This Is How We Do It: Virtual Matches

Staying safe and healthy takes top priority at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri (BBBSEMO). That applies to all who make our matches: Youth, Parents, Volunteers, and Staff. So, we’ve introduced Virtual Matches to keep up with the times and best practices. How do Virtual Matches actually work? Here’s a little breakdown!

A screen capture of a Big Meeting happening virtually on Zoom

A new Little Sister with her Parent and a new Big Sister getting to know each other during their Big Meeting via Zoom!

First, we welcome the ready.
When parents, children, and volunteers sign up to become BBBSEMO Littles and Bigs, they can choose a Virtual Match if they want to get going as soon as possible. Each Virtual Match participant says “Yes!” to acquainting and spending time together 100% remotely-- just for the first three months.

The door to a new relationship phase opens in the fourth month. As long as Parents, Littles, and Bigs agree on what’s safe and comfortable for everyone involved, Virtual Matches are clear to start meeting the “old-fashioned” way: in-person!

Then comes the interview.

Once would-be Bigs submit a volunteer application and do a short orientation online, BBBSEMO staff schedule a Zoom interview. This conversation is an in-depth talk about a potential Big’s experiences, pastimes, and mentoring interests. Those details help us see areas of match compatibility with youth & families.

Little Sister makes a video call with her Big Sister

We match for connection after that ~
Common interests are key in any relationship. That includes every BBBSEMO match. For Virtual Matches, we make it a special point to look at folks’ likes, preferred activities, and energy level – especially on the child side – to set new Littles and Bigs up for engaging online experiences.

~ and we bring folks together until…
The very first time matches see and talk with one another is especially exciting. It’s not called a “Big Meeting” for nothing! Big Meetings via Zoom are fun and informative. Their facilitated by staff and include icebreakers like Emoji trivia, along with fun-fact self-intros. You’ll also get a brief review of key procedures and policies to ensure new matches are all set to go.

Big Meetings are special virtually and face-to-face!

Big Meetings are also when brand-new Littles, Parents, and Bigs sync calendars for their first few video engagements. BBBSEMO hosts fun activities that’re great for those online meetings. Scavenger hunts, Bingo, Zumba, and fun tutorials on magic, make-up, and painting are just a few we’ve offered so far.

Our staff’s here to help matches brainstorm options for remote-friendly activities. And our weekly newsletter for Bigs shows what’s available virtually in the community, too.

A Little Brother and Big Brother sit masked at a public park… Virtual moves In-Person*!
Littles and Bigs get to enjoy new ways of sharing time and experiences face-to-face. And because they’ve spent three months getting to know each other online, they’re pros at using all kinds of tools to build and keep up their one-of-a-kind friendship.

*May vary based on the most up-to-date CDC guidelines/recommendations

Volunteer with BBBSEMO

Stand up today. Mentor youth’s tomorrow.  Apply to Volunteer.

Frequently Asked Questions: Virtual Matches

How many Virtual Matches has BBBSEMO made?

  • Over 100 Virtual Matches have been made since being implemented in August 2020!

Who is being matched?

  • Our Littles range in age from 5-17 years old and we have Bigs of all ages.
  • Of the virtual matches made to date, almost 40% of the Littles range in age from 13-17 years old and about 40% are male.
  • Big Couple and Big Family Matches are an exciting way to mentor. We have many boys on our waiting list looking for this type of match!

What are our participants saying about their Virtual Match?

  • A common theme being shared by Bigs is that beginning a BBBS match virtually takes a lot of pressure off meeting in person! This is because Bigs and Littles can build a solid base for their relationship. This makes the transition to in person activities easier.
  • Bigs and Littles are sharing that the structure of virtual matching is really helpful and planning time together is relatively simple. Plus, there are a ton of supports in place to foster relationship growth.
  • Participants are finding that starting a match virtually allows time and space for not only the Big and Little to get to know each other, but also the Big and Parent/Guardian.
  • Time spent together is really focused around getting to know one another rather than activity focused.

What activities are Bigs and Little’s participating in virtually?

  • Online video games
  • Streaming the same TV series or movie and watching at the same time and discussing together
  • Online board games and Scavenger Hunts
  • Baking together virtually
  • Attending virtual match activities hosted by BBBS
  • And so much more! Check out our Virtual Match Passport for even more fun ideas that our matches are loving!

About the Author

Kristy Fairbanks