FAQ for Bigs
What is the commitment?
We ask Bigs and Littles in all our mentoring programs to make a minimum commitment of 12 months to the mentoring match (and each other!) On average, matches meet 1-4 times per month for a minimum of one hour at a time (depending on which program you sign up for). We ask Bigs and Littles in the Community-Based program to meet at least twice per month and that all activities are planned with parent/guardian approval.
How do I know if I qualify to be a mentor?
You don’t need a specific kind of degree or job or knowledge to be a great Big. You DO need to be a caring, consistent, compassionate adult who is willing to share what life has taught you. Throughout your mentoring experience, you will have a dedicated and professionally trained BBBSU staff member to assist you. We will coach you in building your friendship with your Little and as you help them develop and meet the goals they have set for themselves.
How do you match Bigs and Littles?
- We do our best to match our Bigs and Littles based on interests, backgrounds, proximity and preferences. Good matches take time to make. We don’t just select the next child on our list and match them with the next Big who applies. This means some may wait longer than others to be matched, and that is perfectly normal.
- BBBSU staff get to know each Big, parent and child that enrolls in the program. This is one of the reasons we have such an extensive interview and reference process. We get to know your interests, hobbies, and preferences in a Little. We do the same with each Little.
- Once a volunteer is accepted into the program, our enrollment team begins searching for the Little who will be their best match. Our staff will contact you once they have a possible match and tell you about the Little. From there you decide if you think they will be the best fit.
What role does gender/gender identity play when matching Bigs and Littles?
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah welcomes people of all gender identities to participate in our programs. We create the best match we can based on the gender identities of each Big and Little. In general, Littles who identify as male/female will be matched with Big Brothers/Big Sisters who share that identity. If you identify with another gender or are queer, nonbinary, or transgender we will discuss preferences with you, and our enrollment staff will make the best decision they can based on availability. Big Couples are matched with Little Brothers since we always have a waitlist for boys who enroll in the Community-Based program.
Where can I mentor?
- BBBSU serves seven counties in Utah (Salt Lake, Weber, Davis, Utah, Summit, Wasatch, Washington). We have dedicated offices in Salt Lake City, Park City, and St. George, Utah. If you live in or near these areas, you can be a mentor! If you are outside these cities, you can still inquire, and we will see if we are able to find a Little in your area.
- If you are applying to the Site-Based or mentor2.0 program, we will try to match you with a Little at the school site nearest to you. For Community-Based Bigs, we try make matches where the Big and Little are located within 30 minutes of each other. We recognize that lengthy travel takes up too much time and can undermine the longevity and quality of a match.
Who are the (Littles/Mentees BBBSU serves ?
Our Littles range in age from 6-18, (avg=12). We serve youth who have a lot of potential but who may not reach it because they are facing a number of challenges (risk factors). We prioritize enrolling kids who are living in low-to-moderate income homes. Many of the kids in our programs are from a refugee background, are coping with parental incarceration, or living without one, or both, of their biological parents. For more specific information, please see our annual demographic descriptions of children served here.
BBBSU partners with many local schools and other nonprofits who refer children to our program. Many parents hear about us and apply directly. Either way, BBBSU only enrolls children who meet our eligibility policy and who tell us in our interview that they want to participate. In addition, all parent/guardians must complete an application, child safety training and agree to participate by supporting the match and speaking with us on a regular basis.
How long does it take to become a mentor?
We have a thorough application process (see Six Steps) but the amount of time it takes depends largely on you. You will need to complete each application step and your quick response will speed up the process. On average from the time you apply, to the time you meet your Little, it will be about one to three months depending on preferences and location.
What are the requirements for Bigs?
The age requirements may differ by program:
- Community-Based Bigs must be at least 18 years old.
- Site-Based Bigs can be adults or high school students (Freshmen- Juniors).
- Mentor2.0 mentors must be college graduates or have equivalent professional or military experience.
- There is no upper age limit to be a Big.
Volunteers can apply to be a Big if they are retired, in college or graduate school, or do not work outside the home. However, if you are in the midst of a major life change such as starting a new job, just moved, divorce or marriage, we may ask you to wait a few months until life is settled so you will feel ready to make a new year-long commitment.
To volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, you must have a social security number that allows us to run a background check.
What does it cost to be a Big?
- Big Brothers Big Sisters covers the cost of processing your application.
- In the Site-Based and Mentor2.0 programs, mentors do not pay for events since they are on-site at our partner schools.
- In the Community-Based program, we encourage Bigs to find low-to-no cost activities to do with their Littles. We provide resources and ideas to help with this, and occasionally are able to offer free tickets and admission opportunities thanks to generous donations from partners. BBBSU also hosts regular activities for matches like a summer picnic and our annual Spring Fling celebration where we highlight the graduating matches and the matches of the year.
What kind of background checks do you do?
- All volunteers are subject to multi-level background checks that include obtaining references from people who know them well. Thus, we conduct fingerprint background checks on all adult volunteers. We check your background at the federal, state and local levels including National Criminal Background Check (recurs monthly), Federal Background Check, DCFS Child Abuse/Neglect, Public Domain Search, Motor Vehicle Check.
- References are required from a spouse or family member, employer, and any child- serving organization you have worked with in paid or unpaid roles.
- We ask you to complete a full new check anytime you re-enroll and every 18 months during the match.
Can I volunteer if I have a criminal record?
We handle this on a case-by-case basis. It is important that you disclose this to us and address it fully. In some instances, an offense may not be an obstacle because it is minor or long ago. In other instances, for example, a case that is still open is a disqualifier. Adults charged with a DWI or DUI in the past 5 years are ineligible to volunteer as mentors in our programs.
Can I be a Big if I don't have a car?
Yes. Volunteers who don’t have a car can be a Big in our Site-Based or mentor2.0 program. Additionally, volunteers can become a Big in our Community-Based program if they own or have access to a car they are insured on, use Uber/Lyft, or UTA. It likely will take a bit longer for us to find a Little to match who is on the bus line, but we can make it work.
How will I be supported once I become a mentor? /Is there training?
- Our Bigs are not alone! Once you and your Little agree to be matched, our enrollment staff will arrange a “match meeting” where they will introduce you to each other and the parent/guardian, go over all the ground rules, and help you get started with planning activities. They will also introduce you to your Match Support Specialist and share their contact information.
- About two weeks into your match, your Match Support will contact you (usually by phone) and check in. Thereafter they will call monthly for the first 12 months of the match. After that, when things are going well, they will call quarterly.
- BBBSU hosts, and has access to trainings on many different topics, ranging from Cultural Sensitivity, Drug and Alcohol Prevention to QPR Suicide Prevention training. We encourage all Bigs to attend or take trainings as suggested by your Match Support Team. If there is other training or information you would like to know more about, please feel free to suggest it. Someone else would probably benefit from that training as well.
- Anytime you have questions or feel you need support you can reach out to them. The Match Support staff help ensure that you have the ideas and resources you need to have a successful mentoring experience.
- Last but certainly not least, the Parent/Guardian of your Little can be a vital source of support. Most especially for community-based matches, parents can be an important source of information and ideas, and finally they will approve of all outings. If paired at a Site or in mentor2.0, school staff and BBBSU staff who are on site are also always there to help with questions you may have.
What sort of activities do I do with my Little?
- We do everything we can to make matches where the Big and Little have similar interests. But the most important thing you can do is involve your Little in making the plan for the activities. It empowers them and it helps ensure they will be engaged. So do things you love that your Little also wants to do. Try new things together or introduce your Little to new things.
- In Community-Based matches, you schedule activities when it works for you and your Little and their parent/guardian. You don’t have to spend a lot of money — it’s more about the time you’re spending with your little than what you choose to do together. Common activities include going to get ice cream or going to a movie, playing catch or a video game, walking the dog at a park, attending a sporting event or concert, or visiting the library or a local rec center.
- Site-Based and mentor2.0 matches participate in activities set by, and at a time/place pre-determined, by BBBSU staff.
Can I bring my spouse, friend, or family member?
In the beginning, it’s important for you and your Little to get to know each other. This can happen best on a one-to-one basis. However, over time it’s also valuable for your Little to get to know the people who are important to you. After three months you may occasionally want to include others in an outing with your Little. You will of course, need parent/guardian permission prior to including others and you will need to notify your match support. Just keep in mind that the main focus is the friendship you develop with your Little and the impact you have on their life.
What is a Big Couple?
A Big Couple is a pair of Bigs who are in a long-term relationship and want to be matched together to the same Little Brother. Big Couples do not have to be married, but must be in a long-term, committed relationship for at least two years. This is a great option for couples that would prefer a shared experience as opposed to each of them having their own Little. Because Bigs can meet separately to be a Big Couple, each person must meet the volunteer requirements individually.
What if my Match doesn't work out?
We do everything in our power to make matches we think will last. However, we realize that sometimes things come up — Bigs or Littles move, leave schools, or classes, situations change, or something doesn’t work out. We will attempt to mediate the situation, but if it doesn’t work out, we will close the mentoring match. When matches end we do all in our power to have a healthy closure, bringing the Big and Little together and encouraging them to reflect on the positive aspects of their time together. Our Match Support staff will support the closure every step of the way.
How long can a Match last?
- The goal of BBBSU’s mentoring programs is to empower every young person on a path to graduate high school with a plan for employment, enrollment, or enlistment with a mentor whose impact will last a lifetime.
- We ask for a minimum commitment of 12 months for mentoring matches in all programs. The average match lasts about 30 months in Community-Based and 19 months in Site-Based / mentor2.0.
- Mentoring matches may stay enrolled in the BBBSU Community-Based program until they graduate – some even last ten or more years. When a Little turns 18 or graduates from high school, they will graduate out of the BBBSU program.