Written by Patty Keating
Back in the 1990’s when I started with Purdue Extension, LaPorte County had a great partnership with the Indiana 4-H Foundation. As an educator, I saw the great things that the Foundation was doing to support programs on the state level, including scholarships for local students. Through the efforts of a great volunteer, June Lenig, we even received the Perfect Partnership Award in 1991.
I left Extension in 1998 to raise my young children and held three different positions during my hiatus. I worked for a local community foundation, started an afterschool program, and did development work at a private boarding school. Through these experiences, I came to learn more about endowment funds and how important they are in creating an organization’s sustainability plan.
I always liked the quote attributed to Nelson Henderson that states, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” When I came back to the 4-H program in 2005, I was determined to plant that tree. In a time of uncertain budgets, I wanted to create a future stream of income to make sure that the 4-H program would continue in perpetuity.
Enter the 4-H Booster Club. We started the LaPorte County 4-H Booster & Alumni Association back in 1992 as a way to engage alumni and provide financial support for our programs. Through a small, but dedicated, core of volunteers, the Booster Club had a tremendous impact on the program. The funds they raised through plant sales, pie auctions, memberships and donations provided reduced fees for members to attend 4-H camp, incentives for members to attend Officers Training, new project display units for the fair, sponsorship of the 4-H Leader Hall of Fame, “Clover Grants” to fund specific needs, meals for judges during the fair, a poster contest to promote 4-H, and educational scholarships for seniors and alumni.
At one point, there was hope that a new building would be constructed on the fairgrounds for 4-H. The Booster Club decided to direct proceeds from their annual plant sale to this project. Year after year, the balance grew but the future of this building was uncertain. A new Extension Office was built that had a meeting room, which alleviated some of the need for a new building. By this time, the Booster Club was sitting on a large balance. The money that they invested in funds and CD’s had a poor rate of return and they knew that there had to be a better way to protect what they worked so hard to achieve.
By opening an endowment fund through the Indiana 4-H Foundation, they were able to achieve three things:
- They were able to invest this money with a guaranteed rate of return much higher than what they were receiving elsewhere
- The interest alone provides four scholarships each year, freeing up the club’s other funds for immediate projects
- The dual-purpose agreement allows them to access the principal if a 4-H building ever comes to fruition.
I encourage every Indiana county to consider an endowment with the Indiana 4-H Foundation if they do not have one. It is very easy to set up and their staff does all the work for you, including the promotion of your fund to potential donors. A great way to do this is to select a new or existing fundraising event and dedicate all the proceeds to the endowment fund. There is great satisfaction in watching that balance grow over time, knowing that you are providing shade for future generations.
After 10 years as a 4-H member, and 20 years of service as a 4-H Youth Educator, Patty Keating is now a Community Development Educator in Porter County. She has recently applied to be a 4-H volunteer in LaPorte County.