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November 3, 2019

Understanding Big Brothers Big Sisters

by Anne Paddock

Most people think Big Brothers Big Sisters is a nationwide organization that creates and supports mentoring relationships between children and adult volunteers but Big Brothers Big Sisters is actually more than 250 organizations organized as follows:

Big Brothers Big Sisters Foundation (BBBSF):  A 501 (c) (3), BBBSF is based in Kansas City, Missouri with a donation center that solicits, used, resalable clothing and household goods from the community to help fund the mission of the local Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate (Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City). Typically, foundations affiliated with a non-profit exist to assist the national office but this foundation has only awarded one grant annually to the Kansas City affiliate.

Over the past three years (2015, 2016, and 2017) the Form 990 reports BBBSF has raised $1.5 million, $1.9 million, and $2.3 million, respectively.  A grant of $516,000, $815,000, and $816,000 was awarded to the Kansas City affiliate, representing 33% of revenue in 2015, 43% of revenue in 2016, and 35% in 2017.  The other revenue was primarily spent on “contract expense,” (which appears to be an organization that sells the donated goods). The contract expense has generally been 35% of revenue (about $700,000-$800,000 in 2016 and 2017) which means the organization converting the used goods for sale has been charging about 35%, or $35 for every $100 in revenue from the sale of goods.

The bottom line is that if you want your donation dollars to go as far as possible and, in this case to the local affiliate, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Great Kansas City, sell the goods yourself and then make a cash donation directly to the affiliate.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA):  Often referred to as the National Office, BBBSA sets the standards and supports the affiliates through funding, training, and technical assistance. Based in Tampa, Florida, BBBSA is also a 501 (c) (3) that raises about $20 million annually (about half from the government and half from contributions, gifts and grants), and spends about 50-60% of that revenue ($11 million, on average over the past two years) on grants to affiliates. The remaining revenue is spent on compensation ($4.3 million) for the 60 staff (an average of $72,000 each), fees for services (about $3 million), office and travel expenses (about $2 million).

Big Brothers Big Sisters “Affiliates: There are approximately 250 affiliates which are the local chapters of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Each affiliate has an executive director and also raises funds although many receive “grants” from the national office. The affiliates are set up as 501 (c) (3)’s. Each of the affiliates varies in the amount of revenue raised and spent.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2016) for the BBBSF, click here.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2015) for the BBBSF, click here.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2016) for BBBSA, click here.

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