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University of Minnesota Extension

Volunteers, employees and retirees show support of U of M Extension programs

young 4-H Dodge County Puma makes marshmallow snack
Extension 4-H educators and volunteers spend a day on creative projects with members of the 4-H Dodge County Pumas.

Seeing first-hand how Extension improves lives inspires Minnesotans to give.

Sixty-five percent of University of Minnesota Extension employees live in Greater Minnesota because being everywhere extends the University’s reach. Extension’s 35,000 trained volunteers take University research and education even deeper into communities

“Those volunteers are also Extension’s biggest group of donors,” says Jane Johnson, Extension development director. “Volunteers know Extension improves lives because they are a big part of making that happen. As the Nov. 14 Give to the Max Day approaches, I know many volunteers have Extension programs in mind.”

Investing where their passions are

Perhaps Extension has so many volunteers because there are so many opportunities to nurture a person’s own interests in service of others, building a stronger Minnesota for all. 

4-H grows our future leaders

About 12,000 Minnesotans build a stronger Minnesota by bringing 4-H clubs and activities to young people. According to a recent report on 4-H volunteers, 79 percent contributed by making a gift to 4-H, and even more helped by buying or donating supplies for 4-H activities

Mary Bartz and Extension Dean Bev Durgan
Mary Bartz, left, with Extension Dean Bev Durgan

"We want to make the best better, and we indeed want to make a very positive difference," says Mary Bartz of herself and other 4-H volunteers. Bartz is a University of Minnesota alumna who oversaw the Betty Crocker test kitchens at General Mills and now runs her own consulting business. She was honored with the 2019 Dean’s Award for Distinguished Friend of Extension.

Employees give back

The display of generosity from Extension employees stands out among the gifts made by nearly 10,000 University faculty and staff in the past several years.

Ben Anderson staff portrait
Ben Anderson
Staff portrait of Becky Harrington
Becky Harrington

“We’re fully committed to our work and communities in so many ways, and giving needs to be part of that,” says Ben Anderson, Extension regional director in northwestern Minnesota. “Our programs can make any size gift go a long way and be meaningful in the communities we serve.”

“I was raised with the idea of giving a memorial in a way that would reflect what was important to a person who has passed away,” says Becky Harrington, Extension youth development educator and volunteer systems director. “When someone had a connection to 4-H, that’s the first place my mind goes.” 

Retirees remain committed to the mission

"Extension is fortunate to have a vital network of retirees who remain active in volunteering and advocating," says the dean of Extension, Bev Durgan, who enjoys annual retiree luncheons and other ways to stay in touch and hear their perspectives. "Retirees have the Extension mission deeply ingrained in them and they show their long-held commitment through generous support." 

Kent Gustafson holding sign that says "Being good by doing good"
Kent Gustafson

“Extension gave me the opportunity—for 37 years—to meet people where they are and see how the University, and Extension in particular, could apply research-based education to community problems,” says Kent Gustafson, a retired Extension educator in community and tourism development. “Extension continues to do that, so my commitment still stands.”

Gustafson focuses his Extension giving on the Tourism Center, community and leadership programs, and Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships.

Masters in generosity

Master Gardener and Master Naturalist volunteers are strong forces for meaningful giving. 

Amy Rager, Extension Master Naturalist program director, says that her volunteers give more than 85,000 hours of their time to more than 150 Minnesota organizations each year, and they make gifts to the program. 

Amy Rager leads group through wooded trail
Amy Rager leads Master Naturalist volunteers through the trail at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve.

“My work trains Minnesotans about the natural world,” Rager says. “They go out as volunteers to gather data for scientists and provide education on natural and cultural history. Gifts support the work I most believe in and that I have spent my career life building.”

Giving is easy

Whether it’s an interest in agriculture, families and nutrition education, supporting interns and students through Extension research opportunities, or something else, there is an Extension program or participant out there that can use your support.

“The University is in the midst of the largest fundraising effort in our history, the Driven campaign, and Extension is aiming to raise $16 million by 2021,” says Johnson. “All gifts make a difference, and every Give to the Max Day gift counts toward the Driven campaign.”

It’s easy to make your gift online; you can make a one-time, monthly, or payroll deduction gift in just a few clicks. Contact Jane Johnson or Brad Starbuck with questions or to discuss giving options.

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