Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
|Area served||United States|
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with mentors.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of the oldest and largest youth mentoring organizations in the United States. Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors children, all ages in communities across the country.
- 1902 Coulter, a court clerk, helps organize the first New York Children's Court, under Judge Julius Mayer; Ladies of Charity, later Catholic Big Sisters of New York, starts to befriend girls who come before the New York Children's Court
- 1903 Businessman Irvin F. Westheimer befriends a young girl in Cincinnati, OH; seeds sown for the start of Big Brothers in Cincinnati
- 1904 Ernest Coulter founds the organized Big Brothers movement by obtaining 39 volunteers, who each agree to befriend one boy
- 1912 The New York Times reports Big Brothers activity in 26 cities
- 1914 Ernest Coulter embarks on nationwide lecture tour on behalf of Big Brothers; planning begins for a national Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization
- 1916 Big Brothers work spreads to 96 cities
- 1917 The first national conference of Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations is held in Grand Rapids, MI., leading to the later organization of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation
- 1923 Big Sisters work geared to African-Americans is underway in Louisville, KY and Brooklyn, NY; Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. becomes treasurer of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation; First motion picture based on a Big and Little Brother relationship is released by Paramount Pictures
- 1925 Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation holds its first conference for agency executives; President Calvin Coolidge becomes patron of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation
- 1930 Six hundred delegates attend a Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation meeting in New York City
- 1934 President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt become patrons of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation
- 1940 National Committee on Big Brothers and Big Sisters service is created to continue to pursue the formation of a national group
- 1947 Big Brothers Association headquarters opens in Philadelphia
- 1948 Norman Rockwell produces the sketch that becomes a symbol for the Big Brothers Association
- 1951 Big Brothers of the Year Program begins, Associate Justice Tom Clark of the U.S. Supreme Court and J. Edgar Hoover are named
- 1952 Ernest Coulter dies
- 1958 Big Brothers Association is chartered by Congress
- 1969 Big Brothers Association grows to 150 affiliated agencies
- 1970 Big Sisters International is incorporated
- 1971 Big Brothers Association reports 208 affiliates
- 1977 Big Sisters International and Big Brothers Association merge, forming Big Brothers Big Sisters of America with 357 agencies, mostly independent agencies with their own nonprofit status and governing board
- 1984 Big Brothers Big Sisters of America occupies its new headquarters at 230 North 13th Street in Philadelphia
- 1985 Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is honored with a commemorative stamp by the Postmaster General
- 1989 Public/Private Ventures begins study to gauge impact on youth of having a Big Brother or Sister
- 1995 Public/Private Ventures Study research shows measurable, positive results on youth who have a Big Brother or Sister—seminal research in the field of youth mentoring
- 1997 President Bill Clinton holds Volunteer Summit in Philadelphia; Big Brothers Big Sisters plays key role
- 1998 Big Brothers Big Sisters International is founded
- 1999 Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Columbus and Franklin County (Ohio) partners with Bank One, NA to create the Bank One Academy. This program becomes the model for corporate mentoring for high school age participants
- 2000 Big Brothers Big Sisters in Schools becomes a core program. Partnerships with schools and volunteer-rich organizations such as churches, colleges, employers, and fraternities are emphasized. The Amachi Big Brothers Big Sisters program which matches children of prisoners with church congregants is piloted.
- 2001 The slogan "Little Moments, Big Magic" is introduced
- 2002 The Service Delivery System, consistent approach for providing services to children at all agencies is created to increase Big Brothers Big Sisters’ ability to offer quality services to greater numbers of youth
- 2003 President George W. Bush announces three-year $450 million mentoring initiative in his State of the Union Address
- 2004 Founding agency Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City celebrates centennial anniversary.
- 2006 First Lady Laura Bush stars in a public service announcement to recruit volunteers across the nation
- 2007 Glamour Reel Moments was donating $1 each time someone downloads the title track (Up to $10,000)
Public/Private Ventures, an independent Philadelphia-based national research organization, conducted a study from 1994–95, 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.
"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."
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. 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. 
In a recent 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-profits and rated them on how efficiently they collect and distribute dollars. Forbes looked at three categories: charitable commitment; fundraising efficiency, and donor dependency.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America meets the BBB Wise Giving Alliance's Standards for Charity Accountability.
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.
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 12 countries around the world.
- Glamour Reel Moments. Retrieved November 7, 2007.
- 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.
- Charity Navigator. Retrieved February 2, 2007.
- BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Retrieved February 2, 2007.
- Charity Watch. Retrieved February 2, 2007.
- Who We Are. Retrieved February 2, 2007.