Supporting Extension Service Programs at Land Grant Institutions

The Cooperative Extension System (CES) is a nationwide network that provides critical educational resources and services to communities through land grant universities. For the last 100 years, disciplinary experts at public institutions have translated research into action, making CES the most extensive service unit of the nation's land grant university system. 

Extension programs are designed to meet the most pressing needs of local communities. They are cooperative—meaning that they involve a partnership between the public university, local governmental units and the community.

Extending the Reach of University Research and Resources

The Cooperative Extension System (CES) was first established in the early 1900s as a way to extend the reach of university research and resources to rural communities. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), at that time, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas and 30 percent of the workforce was engaged in farming. Today, less than 2 percent of Americans farm for a living and only 17 percent live in rural areas. Cooperative Extension programs have since evolved to address the needs of today's rapidly changing world. 

Based out of cooperative extension offices in almost all of the country's 3,000 counties, educators work with local county governments, schools, businesses and community organizations. Educational programs are developed to meet the needs of changing technology, improve nutrition and food safety, prepare for and respond to emergencies and protect our environment.

According to NIFA, the pace of innovation in agriculture-related, health and human sciences demands that knowledge rapidly reaches the people who depend on it for their livelihoods. As the federal partner for CES, NIFA's role is to address national priorities by bringing cutting-edge scientific discoveries directly to the regional and county level. 

To establish a local agenda, county-level extension educators work with community members to identify problems and develop solutions that address needs by providing practical, research-based education. By working alongside community members, CES helps people solve local problems and develop skills within their local communities.


4-H is the largest youth development organization in the U.S., providing over six million youth with the skills that help them grow into leaders. 

4-H is an excellent way for kids to learn about themselves and the world around them. As a research-based, positive youth development (PYD) program, 4-H provides young people with the skills to lead for a lifetime. 4-H programs are offered in communities across the United States, and 4-H members can participate in hands-on projects, leadership opportunities and mentorship programs. 4-H also provides educational resources for families and educators and research-based information on youth development. Through a variety of service opportunities, members give back to their communities and learn the value of giving.

In the spirit of the Cooperative Extension System (CES), participating in 4-H programs allows youth to experience learning through the completion of experiential projects related to health, science, horticulture and civic engagement. As a PYD program, 4-H teaches essential life skills such as self-expression and how to work collaboratively to make a difference in local communities.  

The foundation of 4-H programs is meeting young people where they are. Because of the unique, diverse experiences that they create, 4-H offers powerful learning that can help young people grow into responsible adults. By ensuring access and equity for all, 4-H programs create inclusive environments that welcome youth, regardless of social differences. 

Master Gardeners

What began as a volunteer initiative in 1972 to support the Cooperative Extension System (CES) with a high demand for urban horticulture and gardening advice now has grown into one of the largest volunteer organizations in the country. The Extension Master Gardener (EMG) program has more than 86,076 volunteers across all 50 states. Each volunteer serves on average 60 volunteer hours per year through workshops, plant clinics and other service activities such as the following:

  • Conducting garden consumer hotlines
  • Setting up exhibits
  • Writing news articles
  • Educating in community gardens
  • Conducting yard and neighborhood environmental programs
  • Controlling invasive plants
  • Establishing public demonstration gardens
  • Providing sensory gardens and other gardens and gardening techniques
  • Helping with community plantings
  • Teaching youth, elder and at-risk audiences

Volunteers who are interested in becoming an Extension Master Gardener receive 40-80 hours of training via classroom courses through the Cooperative Extension System. In exchange, volunteers give an equal number of service hours over the next 12 months. After their first year as an EMG, the expectation of service hours is typically 20-30 hours per year. There is also a continued education requirement of five to fifteen hours for continuing, advanced, or specialized training. To remain an active EMG, volunteers must meet the educational and volunteer requirements.

Through the coordination of a national committee, EMG programs across the country are connected via educational resources and organized around national priorities. Extension Master Gardeners are at the frontline for identifying and providing input on critical issues related to urban horticulture, home yards and landscapes. The Extension Master Gardener program is made possible through grant funds from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

Partnering with GivePulse as a Land Grant Institution

As institutions of higher learning, land grant universities play a critical role in cooperative extension programs. The cooperative extension model builds on the land grant university's commitment to public service by extending the reach of university resources and expertise to communities across the U.S. 

To support this, GivePulse works with land grant institutions, local governments and Extension programs around the country. Our volunteer management software helps organizations and institutions of higher education to manage, schedule and communicate with volunteers and community partners. Program leaders can collect and track volunteer, engagement and fundraising data in one place to make reporting easy and increase transparency for supporters. 

GivePulse's volunteer management platform also allows organizers to list, organize and manage volunteer shifts, training sessions and events. Once participants register for shifts or events, organizers can send reminders through the platform, and, once an event is completed, prompt volunteers to submit a reflection on their experience.

Whether your organization is seeking to build trust through clear channels of communication, improve efficiency in managing, scheduling and tracking volunteers, or expand outreach with a more robust coordination infrastructure, GivePulse has a solution.  

Ready to learn more? Schedule a demo with GivePulse today.



About the Cooperative Extension System (CES)

The Cooperative Extension System (CES) is an essential resource for communities across the United States to remain equipped to face growing challenges. To learn more about cooperative extension programs in your region, visit NIFA's CES directory to find a program near you. To access the growing resource library from CES, visit

About GivePulse

GivePulse's mission is to enable everyone in the world to participate and engage in lifting their community to new heights. We do so by providing a platform to list, find, organize and measure the impact of service-learning, community engagement, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and volunteerism.

Founded in 2012 in Austin, Texas, GivePulse works with 650,000+ groups, including colleges and universities, nonprofits, businesses, K-12/school districts and cities and municipalities. Together, we connect millions of people in an effort to create positive social change.

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