Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to "create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth".[2] Adult volunteers are matched with children from age 5 to young adulthood.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of the oldest and largest youth mentoring organizations in the United States. Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors children, ages 5 through young adulthood in communities across the country. The ages of children and youth served varies by affiliate.

Congressional charter

The group holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code.


Public/Private Ventures, an independent Philadelphia-based national research organization, conducted a study from 1994 to 1995, monitoring 950 boys and girls nationwide to study the effects of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Out of the 950 children, half were randomly chosen to be matched, and the others were put on a waiting list. According to the study the matched children meet with their Big Brother or Sister about three times a month for a year.

After surveying the children at the beginning of the study, and again after 18 months, the researchers found that the Little Brothers and Little Sisters, compared to those children not in the program, were:

  • 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
  • 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
  • 52% less likely to skip school
  • 37% less likely to skip a class
  • 33% less likely to hit someone

They also found that the Littles were more confident of their performance in schoolwork and got along better with their families.[3]

"We have known all along that Big Brothers Big Sisters' mentoring has a long-lasting, positive effect on children's confidence, grades, and social skills," affirms Karen J. Mathis, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America's Past President and CEO, "and the results of this impact study scientifically confirm that belief."

"These dramatic findings are very good news, particularly at a time when many people contend that 'nothing works' in reaching teenagers," said Gary Walker, then-President of Public/Private Ventures. "This program suggests a strategy the country can build on to make a difference, especially for youth in single-parent families."[3]

Public/Private Ventures conducted another study in 2011 that evaluated the school-based Big Brothers Big Sisters Program. Unlike the conventional community-based Big Brothers Big Sisters where Bigs and Littles can engage in their activities in any setting, some Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies offer opportunities for school-based mentoring. In this type of mentoring, the Bigs meet with their Littles at their school – whether it is in the classroom or on the playground.[4] Public/Private Ventures randomly assigned 1,139 nine- to sixteen-year-old students in either a treatment group that received mentoring or a control group that did not receive mentoring. They followed the students for 1.5 school years. The outcomes that the researchers measured fell into three broad categories: school-related performance and attitudes, problem behaviors, and social and personal well-being. At the end of the first school year, compared to the control group, mentored youth performed better academically, had more positive perceptions of their own academic abilities, and were more likely to report having a "special adult" in their lives. However, the mentored youth did not show improvements in classroom effort; global self-worth; relationships with parents, teachers, or peers; and rates of problem behavior. Academic improvements were also not sustained into the second school year. The researchers predict that more permanent changes in the youth's school performance might depend on more fundamental changes that do not occur in the first year of involvement.[5]


In a recent[when?] review, Big Brothers Big Sisters was selected by Forbes magazine as one of its top ten charities, making the publication's “gold star” list of charities worthy of donor consideration. The magazine surveyed 200 non-profit organizations and rated them on how efficiently they collect and distribute dollars. Forbes looked at three categories: charitable commitment; fundraising efficiency, and donor dependency.[citation needed]

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America currently has a Charity Navigator four star rating out of a potential four stars.[6]

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America meets the BBB Wise Giving Alliance's Standards for Charity Accountability.[7]

Big Brothers Big Sisters received the American Institute of Philanthropy's highest rating, an A+.[8]

In 2013 Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) found itself at the center of a major scandal involving grant funding, leading to sweeping changes at the organization. On June 24, 2013, The United States Department of Justice issued an Audit Report stating it was freezing the disbursement of all grant funds to BBBSA, noting that the organization was "in material non-compliance with the majority of the grant requirements" that were tested by the audit. "As a result of these weaknesses," the audit noted, the agency "questioned $19,462,448 in funding that the grantee has received and recommended the $3,714,838 in funds not yet disbursed be put to better use". The audit further stated that "most significantly", it "found that BBBSA's practices for recording and supporting grant-related expenditures were inadequate to safeguard grant funds and ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of the grants".[citation needed]

In the wake of the 2013 scandal, Big Brothers replaced its management team and implemented policies governing the use of federal grant funds to bring the organization back into compliance.

As part of a settlement with the Justice Department, BBBSA paid $1.6 million and agreed to implement the following changes:

  • Institute a strict compliance program that requires the organization to engage in regular audits, both internally and by independent auditors
  • Establish a compliance team, an employee code of conduct, whistleblower policies and a disciplinary policy for employees who engage in or fail to disclose abuses of federal grant funds
  • Provide regular employee training on these policies
  • Employ risk assessment tools to detect abuses that might otherwise go undetected

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Civil Division's Commercial Litigation Branch. The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted the investigation.

“We appreciate the support of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Civil Division in working with us on these kinds of cases,” said Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz. “The OIG’s auditors and investigators will continue to work with each other closely to uncover misuses of grant funds, and with our law enforcement partners to ensure that justice is served.”

The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.[9] BBBSA and many of its affiliates remain partnered with OJJDP today.[10]

Origins and operations

In 1904, a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Kent Coulter was seeing many boys come through his courtroom. He recognized that caring adults could help many of these boys stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. That marked the beginning of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City and the Big Brothers movement. By 1916, Big Brothers had spread to 96 cities across the country.

At around the same time, the members of a group called Ladies of Charity were befriending girls who had come through the New York Children's Court. That group would later become Catholic Big Sisters, an independent organization.

In 1958, the Big Brothers Association was granted a Congressional charter. Big Sisters International was founded in 1970. Both groups continued to work independently until 1977, when Big Brothers of America and Big Sisters International joined forces and became Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

Big Brothers Big Sisters currently operates in all 50 states and in 13 countries around the world, including Australia, Austria, Bermuda, Bulgaria, Canada, Cayman Islands, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago.[11]

In spring 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BBBS of America and BBBS Canada have formed a joint coronavirus task force to "work together to ensure agencies can continue to provide these essential services and life-changing mentoring relationships for young people through this pandemic.”[12]

Big Brothers Big Sisters International

Big Brothers Big Sisters International was founded in 1998. BBBS International's mission is to promote and support the development of Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programs throughout the world, operating independently in various countries. This is done by providing consultation, technical assistance, training and materials for NGOs wanting to develop this mentoring model.


  1. ^ "Big Brothers Big Sisters of America President and CEO Charles Pierson Announces He Will Step Down". Big Brothers Big Sisters. 2014-02-28. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
  2. ^ "About Us: Big Brothers Big Sisters".
  3. ^ a b "Big impact—proven results -". Big Brothers Big Sisters. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
  4. ^ "Promising Practices Network | Programs that Work | Big Brothers Big Sisters of America". Retrieved 2016-06-29.
  5. ^ Herrera, C., Grossman, J. B., Kauh, T. J., & McMaken, J. (2011). "Mentoring in Schools: An Impact Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters School-Based Mentoring". Child Development, 82(1), 346-361.
  6. ^ "Rating for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved February 3, 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Charity Ratings | America's Most Independent, Assertive Charity Watchdog". Retrieved 2016-06-29.
  9. ^ "Charity Ratings | Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to Pay $1.6 Million to Resolve Allegations of False Claims for Federal Grants". 21 January 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
  10. ^ "Big Brothers Big Sisters of America: Reducing Risk Increasing Pro-Social Skills through BBBS Youth Mentoring". OJJDP. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  11. ^ "Starting something since 1904". Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Retrieved February 2, 2007.

External links