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Extension County Operations: Program Development

County Program Development Team Tips: Year 1

Advisory System Tips are provided by your Program Development Team. If your county has a tip you would like to share, please send it to Jeff Christie at

  • Tip 1 - Reasons PDT members quit/don't attend
  • Tip 2 - Maintaining PDT energy
  • Tip 3 - Finding new PDT members
  • Tip 4 - Approaching prospective PDT members
  • Tip 5 - Motivating PDT members
  • Tip 6 - Issuing the invitation
  • Tip 7 - Why people join
  • Tip 8 - Communicate clearly during recruiting
  • Tip 9 - Involve PDT members in public relations
  • Tip 10 - Follow up with new recruits
  • Tip 11 - Recognition of new PDT members
  • Tip 12 - Document, maintain, and review your efforts
  • Tip 13 - Five keys to a successful PDT
  • Tip 14 - Make PDT membership meaningful
  • Tip 15 - Your PDT can strengthen your financial base
  • Tip 16 - Consider corporate volunteering
  • Tip 17 - More recruiting tips
  • Tip 18 - Determine PDT members’ skills
  • Tip 19 - PDT orientation meetings
  • Tip 20 - Getting PDT members to know Extension

Tip 1 - Reasons PDT members quit/don't attend

Advisory committee members may quit formally or simply by not attending or participating. One study sheds some light on reasons why:

  1. They do not feel needed by the committee.
  2. They do not feel the committee is accomplishing anything.
  3. They have inadequate opportunities to influence what goes on in Extension.
  4. They do not feel that the committee provides a means for improving county situations.
  5. They have inadequate opportunities to be involved in making decisions about programs.
  6. They could not use their talents and skills while serving on the committee.

And the list goes on! When you serve on a committee what turns you on or
off? Remember to do unto others....


Tip 2 - Maintaining PDT energy

Maintaining advisory committee energy. Does your advisory committee need revitalizing?
Ask yourself these questions.

  1. Do I adequately recognize and praise my committee members?
  2. Do I communicate regularly and systematically with committee members?
  3. Do I empower committee members to actively participate in my program?
  4. Are committee meetings interesting or routine?

Tip 3 - Finding new PDT members

  1. Ask community leaders to recommend potential members.
  2. Asking for their advice conveys that you value their opinion.
  3. Your visits with these folks will provide you a chance to tell them about your extension program and the role of advisory groups, while providing them an opportunity to recognize worthy individuals.

County Program Development Team Tip 4

Approaching a prospective committee member...

Learn as much as possible about the individual beforehand.

Discuss specific information regarding the purpose of the committee, their
role, responsibilities and time commitment, your expectations and the
support that will be available to them.

Provide a concise packet of organizational information.

Explain why you decided to ask them to participate... particular skills or
personality traits that make them a good candidate.


County Program Development Team Tip 5

Motivating committee members...

In a six state study, Extension Advisory members reported that meeting frequency played a major factor in their levels of motivation. When a board, committee, or council had three or fewer meetings a year, volunteers reported being poorly motivated, while those attending four or more meetings reported being extremely motivated.

In the same study, Extension Advisory member said underutilization was one of the root causes of poor motivation and group apathy. Another finding was that advisory members are least motivated when agents dominate over 50% of the discussion; as members assume a greater portion of the dialog and discussion, the motivation factor increases dramatically.


County Program Development Team Tip 6

Issuing the invitation... the staff member who is most likely to get a favorable response should issue the invitation to serve on the advisory committee. Face-to-face, planned visits are best. Don't hurry or treat the visit casually. Invite, but don't beg! Invitations allow clientele to get involved in something positive. Begging sends the message that they are doing something for you personally rather than the program or their community.


County Program Development Team Tip 7

Why people become advisory committee members...
One study revealed these reason.

#1 - They like to work with people.

#2 - They want to use their talents and skills.

#3 - They liked the Extension Agent.

#4 - They wanted to stay aware of what was going on in Extension.

#5 - They felt the committee accomplished things and wanted to be a part of that.

#6 - They wanted to work on solutions to problems and the advisory #committee provided an opportunity to work on some important ones.

And the list goes on...


County Program Development Tip 8

Communicate clearly when recruiting advisory committee members...
Make sure your statements communicate your intended message!

Statement Message
"This won't take much time." This is not really important!
"We won't meet very much" This won't take much time!
"We really don't do much; just keep everyone informed." You don't have to think or do
anything! We'll do everything. This involves no work.
"It just amounts to a couple of meetings and a dinner each year." This is routine stuff we do for Athens; we're just jumping through hoops!
"There is no problem if you skip ameeting!" This requires no commitment. Your input does not matter. We don't do anything worthwhile..
"Do me a favor and serve on this committee." You are going to feel guilty if you don't do this. You are helping me rather than the program.


County Program Development Team Tip 9

Involving committee members in public relations...

Featuring committee members on your radio/television shows or in your newspaper or newletter. Give them opportunities to speak for Extension education in your community. Provide Advisory Committee name tags for them to wear at Extension events. Have members select and award a "Friend in Government" or "Friend of Extension" award at a community wide event.


County Program Development Team Tip 10

Follow-up with new committee members...
After your recruitment visit remember to follow-up with a thank you letter that can serve as a formal letter of appointment. You will also want to reiterate their term of service and outline the details of their orientation process. You might consider handwriting a personal note on the bottom of the typed, formal letter, recapturing a point from your personal visit. Those who chose not to serve should also be thanked for their time and support of the program.


County Program Development Team Tip 11

Recognizing committee members...
Send a Letter of Appointment from your University and County Administrator. Conduct a meaningful installation each year. Announce new appointments to the committee in your newsletter and in your local are even better! If you see a newspaper clipping about one of your advisory members, clip and send it to them, with a personal note. If you are aware of special occasion in the life of a member (marriage, death, birthday, etc.) send a personal note.


County Program Development Team Tip 12

Documenting your efforts... maintain and routinely review: 1) Minutes of all meetings (include attendee names); 2) Correspondence showing that all members received minutes; 3) Copies of any written communication with members; 4) A list of current members identified by gender/race and their contact information; 5) A copy of committee's rotation system, indicating years of service for each member; 6) A copy of county demographic information, to ensure that your committee membership is representative of all the population.


County Program Development Team Tip 13

Successful advisory leadership committees ....
In search of factors associated with success with advisory groups, focus group interviews were conducted with advisory leaders in six North Carolina counties. According to these advisory leaders, success of advisory groups can be claimed using these five keys:
1. Leadership
2. Involved faculty
3. Committed members
4. Meaningful work
5. Enjoyable meetings

Extension advisors have stated that they want to make a significant difference but do not have time to serve on a rubber stamp board. The Extension leader then must make the role of advisory leadership meaningful and manageable.


County Program Development Team Tip 14

Making advisory leader membership meaningful......

Apply these five principles intentionally to have a successful productive board:

1. Make expectations clear
2. Realize each member's potential
3. Have a shared goal
4. Respect other's points of view
5. Manage diversity

Note that the principles are related. It would be difficult to utilize one without consideration of the others. Leading an advisory group is an art not a science.


County Program Development Team Tip 15

Strengthening your extension program's financial base....

By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers sheds light on lessons we can learn from the past. The volunteer cycle shows that, historically, volunteers create paid jobs, directly contradicting the myth volunteers replace employees. History proves that the greater the number of volunteers who become involved in services, the greater the chance that stable financial resources will be developed. Advisory leader volunteers can play a great roll in developing your county program's financial base!


County Program Development Team Tip 16

Consider corporate volunteering....
When looking for new members for your committee, consider encouraging local bank, business or corporation to become a "corporate volunteer" for your county program. They provide an employee the opportunity to serve on your committee; providing the employee the time or other resources needed to serve. By encouraging employees to participate in community activities, a business contributes to building a better community. Corporate volunteering allows people to contribute skills and knowledge to a not-for-profit organization and actively participate in the community. Are there businesses in your community that might consider being a corporate volunteer?


County Program Development Team Tip 17

Recruiting County Program Development Team members....

As you recruit members for your County Team, remember that your initial contact and subsequent follow-up with each potential member set the stage for a successful team! Program Development Coordinators and Extension Editor, Dan Rahn have provided four sample letters for your use in following up your personal visits with prospective members. Review and edit the letters to fit your county situation. Letters are available on the County Operations Web Page; see Program Development; Extension Leadership System; Letters 1-4.


County Program Development Team Tip 18

Determining Team Members Skills....

Each Program Development Team member will bring different skills and talents to the table. Identifying and matching their skills and talents to programming tasks is important as you begin to plan how you will actually engage them in the steps of the program development process. You might consider asking members to complete the Proficiency Checklist to identify tasks and areas they enjoy and feel they do well. (See the County Operations Web Page; Program Development; Extension Leadership System; Orientation New Members; Handout; Proficiency Checklist.) As always, adapt the specific items to your county situation.


County Program Development Team Tip 19

Helping ELS members get off to a good start ....

When you set up a new ELS team or rotate members, one of the ways you can help them become good team members is to provide an orientation session. A well conducted orientation session puts team members at ease by helping them understand their role and commitment and your expectations, while outlining how you will operate. On the ELS web page, you will find a sample orientation lesson outline that includes many choices of activities and the handouts and visuals you will need for each activity. You only need to choose the activities that best suit your county situation. Materials are available on the CAES web site; see county operations, program development, extension leadership system, orientation of new members.


County Program Development Team Tip 20

Do ELS members really know your staff and program? ....

The answer may be somewhat! One activity that would help them learn more is "This is Cooperative Extension," a simple fill-in-in-the-blank activity that includes facts about your local office and program. The sample on the ELS web site is part of the SouthernRegion SEAL materials. You will want to tailor to your program area, county or whatever you want them to learn! If you don't want to use a paper activity turn the activity into a game with teams competing. See the sample on the County Operations web site; ELS.