Frequently Asked Questions

About Volunteering for Big Sisters or Study Buddy Program

What happens after I submit my volunteer application form?

For the Big Sisters and Study Buddy programs, we first process your application and contact your references. Once your references are complete, you will be placed with a caseworker. When the caseworker receives your completed Criminal Record Check, they will contact you to have you come in for a mandatory training session. They are held once or twice a month on weekday evenings. After successfully attending a training session, your caseworker will schedule a screening interview with you to determine suitability for the program and match.  If you are accepted into the program, we will start looking for a Little Sister to match you with.

It can take up to 8 weeks for your application to be processed and references completed. The amount of time depends on how quickly your references get back to us. After these are received, it may take up to another 8 weeks to complete the training and interview process. This generally depends on your availability to attend a mandatory training session and have an interview with your caseworker

Do you accept everyone who applies to be a volunteer?

As prospective mentors go through the application and assessment process, the agency may determine that a mentoring role is not right for them. Prospective mentors themselves may also decide the time is not right to take on this role.

Is there an age restriction?

There is no age limit. As long as you are 19+ you can apply to be a mentor! Please note, for the Go Girls program there is a recommended age of 19-30.

Do I Need To Have Access To A Car?

Many of our volunteers do not have access to a car and rely on public transit.  On your application form you can indicate the areas you are willing to travel to and how long you are willing to travel. You should also discuss your travel ability with your caseworker before your match is made.

Do I need a flexible schedule?

A flexible schedule is not required to be a mentor, but a more restricted schedule can impact the length of time it will take to match you in the program. In the Big Sisters program the commitment is 2-4 hours a week, and in the Study Buddy program it is 1 hour a week. Matches organize their own schedules and arrangements are made between the mentor and the guardian. Some matches have a set weekly schedule, while others meet at different times each week.

Can I volunteer in a city I don’t live in?

Yes! If you work or spend a lot of time in an area you don’t live in, we would love to match you in the area where we have a higher need of volunteers. On our application form you can indicate the cities you are willing to travel to.


Can I apply for more than one program at a time?

No you can’t apply for more than one program. Once you are matched in a program please discuss with your caseworker the possibility of transferring or being involved in more than one area of the agency.

Can I obtain a reference letter for volunteering?

Letters of reference are provided at your caseworker’s discretion only after you have fulfilled the minimum commitment. 

Are there any education requirements I need as mentor to apply for this program? Or, is experience or advanced knowledge with children and youth required?

We do not require any specific or specialized educational training to apply to our programs. We have mentors with all different backgrounds and life experiences. Our coordinators are there to support you throughout your match.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is someone who creates a fun and supportive friendship with a child. They act as a guide and role model who is open-minded and is someone who will challenge growth, provide support, express care and expand possibilities.

What happens if I have busy times of the year or am away for a period of time?

Please contact our Program Assistant with questions regarding availability. Occasional absences and vacation are okay, within reason.

Am I required to spend money on my mentee?

The quality of the time you invest with your mentee is more important than the amount of money you spend. That’s why we don’t encourage spending a lot of money on your outings. We encourage low-to-no cost activities when possible. We are able to provide a variety of free activities and to events to our matches.


How long is the application process?

The amount of time it takes to get through the application process depends on program demand in your area, how quickly we receive your Criminal Record Check and references, and availability of our training sessions. We appreciate your patience as you go through our thorough application process!

What happens after I submit my volunteer application form?

After we receive your application you will be prompted to complete your Criminal Record Check (CRC). Once we have processed your application you will receive an email outlining next steps. We contact your references and once we have your CRC and references we place you with a caseworker. The caseworker will contact you to invite you to attend a mandatory training session. After successfully attending a training session, your caseworker will schedule a screening interview with you to determine suitability for the program and match.

What is the training session for?

Our training sessions provides general information, program participant expectations, your role as a mentor, and important child safety training. Currently the training is being held virtually to adhere to safety protocols.

How many references do I need to provide and who are appropriate references?

You need to provide 3 references as part of your application: a significant other reference, vulnerable sector reference, and personal reference (see explanations below). Please contact your references to inform them that Big Sisters will be emailing them to provide a reference for you and that their reference is required promptly so we can proceed with your application.


This should be your partner (married, common-law, dating). If you do not have a significant other, please provide a family member as a reference. This reference must not be a friend, roommate, or former partner.



If you have worked or volunteered with vulnerable people (children, elderly, people with disabilities) in the past 5 years, please provide us with a reference of someone who supervised you during this time. If you have NOT worked or volunteered in a vulnerable sector in the past 5 years, please provide an employment reference. This reference cannot be a family member. 

This reference must be someone you have reported to for at least 2 years in a paid or volunteer position.



This should be a friend you have known for at least 2 years. This reference must not be a family member or significant other.

I don’t have a vulnerable sector or employment reference, what can I do?

Please contact us if you are unable to provide a specific reference. We can help you figure out suitable references based on your experiences.

My CRC didn't go through, what now?

If your CRC did not go through please contact us at for assistance. Please do not visit our offices regarding CRCs unless directed to do so.

Does my partner/roommate need a CRC?

Only live in partners require a criminal record check. Parents, siblings, roommates etc. do not require a criminal record check.


How long does it take to be matched with a mentee?

The length of time it takes before you are matched depends on where you live and the program demand in that area. It may take some time before you are matched with a mentee, making the right match is important to us!


How is a match created between a Big Sister/Study Buddy and a mentee?

There are many factors our coordinators consider when making a match, such as, location, interests, personality, area of need/expertise and life experience. We make every effort during the match-making process to ensure a successful match.

What sorts of activities do I do as a mentor?

This depends on your match and what you both enjoy doing. Matches also get to go to special events, community events, or explore their community together. Some matches cook, play video games, craft, go swimming, or play sports together. Please see our list of 100 activity ideas !

What kind of support can I expect from the agency once I get matched?

Once you are matched with your mentee, a coordinator from the agency will be in regular contact with you to provide support and give feedback

Can I bring my spouse, a friend, or a family member on outings?

No, this is a one-to-one relationship.


How has COVID-19 affected the mentoring programs? (Safety guidelines)

Please visit our website here. 

How has COVID-19 affected the volunteering application process?

Currently it is taking us longer to process volunteer applications, as well as train and match volunteers in the program. We appreciate your patience during this difficult time.

Virtual matching

Currently in the Big Sisters Program we are starting matches through a virtual program and then depending on participants’ comfort levels and current COVID guidelines matches can meet in the community, at each others homes or online.

Currently in the Study Buddy Program we are matching through a virtual program and then depending on COVID guidelines and match’s preference, matches can meet in the community or online.

Currently in the Go Girls Program we are running online sessions this Fall 2021 and are hoping to go back to in-person programs in 2022.

Referring a Child or Youth

Who is a Little Sister?

Little Sisters are self- identifying girls between the ages of 7-17, who could benefit from the support and friendship of a caring female mentor.

What is the Big Sisters Program?

The Big Sisters program is a community based 1:1 mentoring program between a Big Sister/Mentor and a Little Sister/Mentee. They meet once a week for 2-4 hours and can do different activities based on their interests. The minimum commitment for the program is 1 year.

What is the Study Buddy Program?

The Big Sisters program is a community based 1:1 mentoring program between a Big Sister/Mentor and a Little Sister/Mentee. They meet once a week for 2-4 hours and can do different activities based on their interests. The minimum commitment for the program is 1 year.

What is the Go Girls! Program?

Go Girls focuses on active living, self-esteem, friendships, and much more. Two (or more) volunteer mentors lead each session which is filled with fun games, activities, and discussions.

Who can refer a child or youth?

They can be referred by parents/guardians, social workers, school counsellors, teachers, and other helping professionals or they can self refer. However, please note that in order for a referral to be accepted and processed, the guardian must be aware that referral is being made and complete the appropriate signatures on the referral form. We cannot accept a referral if it is not signed by the guardian.

Can a child or youth apply to both the Big Sisters and Study Buddy program at once?

You can only refer a child or youth to one program. Once they have met the minimum time commitment for that program (Big Sisters one year, Study Buddy six months), they are welcome to switch programs based on an assessment of their needs.

Donations & Events

What impact does my donation have?

“The Mentoring Effect”, a recent and ground breaking study by The Boston Consulting Group found that every $1 invested in our programs generates, on average, $18 in hard dollar returns to society (increased spending and taxes on higher incomes and increased volunteering and donations).

Will I get a tax receipt for my donation?

Charitable Tax Receipts will be issued for eligible gifts of $25 or more. Tax Receipts will only be issued in accordance with Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Tax Receipting Guidelines. Tax receipts are sent by postal mail.

What is a Third Party Event?

These events or activities are organized by a non-affiliated group, company or individual where proceeds/donations are made to Big Sisters. Big Sisters has no financial responsibility for these events and little to no staff involvement, however, we support these third party events as much as possible to make them successful! Third party events can be just about anything: quiz or movie nights, BBQs, office raffle or 50/50 draw, art shows, benefit concerts, “wear jeans to work” days, the  possibilities are endless. You may already have a work holiday party or summer event you want to add a philanthropic impact to, our Little Sisters would be grateful for your support. Here are some great Third Party Event Ideas & Tips!

What is Cause Marketing?

Cause-related marketing is a partnership between your company and Big Sisters which increases your sales and benefits our programs through the donation of full or partial product sales. Big Sisters can help you create a dynamic and interesting fundraising campaign that will help grow your customer base and expand your reach. Sometimes the easiest way to donate is to just carry on with business as usual!

Cause Marketing Ideas

  • Retail or fast food establishments can donate a percentage of sales of a specific item for a certain time
  • Restaurants feature a special menu item with an amount donated to Big Sisters each time that item is ordered
  • Financial institutions can donate a percentage for every new client that signs up for a specific product
  • Membership related companies can donate a certain amount for every new member

Is an Event Sponsorship valuable for my company?

A recent study conducted by Ipsos Reid and marketing agency TrojanOne ranked the value of Canada’s sponsorship properties – in other words, the organizations, events and causes that companies pay to be associated with. It found that among youth causes across the country, Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies ranked second as the most valuable sponsorship property based on the emotional connection of consumers to the cause. Researchers have found that, where price and quality are similar, the vast majority of people will switch to a brand that is associated with a good cause.

Where can I view the annual reports?

You can view the annual reports below.


What is "The Big Sisters Luminary Award"?

The award’s intent is to celebrate and honour the tremendous value and far-reaching impact of mentorship in our professional and personal lives, by profiling an individual or couple each year that stands out in one or more of the following ways:

  • Commitment to mentorship within their industry or through public service
  • Founder or key contributor for a program or service that achieved significant results for girls and young women in their community
  • Championed community involvement in support of girls and young women’s causes

Find out more about the award here!

What is your Charitable Registration Number?

Our Charitable Registration Number is 11880 9409 RR 0001.