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Promising Program Seal

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Blueprints Program Rating: Promising

A community mentoring program which matches a volunteer adult mentor to an at-risk child or adolescent to delay or reduce antisocial behaviors; improve academic success, attitudes and behaviors, peer and family relationships; strengthen self-concept; and provide social and cultural enrichment.

Big Brothers Big Sisters operates through local “sponsored affiliates,” which are either independent Big Brother Big Sister entities or units of larger organizations. The national office brokers important national partnerships and advocates for federal funding which local affiliates benefit from, though locals are responsible for raising the dollars to sustain their programs. Community fundraising is a critical strategy for BBBS, which has built successful fundraising efforts on the assets of a strong brand name and broad networks of volunteer mentors committed to the program. Private funds, including from foundations, fundraising events, and individual and corporate giving comprise 65 percent of the revenue supporting the program nationally. Public funds are also an important source of funding, typically to support mentoring for targeted high need populations such as children of prisoners, youth involved in the juvenile justice system, and children of military personnel.

Allocating State or Local General Funds

Big Brothers Big Sisters often seeks support through local and state dedicated appropriations. Sister agencies in a state will form a coalition to advocate with legislative bodies for financial support for their programs. Advocacy usually stresses the impact of Big Brothers Big Sisters on participant educational, behavioral and juvenile delinquency outcomes.

Maximizing Federal Funds

Formula Grants: Local affiliates may access formula funds to support their ongoing operations, through partnerships with state administering agencies or applications to competitive processes.

  • OJJDP Formula Funds support a variety of improvements to delinquency prevention programs and juvenile justice programs in states. Evidence-based programs are an explicit priority for these funds, which are typically administered on a competitive basis from the state administering agency to community-based programs.
  • Community Development Block Grants are administered to city and county governments and the public services portion of funds (15%) can support a wide variety of services, including mentoring models.

Discretionary Federal Grants: Big Brothers Big Sisters programs have received grants from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services aimed at supporting mentoring of high risk populations, including a total of $13.3 million in OJJDP youth mentoring grants in 2011.

Foundation Grants and Public-Private Partnerships

Big Brothers Big Sisters receives support from a wide variety of foundations and corporations, led by the United Way. Others include:

  • Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Edna McConnell Clark Foundation
  • Atlantic Philanthropies
  • Bank of America
  • PepsiCo

Generating New Revenue

Big Brothers Big Sisters is an ideal program for specialized funding campaigns. The national office and local affiliates use a great range of creative fundraising strategies, ranging from very small scale efforts to major events. Generating dedicated public revenue streams may also be an option for BBBS, which enjoys a strong reputation and widespread support. Prevention Focused Taxes and Fees, such as sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco products, can be considered to provide a dedicated funding source for mentoring programs. Specialized vanity license plates dedicated to children, tax form check-offs, rounding up on credit purchases and other such mechanisms should be considered.

All information comes from submissions to the Annie E. Casey Foundation from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the purveyor of the program.