Fall 1988 // Volume 26 // Number 3 // Feature Articles // 3FEA1
CPR: Purposeful Action
CPR can save a life. CPR, or a county program review, can put new life into a 4-H program. This review is a marketing research tool that can help Extension staffs anticipate and shape the future.
In 16 Ohio counties, 4-H professionals have discovered that the key to directing a vital, dynamic youth education program lies in conducting effective marketing research to analyze the needs of young people. CPR, using marketing techniques, has proven successful in strengthening the 4-H position in the marketplace.
These reviews lead to improved coordination and delivery by the 4-H professional and volunteer staff, as well as significant increases not only in 4-H enrollment, but also in quality of project work, volunteer involvement, and member and adviser retention. Long-range, innovative curriculum development increases visibility and credibility among key decision makers, community leaders, and media representatives.
If the idea of a CPR sounds dreadfully dull to you, read on. These reviews are challenging, exciting, and stimulating because they offer many opportunities for programmatic growth and personal enrichment of the 4-H professional. Adapting successful marketing practices used by advertising executives can expand your skills in program planning, execution, and evaluation.
Review Team Selection
A key factor in accomplishing marketing objectives is selecting the program review team. This team must include current and past 4-H volunteers, 4-H members, community leaders, and other education and social service professionals. Avoid selecting team members only from within the current structure unless a guaranteed status quo is desired.
County staff who plan 4-H program reviews may question the need for outside involvement. They may feel the lack of 4-H knowledge will limit constructive input, but the opposite happens. The participation of nontraditional clientele: 1. Provides an objective view of the 4-H program with questions being asked and solutions being offered that may not be asked or expressed by traditional clientele. 2. Promotes better public relations, communications, and public image of 4-H goals among nontraditional clientele.
Several reviews have shown nontraditional clientele become actively involved in 4-H because of their education as a team member. In one instance, a judge who participated on a team became so convinced of the 4-H program's benefits that he now serves on the county 4-H committee and may soon accept the role of club volunteer. Another review team developed two innovative ideas for 4-H promotion because of the input from nontraditional participants.
It quickly becomes apparent that the key to successful reviews is the make-up of the team. The number representing each population segment can vary, but diversity is needed. The program review process is one of matching what might be offered in 4-H to what's a felt need by the consumer. To achieve this goal, a diverse and informed team is essential.
After careful selection of a review team, orientation is critical for the group to function effectively. Material used to orient members should include the mission statement, internal records, secondary data, a marketing audit of current program, and formal market research through interviews and surveys.1
Internal records, for example, should provide a comprehensive look at current statistical data. Trends can be charted through enrollment numbers and demographics, variety of projects carried, volunteer retention, etc., of the past several years. Next, gather secondary data or trends reflected in others' records. The demographic or objective data will be important, but also look at psychographic or value trends among youth.
Another effective orientation tool is the marketing audit, a systematic and thorough examination of 4-H's community position. The marketing audit, done by the staff, gives a complete and accurate picture of 4-H in the marketplace. It details the strengths and weaknesses, how loss of certain educational activities would effect the total program, the cost in time and resources to make activities reality, and other key factors affecting the 4-H program.
Formal market research may include focus groups, one-on-one interviews, telephone surveys, and mail or other self-administered surveys. It's good to get the opinions of both users and non-users, as well as those of the community's key decision makers. One county successfully teamed a mail survey to 4-H Club organizational volunteers and a community leader telephone survey conducted by team members for providing valuable insights about 4-H.
All this information must be shared with the team before the program begins, allowing time to process the data for creative thinking. Some counties have found an individual orientation interview to work; other counties have gone with the more traditional group meeting orientation. Whatever the approach, pre -program review orientation is essential for the most effective results.
Format for Action
The day of the program review arrives. A diverse and informed team is ready for work. What next?
Marketing experts suggest developing an environment conductive for sharing ideas and concerns. The meeting room should be free from outside distractions, should be neutral, and should have chairs arranged with team members facing each other. Tables are options.
In addition to the review team, a facilitator and a recorder is needed. The facilitator may or may not be the 4-H professional organizing the review. However, the facilitator must be skilled in asking semi-structured, neutral focus questions and encouraging discussion and interaction about questions and responses. A facilitator must not be afraid to probe for additional information. The recorder, preferably someone who won't take part in the discussion, should audio-record the discussion, take notes on discussion highlights, and help prioritize the team's recommendations.
With all the elements in place, it's time to go to work. The review team is given its task: analyze current 4-H data, identify program strengths and note means for improvement, and rank priorities for the coming years.
The first step is market segmentation, the process of dividing the total market into market groups or segments consisting of people who have relatively similar wants and needs. Again, the team will want to look at both demographics and psychographics of the community's youth population, as well as benefits and usage. Benefits can be defined as grouping youth by the reasons they have for seeking 4-H membership; usage refers to analyzing groups by users and non-users. In other words, who joins 4-H and why?
Examination of opportunities and threats existing because of external factors is a necessary step. What other organizations are focusing on youth development? What necessary services aren't being provided to youth by any agency? Would networking among youth agencies and sharing specialties fill in the gaps? Junior Achievement may welcome the 4-H career exploration focus to complement its strength in economic education.
The final step must detail the strengths and weaknesses of 4 -H. What activities or events does 4-H do better than any other youth organization? In an urban county, the team may point out that the organized club structure is the program's strength and emphasis should be put on expanding the 4-H Club delivery system. In a rural county, that strength may be seen as a weakness. The community club program may demand so much time that no innovative programs are developed for reaching new audiences.
With all the facts on the table, the team can now begin setting goals and recommending ways to make those goals a reality. The team will need to define the 4-H program's target market and market mix. Who will 4-H involve and what combination of programs will best meet that target audience's needs?
Action Plan and Evaluation
Summarizing the findings into a final action plan allows the 4-H professional to develop future plans of work, improve county curriculum, and direct advisory groups in setting priorities relevant to the needs of youth. Sharing the findings with key decision makers, community leaders, and media representatives will gain visibility and credibility.
As time passes, report progress made toward achieving the goals. A recently completed 18-month progress report reflects that, despite budget cuts and decreased personnel, 4-H in Ohio's largest urban county continues to grow and improve. A program review forced the 4-H professional team to focus specifically on long-term goals and work smarter to achieve excellence.
Keeping the review team informed of progress lets them know that their efforts are indeed valued. Another informal session with the team two or three years into the action plan will serve as an evaluation, checking accuracy and completeness of original goals and adjusting for any changes in the marketplace.
Society has undergone continual change since 4-H began 80 years ago. And, change will continue into tomorrow at an ever- accelerating pace. The 4-H professional who can adapt to meet the challenge of change will lead a modern, vital 4-H program into the 21st century.2
Now's the time to prepare for tomorrow, anticipating and shaping the future of 4-H through purposeful action. CPR is purposeful action for putting new life into a county 4-H program.
1. Phyllis Fleming, "A Marketing View of Human Services" (Speech presented at the Marketing to Make a Difference Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, January 1986).
2. Charles Lifer, coordinator, 4-H Future Focus, Publication No. 96 (Washington, D.C.: ES-USDA, May 1986).