Agency Q&A: Big Brothers Big Sisters

United Way works with 40+ local and regional nonprofit agencies to tackle each of our nine Steps to SuccessGet to know these agencies and learn about their partnership with United Way. We invited Ann Rohde Payes, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Inc., to tell us about her work.
Tell us about your current role and your professional background.

Serving more than 2,500 kids with caring, consistent mentors over the past five years has been my honor. Before coming to Big Brothers Big Sisters, I worked in development and administration in education and youth development. Getting my MBA from William & Mary was one of the most important components of readying myself for an Executive Director role.

What is Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission?

Big Brothers Big Sisters provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

How does Big Brothers Big Sisters’ work support the Middle School Engagement component of United Way’s Steps to Success?

Research demonstrates that the presence of a caring, consistent and committed adult in a child’s life increases the likelihood that they flourish and become productive adults. Big Brothers Big Sisters helps kids and their guardians focus their time with a mentor on having fun while building social skills, increasing academic achievement and creating a healthy lifestyle. “Littles” have improved school attendance and gained more confidence they can succeed in school, exposure to varied opportunities and positive relationships that build the skill sets they need to succeed – whether it’s solving a challenging math problem or dealing with bullies.

What do you think is the biggest value United Way brings to Big Brothers Big Sisters?

United Way values consistency – just like Big Brothers Big Sisters. The consistency of funding allows Big Brothers Big Sisters to address current problems from building positive relationships with law enforcement to creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ youth. The consistency of funding also allows Big Brothers Big Sisters to provide monthly coaching to every mentor, parent/guardian and child enrolled in our program. Plus, it’s a mark of quality – every agency involved with United Way has measurable outcomes.


How have needs in our region changed over the past 10 years?

As federal, state and local funding for schools decreases, the need for nonprofits to support public schools increases. In 2017, only 76.6% of kids graduated on time in Richmond Public Schools – and kids facing challenging circumstances graduated at even lower rates. This demonstrates the need for additional supports and the example of a caring, consistent adult who can help a kid persevere through challenging times.

More information: