• Serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse and Kalkaska Counties
May 13, 2020 Web Developer

Virtual Mentoring: Program Modifications & Future Impact

In the early phase of the Stay-at-Home Executive Order, the Bigs’ team quickly transitioned our program to offer a host of connective opportunities to our Bigs and Littles in addition to providing resources and assistance to families. Our team has been in constant contact with our Bigs, Littles and Families to ensure critical needs are being met and assistance is being provided.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) acted swiftly to provide modifications to standards, allowing us to continue certain components of our process virtually/electronically, which previously required face-to-face connection, and allows our school-based Bigs and Littles to connect virtually.

The following is an outline highlighting some of these modifications:


  • With approval from National on a temporary basis, all community-based and school-based matches are now able to meet virtually, via phone, Facetime or video-conferencing.
  • Digital parent permission forms allow for virtual contact between school-based Bigs and their Littles. Virtual matches are tracked in Matchforce database.
  • All in-person match support contacts for both school-based and community-based matches are accomplished via Zoom.
  • Staff sends weekly Virtual Match Activity ideas to all Bigs.


  • Moving forward with all volunteer and child enrollments. School-based Big applicants are encouraged to engage as a community-based match, under the new virtual guidelines until the start of the next school year.
  • All processes were moved to a digital format, with fillable applications and forms.
  • New processes were identified to continue to run background checks, electronically, directly through Lansing, in less time.
  • Volunteer interviews and match introduction meetings are conducted via Zoom.

Volunteer Recruitment

  • Volunteer recruitment campaign highlighting virtual mentoring launched April 20.
  • Press release to local media and all Bigs constituents.
  • Raise awareness via social media and engaging current Bigs.
  • Lounge & Learn Recruitment event held on April 30 via Zoom yielded 17 participants; three adults and 14 high school students in Petoskey.
  • Lounge & Learn Recruitments are being scheduled in Traverse City with TC Central – Wednesday, May 20; TC West and St. Francis (TBD).

Since April 20, eleven (11) new volunteers have been enrolled in our program!

Academic Support

  • Academic Tutoring continues with virtual support from professional tutors.
  • Tutoring assistance is being offered to additional Littles to help with remote learning.
  • Working with TCAPS and our Bigs to identify and assist students in our program who are struggling to connect with their virtual learning plan. Connecting families to tools and resources, as needed.


  • 45 school-based matches are now meeting virtually, with more expected to join.
  • Our Bigs and Littles exchanged over 125 letters, notes, photos and videos in the first month of the quarantine.
  • We currently have six (6) new matches pending.

e-Mentoring Next Steps: Foundation for the Future

BBBSA is developing e-Mentoring features into Matchforce (our database for match documentation).  Below is an outline of what this will look like.

  • Messaging platform for Bigs and Littles to communicate with each other in a secure, monitored space that will feed directly into Matchforce for match support to review and archive.
  • Messaging from agency staff directly to matches, as well as 1-to-1 with either Bigs or Littles.
  • Resource page for articles, curriculum materials, conversation prompts, training links, and child safety resources.
  • Parent consent and permission will feed into Matchforce.
  • Parent/guardian, Big and Little notifications when new message arrives.
  • Mobile-friendly app.
  • Business analytics reports, such as number of interactions, activity tracking, and real-time match “sentiment”.
  • Meets child safety standards and recommendations from national advisories.
  • A foundation to build future enhancements such as video, classroom, and other features to meet the needs of a future mentoring landscape.

This is just the beginning of a wave of enhancements to Matchforce that facilitate innovative and technology-enhanced program options for the Bigs across the Country. We are building these tools knowing that they will solve future innovation challenges for broader service delivery such as career and college skills programs, workplace mentoring expansion, and general curriculum and technology-based options with our school and corporate partners.

We are so excited to be embarking on this new chapter and believe it will strengthen our program and increase our capacity to serve more children.

This truly is our Silver Lining.

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