4-H Youth Development Program
4-H Youth Development Program
4-H Youth Development Program
University of California
4-H Youth Development Program


When contemplating raising funds to support your 4-H Service Learning project (or the 4-H program in general), knowing how and where to begin can seem daunting. This toolkit is designed to help you move to the next level in fundraising by becoming more intentional and strategic so you can increase the dollars you raise overall. Fundraising is a process with several different steps and everyone in your club can play a role in those steps. The materials in this section are designed to help!

Work through the materials at your own pace and don’t feel like you need to try all of the strategies and techniques offered at once. Ask questions, reach out to your state’s 4-H fundraising professionals at the California 4-H Foundation or talk with others you know who have been successful in their own fundraising for support – even if it wasn’t for 4-H. Successful fundraising is always a collaborative effort.

Let’s get on the same page!

Before you begin, review this brief glossary of fundraising terms so that you are comfortable in creating your plan.

Please select a topic from the links below

Partnering with the California 4-H Foundation

The California 4-H Foundation is the official fundraising organization for the University of California 4-H Youth Development Program. A private 501(C)(3) non-profit organization, the Foundation’s key responsibilities are to assist California 4-H Programs across the state through direct fundraising, fundraising training, and leadership and coaching on outreach and marketing strategies. The Foundation staff has expertise in all aspects of fund development and can offer coaching and support to maximize the amount of money you can raise for your project.

Please contact the California 4-H Foundation to discuss solicitations of $1,000 or more to determine if the funder (individual, business or foundation) has already been solicited by another club or the Foundation. It is very important that potential funders do not receive multiple requests (as this often results in NO gifts); rather a coordinated effort will be more likely to guarantee success.

Some important guidelines to keep in mind

Before you begin to fundraise for your project, it is important to familiarize yourself with some guidelines and policies set forth by 4-H and the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the IRS, that pertain to fundraising, the use of the logo in fundraising, and gift procedures. If you have further questions about these policies, we’d be happy to help you. Contact the Foundation for more information.

Fundraising 101:  Using the Engagement Model

In order to develop donors who invest in 4-H time and time again, we must identify potential supporters and learn who they are, what they care about, and what they could never say “no” to. When we know these things, asking for what we need from them becomes easier. Asking becomes an invitation to put their money where their heart already wants to go. This comes from building relationships. Follow this link to learn more Tips for Asking Individuals for Donations or Sponsorships.

Many of you are already skilled at this. It is the same model many 4-H’ers use to identify, cultivate, and engage buyers for their animals at the fair. They get to know their buyers, keeping in touch with them, giving updates about their animals, and inviting them to purchase again, often year after year.

Check out these Tips for Using the Engagement Model and the Engagement Model Illustration to see how to begin the successful process of cultivating potential donors and long term supporters.

Identifying who to ask for Support:  Treasure Mapping

Before you can ask for support, you must identify who you are going to ask. How can you broaden your circle of supporters?  One tool to identify new donors is the Treasure Map. Using this tool requires that you think about your community as made up of partners with resources, or “treasure,” to share (treasure that they have, that we need) and self-interest, or their motives for giving their money (potentially the treasure they can expect from us in return).

You will find several examples of this identification process on the Treasure Table. You can use these tools individually or, even better, with your project team or club.  It won’t take long for you to create a sizable list of people who might become supporters.

Using Your Treasure Map to Engage Potential Supporters

Once you’ve completed your Treasure Map, the next step is to prioritize your list by those prospects with:

1)      The strongest connection to 4-H,

2)      The highest capacity to help,

3)      Based on what we know about them, what treasure they need from us.

Prospective donors who rate high in these three areas become our “Critical Few,” those who have the highest likelihood of helping you. The next step is to introduce them to the organization. Make sure they understand very simply, who you are, what you do, how you do it, and most importantly why that should matter to them (match their motivation with your impacts).

Use every meeting, event, fundraising activity, and conversation as an opportunity to introduce new people to 4-H.  Having a concise and powerful message to share – an elevator speech – or a written summary of your plans is an important part of introducing them to your project. Consider hosting an information session or invite them to a club meeting where you are working on your project. Ask them for advice and find out what they think of your plan. This is the perfect opportunity to ask them how they might see themselves being engaged with your group.

Asking for Support

This is the heart of fundraising. You will never get what you need if you don’t ask. If you don’t ask, your supporters will never have the opportunity to give you want they want to give.  How you ask can happen in many ways.  You might ask individually in-person, in a letter, at an event, or by combining a couple of these methods. There are different ways of asking individuals, businesses and foundations. But regardless of the method you use to ask, the most important thing to remember is that people do not give because we need something; they give because we MEET a need they care about.

Make sure your message, whether it is delivered in person, in a letter, or through an email, focuses on what a donor’s gift will allow you to accomplish in your community and the impact that their gift will have. To learn more, check out Tips for Asking for Business Donations or Sponsorships and Tips for Asking Individuals for Donations or Sponsorships.

Requesting Business Donations or Sponsorships

The businesses in your community have the potential to become significant sources of support. A business may have various motivations for helping a charitable cause. Perhaps the owner has a personal interest in your group’s mission and goals or the business has made an express commitment to improving the community in which it operates (and from which its customers are derived). To help you plan and carry out a successful request for support, check out these Tips for Asking for Business Donations or Sponsorships and Sample Solicitation Letter for a BusinessThe California 4-H Foundation is a great resource for help with editing your appeal. Don’t hesitate to contact the Foundation staff for advice or with questions.

Requesting Individual Donations or Sponsorships

Directly asking people for donations, is not only the most efficient method of fundraising, it is also one of the most effective for raising money in larger amounts. This is an opportunity to create direct and personal connections to individuals in your community who may or may not be involved with 4-H but who have an interest in the impacts you create through your projects and activities. To help you plan and carry out a successful request for support from individuals, check out these Tips for Asking Individuals for Donations or Sponsorships and Sample Solicitation Letter for an Individual. The California 4-H Foundation is a great resource for help with editing your appeal. Don’t hesitate to contact the Foundation staff for advice or with questions.

Making one-on-one, personal requests

A personal ask for a donation is one of the most effective ways to raise funds. It is a great opportunity to deepen a relationship with one of the “Critical Few” identified in your Treasure Map exercise. A personal ask can be done in a few minutes (over the phone or in a casual conversation) or, when working with major donors (those giving $1,000 or more) built up to over time—sometimes as long as a year or more. Remember, special guidelines apply for requests of $1,000 or more. For more information, check out the Guidelines for Fundraising and the California 4-H Foundation.

For people that you know well and see regularly, these asks can be particularly informal, as friends see friends in the hallway, and take the opportunity for a quick reminder of what goals they’re working toward. For those you know less well (a business or community leader), making an appointment to meet and share some information about your project is an important step. Regardless of whether you know your potential donor well or not, you must prepare what you are planning to say. Even the most casual encounter should be thoughtfully carried out using the messages you developed in your elevator speech.

To see a sample conversation and some tips for making personal requests check out: Making an In-Person Ask

Thanking and Retaining Your Donors: Stewardship

It is much less work and you will raise much more money if you put your energy into stewardship – taking good care of donors who have become strong supporters – than to putting your energy into doing small fundraisers like carwashes and bake sales that don’t connect donors directly with your mission or for the long term.

Good Donor Stewards immediately say thank you for their support.

Gifts and pledges should be acknowledged within 24-48 hours of receipt. This is extra important since the IRS requires a written acknowledgement as proof of the donation before the donor can claim it as a tax deduction.   A personal note is always more impactful and better stewardship than a form letter. Consider having a project meeting that includes writing thank you notes or project updates to your donors. Use this Donor Thank You Template to help you format your letter.

Stewardship is more than thanking your donors. If done properly, it will keep your relationship with your supporters strong and growing so that you can go back to them for additional gifts in the future. Other important steps to keep your donor connected and reassured that giving their money and time was a wise choice include:

  • Spending the money as agreed
  • Managing the funds prudently
  • Providing appropriate  and promised recognition
  • Demonstrating significance and Impact
    • Stories to illustrate how their support helped
    • Updates that describe the impact that your project has made, follow this link for a Sample Donor Update.
    • Invitations to your donors to come to an end-of-the-project celebration where you can honor them for their support.

Raising Money with Events

Nonprofit organizations typically raise money through a wide range of special events including large-scale galas, dinners, auctions, festivals, lectures, concerts and a variety of competitions and tournaments. Smaller events such as rummage sales, car washes, and bake sales are also used to raise funds although the IRS considers these to be sales of goods and services.

Unfortunately, you can have a great party that raises little if any money, in fact, according to Charity Navigator, a non-profit research and watchdog group, special events are among the least efficient ways to raise money, bringing in an average of $1 for every $1.33 spent, and generating only 14% of the average contributions to non-profits from individual donors compared to direct appeals.

Yet, while events may not result in large profits, they can be valuable, particularly if they bring visibility to your organization, mobilize and expand its donor base, or highlight a particular issue of importance to your members.  Here are some tips to help you plan more profitable events and silent auctions.

State 4-H Office | Sign-Up for Updates
The 4-H name and emblem service marks are protected under 18 U.S.C. 707.
Webmaster Email: ca4h@ucanr.edu