Big Brothers Big Sisters Will Get Mentoring Funds from Justice


A memo obtained by JJ Today indicates that despite missing out on OJJDP's Recovery Act and announced 2009 funds for national mentoring projects, industry giant Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) has been told it will receive up to $3.9 million from the Department of Justice for mentoring.

In a memo sent to leaders of Big Brothers affiliates, BBBSA Chief Operating Officer Mack Koonce said the organization has "been in dialogue" with DOJ and found out it will receive a $1 million grant "under the FY '09 bidding process, and a separate $1.9 [million] grant for Native American mentoring." The organization could be successful on two other projects at Justice, Koonce said, both of which would carry $500,000 awards.

Which specific pots would those funds come from, we asked Koonce after reading his memo. His e-mailed response was interesting: "We'll know which ones we are receiving when OJJDP makes its award announcements." 

Okay. But wouldn't Koonce know which pot he got a Native American mentoring grant from, if BBBSA had applied for a grant to do mentoring with Native American youth?

Koonce also revealed what BBBSA had found out about why it did not receive money from either of the national funding streams. 

For the fiscal 2009 appropriations, Koonce wrote in his memo,  "the process was carried out by peer review scoring against the original" request for applications. "We understand that we did not score as highly as the top seven that were funded."

That supports what JJ Today has heard from sources close to OJJDP: that, in the wake of questionable grant-making practices in fiscal 2007, the organization stayed completely faithful to the scores this go-round.

Koonce had a different explanation for BBBSA missing out on the Recovery Act money. "In discussion with the OJJDP," Koonce said, "we understand that there were issues related to our submission, which we are investigating to find out exactly what happened."

Now this is complete speculation, but you have to think the "issue" might have been around the aspect of creating jobs. Proposing a mentoring project to the feds is something BBBSA is quite comfortable doing; it received a total of $13.4 million from DOJ for mentoring in 2007 and 2008, and apparently will get at least $2.9 million more this year.

But the Recovery Act solicitation required that applicants demonstrate how the award would help stimulate job growth, and that is a foreign concept to most youth work organizations, let alone one like BBBSA that is based more on developing volunteers than paid mentors.