Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
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|Headquarters||Tampa, Florida, United States|
|Pam Iorio, President and CEO|
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose goal is to help all children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with volunteer 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 Ernest 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 came before the New York Children's Court
- 1903 Businessman Irvin F. Westheimer befriends a young boy in Cincinnati, OH; seeds sown for the start of Big Brothers in Cincinnati
- 1904 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 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. Agreements 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)
- 2013 Big Brothers Big Sisters moves its national office from Philadelphia to Irving, Texas.
- 2015 Big Brothers Big Sisters announced the relocation of its headquarters from Irving to Tampa, Florida.
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 received a rating of two out of a potential four stars. Charity Navigator, America’s premier charity evaluator. The low rating is due to the 23.3% of expenses that are used for things other than programming expenses.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America meets the BBB Wise Giving Alliance's Standards for Charity Accountability.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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- "Charity Ratings | America's Most Independent, Assertive Charity Watchdog". CharityWatch.org. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- "Charity Ratings | Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to Pay $1.6 Million to Resolve Allegations of False Claims for Federal Grants". www.justice.gov. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
- "Starting something since 1904". Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Retrieved February 2, 2007.