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Be a Big

Volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters is fun and has a positive impact on a child’s life. Simply getting together to talk, laugh, and hang out on a consistent basis creates trust and builds a child’s self-esteem. We create professionally supported, 1:1 mentoring relationships between trained, caring adult mentors and youth in the community who want a mentor. Participation is 100% voluntary for mentors, “Bigs”, mentees, “Littles”, and Parents/Guardians. We hope you will join us!

How does the program work?

Community Based Program Logistics

As a volunteer mentor or “Big” you will be matched 1:1 with a youth or “Little” who wants to be part of the program. Our team makes matches based on preferences expressed during interviews with Bigs, Littles and Parents/Guardians to ensure a good fit. We consider things like interests, location, demographics, personality, communication style, goals, expectations, and more. 

The first time you meet your Little you’ll also get to meet their Parent/Guardian and your Match Support Specialist, your BBBS cheerleader who will be with you every step of the way. You and your Little will get together 2-4 times per month for at least 1 year to share mutual interests, join BBBS agency activities, work on school projects, or just talk about life. The possibilities are endless!

Who can be a Big?

Volunteer Eligibility Criteria

Our volunteers come from all kinds of backgrounds and represent many different identities. Our program thrives when the diversity of our mentors matches the diversity of the youth in our program. Though there is no one “perfect” mentor profile, there are some basic criteria mentors must meet to apply. Mentors must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Reside in/near and be willing to drive to your Little within our service area (Portland metro area, including Vancouver, WA) 
  • Be willing and able to make at least a one-year commitment to the program from the time of matching
  • Be willing and able to meet with your Little two to four times per month.
  • Be willing and able to complete fingerprint background check upon enrollment, as well as renewals every 3 years.
  • Possess at least the minimum limits of auto liability insurance if you intend to drive your Little. Volunteers are responsible for transporting their Little during outings.
  • Have a safe driving record (no DUIs within the past five years; no more than two moving violations in the past year).
  • Never have been convicted of a felony.
  • Demonstrate current appropriate alcohol and drug use.
How do I become a mentor?

The Enrollment Process

Our enrollment process consists of 5 core steps. All steps are required and play an important role in getting you ready to be the best mentor you can be. The pace of enrollment is largely defined by you – if you are motivated to move through the steps quickly you could be approved within a few weeks. We send reminders and helpful nudges throughout the process so you’ll never get lost. 

Orientation & Application

Review the self paced orientation and submit your volunteer application.

Live Virtual Training

A 45 minute session via Zoom where you’ll meet our Enrollment Staff.

Individual Interview

A 60-90 minute interview 1:1 with one of our Enrollment Staff.

Fingerprints & References

You’ll complete a fingerprint based background check and we will contact your references. 

Get Matched

If your application is accepted, we start looking for the perfect match right away!

Volunteer FAQ

What is a match?

A “match” in our program consists of the Big and Little, as well as the Parent/Guardian and Match Support Specialist. We sometimes refer to this as the “match team” because its truly a team effort! All parties must have consistent and timely communication with one another for the life of the match to be successful.

What is the time commitment for a mentor?

Mentors commit to a minimum of one year in a match, starting the date they meet their Little. Matches meet 2-4 times monthly throughout the year. More than 75% of matches meet the one-year commitment and our average match length is about 3 years.

Who are our Littles?

We enroll youth 6-16 who are seeking an additional supportive adult in their lives. Our youth come from all different family structures, experiences, identities, cultures, etc. A large percentage of youth in our program live in single parent/caregiver households and more than half are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). Some have experience with trauma/abuse, parental incarceration, and socioeconomic disparity. We serve neurotypical, neurodiverse, and autistic youth, youth living with parents, grandparents, extended family, resource parents, etc. This is not true of all youth in our program.

Are all Littles from single-parent families?

Our Littles have all different kinds of living situations. While we do see a high number of inquiries from single parents, we also serve youth living with two parents or caregivers, grandparents, aunts/uncles, siblings, resource (foster) parents, etc. Mentors are not expected to fill the role of any missing or absent parental figure.

Will I meet my Little's parent/guardian?

YES! Parents/guardians play a crucial roll in making matches successful. Mentors and parents communicate weekly to plan, coordinate and confirm outings with the Little. As a Big, expect to get to know your Little’s parent/guardian well. 

Can my Little meet my partner/roommates/friends/children?

It is OK for a Little to interact with other adults living in a mentor’s household if the match is spending time together at the mentor’s home. A Little should never spend time alone with a non-mentor, regardless of their comfort level. BBBS emphasizes 1:1 matches and while we do run basic background checks 14 on all adults living in a mentor’s home, we expect mentors to be the adult responsible for the child during the match activity.

What if I’ve never worked with youth before?

Prior experience working with youth is not required to become a mentor. Our staff supports volunteer candidates throughout the enrollment process, which includes training designed to equip volunteers with the skills and mindset needed to support Littles. During an interview, a volunteer will be asked about comfort level with a variety of situations/support areas. If there is an area you want more support/training in, we can assign additional training. Once you are matched with a Little, BBBS staff will contact you regularly to check in about your match and offer support/input as needed/requested. Youth in our program are seeking a friend who will spend time with them, listen to them, and have fun.

Are there any off-limit activities?

There is no list of off-limit activities. Overnights are not permitted under any circumstance (camping included) and will be grounds to close a match if the policy is not followed. If you choose to participate in higher-risk activities (rock climbing, boating, mountain biking, etc.), discuss ahead of time with parent/guardian, youth, and Match Support Specialist. BBBS has a High-Risk Activity Waiver form that can be signed.

Does BBBS ever make cross-gender matches?

Yes. BBBS matches anyone with anyone. Gender identity is one of the many factors/preferences we consider when making matches.

What is the volunteer enrollment process like?

The volunteer enrollment process includes completing an application including providing references, virtual Pre-Match Training, virtual enrollment interview, and an in-person fingerprint appointment. Once all these steps are completed, the Enrollment & Matching Team will process the file before notifying a mentor of their acceptance or denial to the program.

If I’ve been a Big in a different state, do I need to re-enroll?

Yes, all BBBS sites operate individually and have variables in enrollment processes. Prior experience as a mentor is fantastic, but all mentors new to BBBS Columbia Northwest must complete the entire enrollment process.

If I’ve been fingerprinted for another volunteer or work position, can I transfer those records?

No, BBBS sites conduct their own fingerprint-based background checks. This is a BBBS National child safety standard.

Why do I need to provide my SSN for enrollment?

A SSN is required for BBBS to run layered background checks. This is a child safety standard requirement per BBBS National.

What if now isn’t the right time to become a mentor?

Recognizing that it may not be the right time to enroll as a mentor with our program is a great sign that you are taking the commitment seriously and are aware of your own limitations to meeting our program’s expectations. If now is not the right time, we invite you to:

  1. Please come back when you’re ready
  2. Refer someone who may be ready to become a mentor
  3. Make a donation via our website to support our existing matches and development of new programs.
Donate today!

Invest in the growth of the youth we serve

Main Office

6443 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy
Suite #200
Portland, OR 97221


[email protected]