The why and how of club officers
Adults can work with youth to be successful officers in a 4-H club and develop leadership skills.
Michigan 4-H Youth Development encourages youth to take on leadership roles in their 4-H clubs by serving as club officers. Club officers play an important role in assuring club activities are driven by youth and serving as an officer provides opportunities for leadership development.
Both 4-H clubs and youth members benefit from utilizing youth officers, including:
- Building leadership skills by learning and performing various officer duties, such as taking minutes, giving presentation, running the meeting, etc.
- Practicing parliamentary procedure and helping a group build consensus.
- Learning how to manage a group’s finances, which also helps them learn how to manage their own finances.
- Developing team work skills by working together to accomplish club goals.
- Improving communication skills by writing, leading, speaking, etc.
- Increasing self-esteem and confidence.
4-H clubs typically have a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, reporter and service officer. Smaller clubs may choose to merge some officer positions together or have rotating officers where everyone has an opportunity to learn the different roles and responsibilities. Larger clubs may choose to add additional officer roles in order to distribute tasks among more youth. There are no hard and fast “rules” for the officers 4-H clubs should elect, instead clubs should determine their desired officer structure based on their needs.
The officer election is an important part of 4-H club management. There are different ways this can be facilitated:
- Open floor nominations. This is when members either nominate others or self-nominate themselves for a particular officer role or responsibility.
- Nominate a slate of officers before the election is scheduled. A nominating committee would solicit members to run for particular offices and create a list of those interested in running for an office. It is important when using a slate to still offer youth the opportunity to run for an office from the floor even if they weren’t included on the original slate.
No matter what method you use to nominate officers, it is important members have the ability to voice their opinion and nominate individuals they feel are qualified for the positions.
When it comes to voting on officer positions, secret ballots are preferred. This allows each member to cast their vote without others knowing who they voted for. This method can take a little more time to complete and tabulate, but is the preferred method of electing officers in order to avoid personal bias and upsetting friendships. Clubs may also vote on a motion to accept the slate of officers as presented. This is often used when a nominating committee establishes a slate of officers and there is no oppositions to the positions. When positions are not contested, it’s acceptable to vote by voice or show of hands rather than a secret ballot.
Once you have elected your officers, it is a good practice to facilitate an installation of the newly elected officers. This is a way to recognize them in front of their peers and offer a sense of official leadership. This is also a great opportunity to review the officer responsibilities and have all club members and officer team on the same page. An installation ceremony can be very formal with candle lighting and presenting them with materials for their job, or can be done very informal by a simple recognition of calling them to the front of the room. Whichever method you use, utilizing past officers is a great way to recognize them for their service as well.
Once the officers have been elected, adults have the responsibility to support them and help them do their jobs to the best of their abilities. The following are some basic tips for adults to in working with youth officers:
- Utilize officers to their fullest potential.
- Meet with officers prior to the regular scheduled meeting to review the agenda and discuss issues they can handle.
- Once the meeting starts, let the officers handle the meeting and interject only when guidance is sought or during leader report.
- Meet with the officers following the meeting to recap their experience.
- Review basics of parliamentary procedure.
The Michigan State University Extension 4-H curriculum “Helping You Help Officers and Committees” is designed to help adults and youth better understand their roles and responsibilities. The resource will assist adults and youth to be successful in their leadership role of running meetings. The MSU Extension 4-H Leadership Civic Engagement team offers trainings on officer roles and responsibilities as well as on basics of parliamentary procedure. For further information, contact 4-Hleadership@anr.msu.edu.