you change the soapy water?”


Planning and effectively implementing projects and general work tasks for yourself and others is a highly effective soft skill. I observed how one youth assigned roles to other team members and devised a process to most efficiently get the cars cleaned, ensuring no one was duplicating an action. After seeing another youth re-soap an area of the car that had already been rinsed, he took the initiative and delegated one person to do the pre-rinsing, instructed others to follow with scrub brushes and indicated he would follow them for the final rinse.


Solid team player skills are crucial soft skills. How well you work with other team members in reaching team goals is an important ability. Doing jobs you may not like because they need to be done is an important aspect of teamwork. I saw this as members agreed to take a shift holding the sign on the highway to draw customers in or rinsing out the dirty scrub gloves.

A Harris Poll conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder conducted in 2014 found 77 percent of employers believe soft skills (less tangible skills associated with one’s personality, such as a positive attitude) are just as important as hard skills (skills that are learned to perform a specific job function and can be measured, such as operating a computer program). Sixteen percent of employers also said soft skills are more important than hard skills when evaluating candidates for a job.

This article continues in “Fundraising efforts help build soft skills – Part 2: Social, adaptability and friendly personality.”

For more information on soft skills and career preparation, visit the following Michigan State University Extension articles:

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