Max and Beverley Benne

Gift planning for Michigan 4-H’s future

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This past fiscal year, Max and Beverley Benne documented a bequest from their estate, which will provide future funding for Michigan 4-H.

Planned gifts, sometimes referred to as gift planning or legacy giving, are gifts that will support 4-H in the future. Documented planned gifts provide recognition and a legacy for the donor while supporting the next generation of 4-H’ers. Although there are a variety of types of planned gifts, bequests are one of the most common forms of planned gifts.

Max and Beverley Benne

This past fiscal year, Max and Beverley Benne, of Sturgis, documented a bequest from their estate, which will provide a forthcoming source of funding for Michigan 4-H’s area of greatest need.

“I was a longtime 4-H’er as a young person and I was an IFYE – International 4-H Youth Exchange – participant. Those experiences were very instrumental in my youth and still carry influence today,” Max Benne said. “I appreciate very much the opportunities I had and I am trying to repay a little bit by giving back.”

An Ingham County 4-H alumnus, Max Benne was a 10-year member of the Okemos 4-H Club and was a six-year FFA member during his youth. He received the State Poultry Judging Award, was a National 4-H Congress delegate to Chicago and an IFYE delegate to Denmark.

He received degrees from Michigan State University in dairy production, dairy farm management and a doctorate of education degree. Before his distinguished 29-year teaching career at Western Michigan University, he worked as a 4-H agent, a volunteer coordinator for the Experiment in International Living Program, covering all participating school systems east of the Mississippi River, and an instructor at Lakeland School Corporation and Glen Oaks Community College. Research and professional presentations have taken him to Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Norway, Japan and China.

Beverley also received a degree in teaching from the MSU College of Education in 1967. She taught school for a few years before moving strictly into substitute teaching. More recently, Beverley has found an interest in art. She has created stationery, note cards, and such with her drawings and paintings. Her art has been displayed at a local gallery in Sturgis.

Today, the Bennes co-own and operate Benne Farms, a commercial sheep operation outside of Sturgis and remain strong advocates for St. Joseph County 4-H. Max is a past president of the Michigan Sheep Breeders Association and a past recipient of the Outstanding Commercial Sheep Producers for the State of Michigan Award. He served as vice president of St. Joseph County Farm Bureau and is a former member of the American Society of Agronomy, the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture, the Michigan Soil and Water Conservation Society, and the Kalamazoo Production Credit Association Board.

Legacy commitments to support Michigan 4-H represent a visionary approach to ensuring that 4-H programs are available for Michigan’s young people for many years after we ourselves are no longer able to witness their impacts.

“We do give a small amount to the Michigan 4-H Foundation each year. Documenting an estate gift is a way of designating a larger amount, which hopefully we won’t need, but if we do it is there,” Max Benne said.

A survey conducted by indicates that less than half of U.S. adults currently have a will. Estate planning is critical to managing your assets and protecting your family. A will provides clear direction for the distribution of your estate. To support Michigan 4-H, donors may bequeath a specific amount, a percentage of the estate or a residual after other distributions from an estate are fulfilled.

Any donor who provides documentation of their intent to honor 4-H through a planned legacy gift to the Michigan 4-H Foundation is eligible for A.G. Kettunen Society membership and recognition.

To explore planned gift options, contact Amanda Masters, assistant director of development for 4-H, at 517-884-4691 or by e-mail at