PUBLISHED: 2:35 PM on Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Effort doubles number of men recruited
Big Brothers Big Sisters
The BIG Campaign, the first coordinated media and outreach campaign intended to increase the number of volunteer Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Southeast Alaska, resulted in a record number of inquiries and new matches between adults and children around the region.

Since August, 236 people contacted the agency about volunteering as mentors in the program, a 34 percent increase over the number of inquiries during the same time last year. Currently 66 percent of those people have completed the interview process and have been matched or are ready to be matched with a Little Brother or Little Sister. During The BIG Campaign, 115 new matches were made across Southeast Alaska, helping the agency make a record-breaking 288 new matches in 2006.

"We not only exceeded our campaign goal for total inquiries, but we are thrilled that 100 of the inquiries came from men," said Marc Wheeler, BBBS of Southeast Alaska executive director. "That's double the number of men who showed interest in becoming a Big Brother a year ago." The agency usually has a larger number of boys than girls waiting to be matched. Thanks to The BIG Campaign, many waiting boys are now being matched with male mentors.

BBBS will use the momentum from The BIG Campaign for a new year-round recruitment effort to encourage Southeast residents to become mentors.

"Even with this terrific response from new volunteers, we still have over 120 boys and girls waiting to be matched across the region and only 49 adults ready to become Big Brothers or Big Sisters," Wheeler said. "January is National Mentoring month, so it's a perfect time for folks who have been thinking about becoming mentors to take that first step and contact us."

BBBS volunteers spend as little as an hour a week in one-to-one friendships with their Littles in the classroom or in the community doing fun activities. In 2006, the free program served 605 children between the ages of 6 and 17 in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Yakutat, Hoonah, Haines, Skagway, Klukwan and Metlakatla. BBBS has a goal of serving more than 670 Southeast children in 2007 and 1,000 children by the year 2010.

The BIG Campaign began in August and ran until the end of the year with funding support from the Reuben E. Crossett Endowed Alaska Fund. During the campaign, BBBS targeted men with a combined print and radio campaign featuring profiles of nine Big Brothers

from all walks of life across the region. BBBS also conducted its first online survey of current and former Big Brothers.

The campaign's message, "Share a little time. Make a big difference," resonated with caring adults who wanted to have an impact in a child's life but said they were busy with work, travel and family commitments.

"Through our survey we discovered potential volunteers were as concerned about the amount of time they had as those who are currently successful Big Brothers and Big Sisters, " Wheeler said. "Once they realized the program could fit their busy lifestyles, they were eager to sign up."

One of the most successful components of the campaign was the "Refer-a-friend" contest. Current Bigs and friends of the agency were asked to refer their friends, family and co-workers and were eligible for prizes depending on the number of referrals they made. Regional prize winner was Rose Mary Ryman of Yakutat and local prizes were awarded in Hoonah, Juneau, Sitka, Haines and Ketchikan. Survey data showed personal contact is one of the most effective ways to encourage new volunteers to get involved.