Organizational Structure and Training of New Volunteers for Growth and Retention in a Rural Master Gardener Program

Proposed by: Edwin M.Lentz

Presenter: Lentz, E. M., Educator, The Ohio State University Extension, Findlay, OH 45840

Many rural counties have relatively small Master Gardener programs compared to urban counties. Since the pool for potential new members is relatively small, it is important to retain existing members and add new members to have an effective Master Gardener program. This presentation is a case study how a rural county implemented changes in a program that was in decline and had a retention rate of only 10 20% of new members within two years of completing their training. The results of the changes was a 80% retention of new members within two years of completing their training and the size of the organization moved from a stable number of 10 members to a consistent number of 50 in six years. Changes that were implemented included moving from a informal committee organization to an organization with by-laws, officers and leadership succession procedures. In addition, training of new members used methods that gave them confidence in answering consumer horticulture questions after becoming Master Gardeners eliminating frustration, which may have encouraged them to drop out of the program in previous years.

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