Learn more about 4-H, agriculture, community, family, natural resources and volunteer programs. Find a fund that aligns with your giving goals.
Minnesota 4-H relies on donors to support youth development programming. Approximately 65,000 youth participate in 4-H, making it Minnesota's largest youth development program. Securing gifts and external dollars enables 4-H to support youth and adult volunteers in their learning and leadership. There are MANY ways to support 4-H.
In 4-H, we believe in the power of young people. Every young person has valuable strengths and real influence to change their world. More than a century after our founding, 4-H is thriving in Minnesota and continues to grow.
The focus of all 4-H programs is the development of youth as individuals and as responsible and productive citizens. Our work in leadership development cuts across each 4-H project area to form the foundation of the 4-H experience.
Gifts to support 4-H's leadership and citizenship work are used to support many different events and projects
- State Ambassador program: Minnesota 4-H’s premier youth leadership experience.
- National 4-H Congress: A delegation of Minnesota 4-H'ers join youth from across the country to expand their skills and be inspired to impact their club, community, country, family, and world.
- National 4-H Conference: National 4‑H Conference is a pinnacle experience in 4‑H. A delegation of Minnesota 4-H'ers joins youth from across the country to connect, learn and re-energize their potential to make a difference.
- Citizenship Washington Focus: Through CWF, Minnesota 4-H'ers experience Washington D.C. like never before. Using the nation’s capital as their classroom, young leaders from across the country gain the skills and experiences they need to become effective change agents.
- YELLO!: Youth Exploring Leadership and Learning Out Loud (YELLO!) is a 4-day experience for youth grades 6-12. Minnesota 4-H'ers participate in workshops and service opportunities, hear challenging speakers, and enjoy fun activities. (In the past, YELLO! has been called the Junior Leaders’ Conference and State 4-H Congress.)
- BLU and TEEL: Building Leadership and Understanding (BLU) is a series of leadership adventures held around the state for youth grades 6-12. Minnesota 4-H hosts 4-6 BLU events each spring. In 2019, 4-H’ers asked for a new program specifically focused on the leadership development needs of older youth. Teens Engaged in Emerging Leadership (TEEL) was created for youth in grades 10+ to gain valuable leadership skills while connecting with peers from other counties and regions.
- Global 4-H Youth Summits: For the past decade, 4-H programs around the world have come together for a series of Global 4-H Youth Summits. Delegations from states and countries gather abroad to explore ideas that build global economic and political stability, create long-term solutions to global challenges like hunger and climate and empower youth to use their voice for change.
Unique and strong 4-H programs are expensive! Educational activities and trips require substantial investments, and new ideas compete with existing activities for limited time and funds. Hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans have benefitted from 4-H experiences led by local adult volunteers, and endowment funds are a tremendous tool to keep local programs strong for future generations of 4-H’ers.
Each county 4-H program in the state has access to a legacy fund
Legacy funds are quasi-endowments that ensure long-term stable funding for local 4-H programs, provide a way to fund new ideas, and allow donors an opportunity to ensure a lasting legacy in their community.
Many donors and families contribute to their favorite county's Legacy Fund. The principal generates investment income that's returned each year to the county's 4-H Federation or Leaders' Council — where youth and adult volunteers work together to decide how to invest in their local program. Some counties' Legacy Funds are quite large and generate substantial support for 4-H programs, and others are just beginning.
The relationship between Minnesota 4-H and the Minnesota State Fair is unmatched across the country. Minnesota’s unique expectation that youth earn their trip to exhibit at the State Fair has positioned the Fair experience as an annual showcase of the highest quality 4-H learning and leadership. This philosophy, balanced with a commitment to enhanced educational opportunities for Fair exhibitors, provides a deeply memorable and meaningful experience for 4-H’ers that connects them to the Fair for a lifetime.
When the simple, yet stylish, 4-H Building opened in 1940, it was immediately recognized as a special place. Thousands of youth have called the “4-H Hilton” home while they exhibited at the State Fair. But the building is much more than a dormitory or exhibition hall! The friendships, leadership roles, team projects, and mentor relationships nurtured within its white walls give the 4-H Building a heart and soul.
This iconic WPA-era facility has served both the Fair and the 4-H program extremely well. Donor support helps 4-H and the Fair invest in creating physical spaces that engage youth and families in learning experiences, welcome fairgoers, and elevate the 4-H State Fair experience beyond anything that could have been imagined by our predecessors.
When many people hear “4-H”, they think of the fair or a project that they love. But the power of 4-H is the network of 7,000 adult mentors and volunteers that help young people explore these projects. While youth learn and explore their interests through a project, mentors help them develop leadership and communication skills, self-worth, ethics, and life skills. 4-H’ers choose project-based learning experiences.
Give to your favorite 4-H project area:
- Agronomy, gardening and plant sciences
- Cooking and nutrition
- Livestock and animal sciences
- Outdoor adventures and recreation
- Performing arts
- Photography and creative arts
- Science, technology, robotics and engineering
- Shooting sports and wildlife
Gifts to 4-H project areas directly support youth and volunteers:
- Create summer internships for older youth.
- Organize activities and workshops.
- Develop new 4-H curriculum for clubs and learning events.
- Create training and learning opportunities for adult volunteers to sharpen their skills.
- Recruit and equip new county fair judges.
Minnesota 4-H offers several scholarships and awards to recognize youth for their outstanding participation in 4-H.
Make a gift to these State Fair awards
Many donors support their favorite Extension volunteer program, deepening their commitment to a program they're passionate about. Extension's 35,000 volunteers give their time and expertise to serve their communities and help create a stronger Minnesota.
Protecting our lakes, streams and wetlands preserves the recreation and outdoor activities that help make Minnesota a unique and attractive place to live.
Research at the university helps identify solutions that reduce the impact of aquatic invasive species by preventing spread, controlling populations and managing ecosystems.
AIS Detector volunteers take this knowledge and share it with neighbors and friends. They are critical partners — contributing data for research, assessing treatment options, monitoring water quality, evaluating removal efforts and inspiring others to act.
Donor support helps the AIS Detectors program:
- Develop new virtual and in-person courses to help people get outside and connect with nature.
- Offer scholarships to encourage new volunteers. To grow our program, we need to recruit new participants in communities where there may not be an AIS Detector for many miles.
- Promote and expand our work through events like Starry Trek.
The University of Minnesota's Bee Lab promotes the conservation, health, and diversity of ALL bees — native and non-native, wild and managed — through research, education, and hands-on mentorship. Volunteer programs like Bee Squad, Bee Veterans, and Pollinator Ambassadors connect bee enthusiasts with practical solutions.
Gifts support the work of our researchers and educators.
Cooking Matters is a nutrition education program that encourages people to eat healthier and make the best use of their food resources.
Cooking Matters is delivered throughout Minnesota and helps families struggling with a limited food budget learn how to shop for and prepare healthy, affordable, and delicious meals. The team partners with organizations and communities to deliver programming for families through a six-week course.
Donor support helps Cooking Matters:
- Provide utensils and tools participants can learn to use, then take home to prepare healthy meals for their families.
- Purchase specialty grocery items that are culturally important to diverse families participating in the program.
- Reach new audiences by promoting the program in communities across the state.
The Master Gardener volunteer program started in 1977 with its first class of 25 people.
It's grown to include nearly 3,000 active Master Gardeners who share their horticultural expertise in communities and neighborhoods across our state. Our volunteers teach research-based gardening principles that inspire change and promote healthy people, healthy communities, and a healthy planet.
- Give online now
- Mail a check or credit card gift
Donor support helps the Master Gardener program:
- Recruit new volunteers in communities without a Master Gardener.
- Support volunteers in communities that simply don't have the capacity to raise substantial funds to deliver programming and grow locally.
- Invest in new partnerships that turn the next generation on to the wonders of gardening.
The Master Naturalist program began in 2005 with a mission to promote awareness, understanding, and stewardship of Minnesota's natural environment. The program continues to build a corps of well-informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service within their communities.
Donor support helps the Master Naturalist program:
- Connect with volunteers through new courses and workshops.
- >Encourage people to get outside and enjoy nature.
- Offer scholarships to recruit new volunteers.
- Expand our reach on National Public Lands Day.
Invite expert speakers to activities, the Gathering Partners conference, and more.
Building and strengthening our internship programs is one step toward a strong future.
Internships give college students an opportunity to explore careers in Extension, learn about our mission, and network with Extension’s terrific faculty and educators. Gifts to Extension's internship program support professional development, social events, and additional activities that create meaningful and memorable experiences for interns in all Extension centers.
“Twenty years ago, an internship in Extension changed my life and my career path. After college, I spent a decade as an Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (AFNR) local Extension Educator in McLeod and Meeker Counties. Today, I am a program leader for local agriculture educators. My passion for providing internship opportunities for students continues. I hope all Extension interns can really get involved and learn about the mission and impact of our work.”
Extension program leader for Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
Communities and leaders
Extension's leadership and civic engagement programs help emerging leaders learn and grow with new knowledge and skills that bring people together and solve problems. And our community development workshops and research bring valuable information to local discussions so leaders can make critical decisions.
Extension's Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) connect individuals and communities in Minnesota to the resources they need to identify and implement community-based clean energy projects.
Our work is having an impact across Minnesota. CERTS has helped Minnesotans save nearly 696 billion BTUs of energy and avoid $9 million in energy costs since 2010.
Gifts help support seed grants and financial assistance that catalyze local energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for schools, lower-income audiences, farmers, cities, and businesses that are ready to act.
Extension's leadership development programs expand the capacity of citizens, civil servants and entrepreneurs to fill leadership roles in their community.
We bring leadership education to communities in small groups that engage 20-30 participants. Our programs are designed with local sponsors and are tailored to each community’s interests and needs.
Support a specific program
Extension's Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) are trusted resources across our great state. RSDP has a legacy of helping Greater Minnesota’s local leaders leverage the power of the University to solve community-identified challenges and projects.
RSDP benefits from the Mary Page Fund — an endowment that provides stipends and internships for UMN students working on real-world community projects across Greater Minnesota. The fund honors former UMN Regent Mary Page, who was a strong voice for rural Minnesota.
Engaging students and young adults is a critical component of RSDP’s work. Offering paid internship experiences helps us both attract talent and reward students. Mary Page Student-Scholars have made a tangible difference in local communities — from helping incorporate low-cost renewable energy in Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity projects, to supporting retail and economic development in Thief River Falls, to working on a needs assessment with the Lao community in Warroad. These real-world work experiences have also meaningfully shaped students’ education and career paths.
We help communities choose their future — with information that helps them make critical decisions. Together we can plan how to create research that answers your key questions or design community workshops that bring valuable information to local discussions. Learn more about our impact on the community consultation page.
Extension's rural stress task force applies programming and expertise from across Extension to help families and small towns respond to current economic, environmental, and societal challenges that overwhelmingly affect rural Minnesota and farming communities. The team works with state agencies and agricultural organizations as well as colleagues throughout the University.
Extension's Tourism Center has been strengthening Minnesota tourism since 1987. We provide research, education, and collaboration that helps Greater Minnesota communities diversify their economies through tourism.
Curtis L. Carlson Fund for Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality
Our work benefits from the Carlson Fund — an endowment that supports Extension faculty who study current issues and emerging trends affecting Minnesota tourism.The fund honors Curt Carlson, a pioneer who believed in the power of the University to solve critical issues facing our great state.
Extension works in Indian Country through mutually beneficial community-University partnerships that aim to improve American Indian communities' access to the University. Extension Educators develop culturally appropriate programs that drive innovation and build diversity, equity, and inclusion within these important communities. Learn more about Extension's work with tribal nations.
Extension programs foster resilient, healthy, and secure futures for Minnesota families and seniors. Our work supports parents, families experiencing transitions, and community members who serve others through their profession.
Extension's food, health, and nutrition programs improve food literacy, physical activity, food safety, and healthy food access for Minnesotans and the foodservice industry.
Sharon O'Gorman Fund for Nutrition Education
Our work benefits from the O'Gorman Fund — an endowment that supports Extension faculty who lead nutrition education specifically focused on diabetes education and prevention. The fund honors Sharon Torbenson O'Gorman, a retired Extension Educator who was a passionate advocate for nutrition education programs.
Extension's home and financial management programs help Minnesotans explore and understand how to secure stable housing, manage their home, and plan for their financial future.
Jean Bauer Fund for Family Financial Management
Our work benefits from the Bauer Fund — an endowment that supports Extension faculty providing financial literacy education for Minnesota families living with limited incomes. The fund honors Jean Bauer, a retired Extension Educator who was a pioneer in helping families explore financial literacy, budgeting, and life transitions.
Extension's food, health, and nutrition programs improve food literacy, physical activity, food safety, and healthy food access for Minnesotans and the foodservice industry.
Cynthia Westbrook Fund for Nutrition Education
Our work benefits from the Westbrook Fund — an endowment that supports Extension faculty who lead nutrition education workshops, webinars, and in-the-kitchen learning experiences throughout the state.The fund honors Cynthia Westbrook, a retired Extension Educator who was a pioneer in nutrition education programs for lower-income families in Minnesota.
Extension's resources for families help parents address tough topics with kids, guide children toward success in schools and navigate family transitions like divorce and separation, moving, parental incarceration, military deployment, and employment changes.
Jean Illsley Clarke Fund for Parent Education
Our work benefits from the Clarke Fund — an endowment that supports Extension faculty who provide resources and information for Minnesota parents. The fund honors Jean Illsley Clarke, a pioneer, and advocate for children and families in Minnesota. Her work helping parents raise children with healthy self-esteem is considered to be the seminal research on the topic. She helped countless parents raise likable, self-sufficient, and respectful children through her teaching and writing.
Agriculture and natural resources
Extension's legacy is grounded in providing practical, science-based resources for farmers, landowners, food producers, and consumers. Our work strengthens Minnesota's food and agriculture. The research and education we provide improve crop yields, animal health, farm productivity, and water conservation across our state's 68,500 farms.
Extension's impact extends beyond the farm, too. We protect Minnesota's natural resources — including soil, water, and woodlands. Our outreach helps detect and manage invasive species, restore public lands, collect data for researchers, address climate change and empower citizens to get involved in scientific discovery.
Welcoming new farmers and families to agriculture is critical to the future of Minnesota's economy. Through intentional programs that engage many audiences, Extension resources help new farmers build their management systems and skillsets.
One example is the Minnesota Beginning Farmer Institute, a new program for those considering a new farm enterprise — or assuming management responsibility of an existing farm. Participants experience an intensive 12-month curriculum aimed at creating top farmers who can confidently and competently lead a dynamic farm operation.
Participants explore risk management, whole-farm planning, marketing, and strategic planning. They tour successful farms to see management principles and tech systems in action. At the conclusion, participants complete a business plan and identify a team of local experts they can continue to work with after the program.
Extension resources promote the conservation, health, and diversity of ALL pollinators — native and non-native, wild and managed — through research, education, and hands-on mentorship.
Make a gift to programs and research that support pollinators
Extension's Women in Ag Network (WAGN) program enhances leadership, management, and production skills for women in Minnesota agriculture.
Through courses and events, women have opportunities to connect with relevant, research-based education — while building their personal network of mentors and friends.
Reviewed in 2021