Giving Back

A man with a white 4-H shirt and khaki pants stands in the Mississippi capitol building holding a golden frame with the 4-H green four-leaf clover in the center. Surrounding the logo in a circle are more than 20 4-H pins.
Harry Dendy stands in the capitol building holding a frame that showcases his many 4-H pins and awards.

4-H Foundation merges with MSU Foundation

Story by Leah Barbour • Photos by Kevin Hudson

Harry Dendy of Clinton first joined the Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H Youth Development program in Chickasaw County 62 years ago, when he was 10 years old. Forestry was his main project area.

“I was really good at coming in second place, but I stayed active in 4-H,” Dendy remembers, laughing. “4-H taught me how to be a gracious winner and, most importantly, how to lose and not be discouraged.

“It taught me leadership, gave me a chance to interact with kids my own age, a spirit of competitiveness, and a certain degree of self-confidence,” he continues. “4-H made me who I am.”

During his subsequent 33-year career with Farm Credit System, contributing to 4-H was a regular part of Dendy’s job. By 2003, when he opened his own consulting company, Capitol Ag Services Inc., Dendy had volunteered with 4-H for decades.

Dendy was selected to the 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees early in his professional career. He was elected as vice chair of the board in 2001. When he was elected chair in 2015, he committed to a 3-year term that expired in April 2018. He continues to serve 4-H as immediate past chair and board member.

“I am firmly convinced that our most precious natural resource is our youth,” he explains. “It is up to us adults to offer guidance, leadership, and mentorship to be sure that they are positioned to be responsible adults and make a positive difference in our society.”

Harry Dendy

In 2012, MSU policy changed, and Extension personnel could no longer fund-raise directly for nonprofit organizations outside the university, including for the 4-H Foundation. Extension Director Dr. Gary B. Jackson saw contributions slow significantly, and he began researching how other land-grant institutions were handling this type of change. He asked fellow administrators, including Fiscal Administrator Richard Swann, Associate Extension Director Dr. Paula Threadgill, and Extension Professor Larry Alexander, to examine how the 4-H Foundation might change if it merged with the MSU Foundation. In 2013, Jackson presented the benefits a merger would have for Mississippi 4-H.

When Dendy became the 4-H Foundation board chair, he appointed Charles Taylor to continue Extension administrators’ research into the benefits and drawbacks of a merger.

“Mr. Taylor’s vast corporate background uniquely qualified him to analyze and best determine how to return our fund-raising to a more acceptable level,” Dendy explains. “The initial work focused on corporate fund-raising, with the identification of programs and potential donors for program support. Additionally, we explored how other state 4-H Foundations operated, relative to their universities’ Extension Services.”

Jackson visited North Carolina State University to learn how its 4-H Foundation changed its relationship with the university foundation. He shared his findings in a presentation to Dendy and the other members of the 4-H Foundation. Because many states’ 4-H foundations were created before university foundations, many of those foundations were choosing to merge, and donors were responding.

“When it became apparent that most potential corporate donors for 4-H were also donors or potential donors to MSU, it was clear that a new relationship was needed,” Dendy continues. “The result was a plan to merge the fund-raising operations of the two foundations, which will support 4-H programs.”

Some members of the 4-H Foundation were hesitant at first, but Dendy and Taylor formed committees and encouraged discussions, and the wheels of change began turning.

On April 17, the 4-H Foundation membership unanimously approved a motion granting authority to the 4-H Foundation board of trustees to finalize and execute a merger/gift agreement with the MSU Foundation. The agreement was formally signed June 25.

“The original mission of the 4-H Club Foundation of Mississippi Inc. has not changed,” Dendy emphasizes. “The money-raising function has changed in that the MSU Foundation will now be responsible for all activities related to the fund-raising aspect.

“The MSU Foundation, working with the 4-H Foundation and Extension, has the manpower, the expertise, and the contacts to best serve fund-raising for 4-H.”

Many more options for supporting 4-H are available by working with the MSU Foundation, Dendy emphasizes, including earmarking money for 4-H travel, scholarships, or awards.

Will Staggers, assistant director of development for Extension, can assist potential 4-H donors.

“This is clearly a good business decision for both entities,” he agrees. “We want to have a system in place that funds endless opportunities for our 4-H youth here in Mississippi, and we’re excited to work together.”

To find out more about supporting Mississippi 4-H through the MSU Found-ation, contact Staggers at (662) 325-2837 or wstaggers@foundation.msstate.edu.

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