4-H Youth Retainment Back »

This article was written by Suzy Geppert, former SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Partnerships Field Specialist.

The previous article in this series discussed youth recruitment. There are many ways that we recruit youth to our program. However, the question we must ask ourselves is “Once we get them…how do we keep them?” Youth retention can sometimes be both a struggle and a challenge. Understanding the reasons youth leave an organization can be crucial in developing methods to keep them!

As we explore the 4-H Military Partnerships website we find that youth often leave for reasons beyond our control. However, providing youth with “Quality 4-H Experiences” are within our control. If we want to keep them, we must satisfy them!

Some key points to remember:

Identify strength and weaknesses.

  • Do we have caring and energetic leaders/mentors?
  • Are youth involved in the planning?
  • Do we provide meaningful projects and activities?
  • Are we flexible on meeting times, dates, and locations?


  • Do we have consistent expectations that allow flexibility?
  • Do we have clear communication practices set up with our youth and families?
  • Do we recognize participation?
  • Do we have a network of 4-H contacts so youth won’t be lost if they move?
  • Do we provide youth with opportunities to build friendships?


  • Do we utilize effective registration/enrollment forms such as 4-H Online?
  • Do we work with existing teen clubs or other groups?
  • Do we offer clubs and projects that are interesting and relevant?
  • Do we practice flexibility in meeting times and places?
  • Are we keeping it fun, relevant and personal?


  • Do we offer youth the chance to mentor?
  • Do we participate in youth-adult partnerships?
  • Do we provide opportunities for them to practice leadership and gain life skills?
    • • Examples: travel, scholarships, recognition, rewards, higher education, resumes building, and career exploration.

Youth will stay in 4-H if they have caring adults and interesting projects. Provide youth with opportunities to expand leadership development through mentorships and youth engagement practices through service learning opportunities and community partnerships.

Take time to determine the needs of your 4-H program and its youth so that you have the ability to maintain, retain, and build your local communities through youth engagement. Become an active participant and join the revolution of responsibility through 4-H! 

For more information on how you can play a role in 4-H, contact your local 4-H Advisor, 4-H Field Specialists, or visit the 4-H Military Partnership website.

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