Educational Institutions

BISON SCHOLARSHIP FUND

Giving families a choice, giving children a chance

Buffalo, NY

Mission

The BISON Scholarship Fund is a privately funded scholarship program for economically disadvantaged kindergarten through 8th grade children.

BISON believes that:
Children have a chance when families have choices - when given the choice of which school their children attend, families are empowered to positively impact their children's future.
Setting the right path early promotes success - capturing children in grammar school years establishes the necessary foundation for continued success and learning.
When parents make a financial commitment, their children benefit - As BISON's partners, parents must pay a minimum dollar amount every year. Together, our investments demonstrate a collective commitment to their children's success.
Investing in education is investing in our community's future - when investing in a child, you are, personally, making that child's future happen.

Ruling Year

1995

Principal Officer

Ms. Amy E. Popadick

Main Address

284 Delaware Avenue

Buffalo, NY 14202 USA

Keywords

bison, scholarship, fund, tuition, children

EIN

16-1477288

 Number

7164031646

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Scholarships, Student Financial Aid, Awards (B82)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

The BISON Fund was founded on the belief that children have the best chance at a bright future when parents have a choice in selecting an education that best fits their child's needs. BISON was established after its founders assessed the array of educational opportunities and determined that low-income families lacked quality choices in education. Prior to BISON, families had few choices regarding their children’s education. Even though many parents desired a better education for their children, private school tuition was not economically feasible for them. By offering partial scholarship assistance, BISON is empowering parents, often for the first time, with the ability to choose the school which best meets their child’s needs. Since 1995, BISON has awarded over 33,300 K-12 scholarships with a private investment of $32 million. BISON is a program that works right now, instead of needing to wait for education reform and policy changes.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The BISON Children's Scholarship Fund

Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

Since 1995, BISON has awarded over 31,400 scholarships with a private investment of $28.9 million. BISON is successful because it provides a hand up, not a hand out. Our parents know that a quality education can open the door to more opportunities and a better tomorrow. With the Foundation's support, BISON scholarships are putting hope within reach, allowing parents to envision a brighter future for their children. Solutions •This school year nearly 1,900 children residing in 100 different zip codes are in safe, quality schools of choice throughout Western New York. •BISON puts elementary students in schools of choice with an average award of $1,445 per child. •BISON is the only K-12 scholarship organization in WNY (and Upstate New York), and our K-8 program is the 5th largest program of its kind nationally. •BISON scholarships stabilize enrollment at private schools that provide a safe and academically sound environment. •BISON supports parental choice and education reform efforts, both private and public, in order to give all children a quality education. Private schools, which all our BISON scholars attend, have relied heavily on character formation and the teaching of moral values to develop each child as a whole person. Our BISON graduates are not only developing skills that will prepare them to be competitive in the global economy, they are also developing critical character traits that will help them persevere through difficult circumstances and become responsible citizens who will be good employees and wage earners. OUTCOMES OUR COMMUNITY CAN BE PROUD OF BISON conducts annual surveys to measure the success and satisfaction of our families. BISON’s 8th grade class of 2019 earned $455,200 in high school scholarship dollars to our area’s private high schools. BISON also conducts annual alumni surveys help measure the success of BISON graduates beyond 8th grade. BISON’s 8th grade graduating class of 2015 and high school class of 2019 results: •97% graduated high school on time •91% enrolled in a 2 or 4-year college •1% joined the military •1% enrolled in vocational school *Based on data received from BISON graduates who submitted follow-up information to the BISON Fund

BISON’s success establishes the foundation to provide scholarships to economically disadvantaged children until there is no longer a need in our community to do so. However, we continue to see our applicant pool increase annually. BISON’s collaborations are critical to the success of the program. Families: The BISON Fund is a hand up not a hand out. With a minimum family contribution of $500, the BISON Fund is a dual commitment -- one that ensures families share our view of quality education as the key to overcoming the cycle of poverty. The parental contribution is a vital element in the success of the program, as families who must invest their own money for tuition have a stronger stake in their child’s education. Sharing in the cost of education is a natural motivator that keeps education a high priority in the home. Schools: BISON is collaborating with 85 different private grammar and high schools throughout Western New York. These schools play a pivotal role working with families and BISON on an individual basis on a variety of issues whether it’s financial, academic or social. Schools serve as invaluable ambassadors to our program. BISON also partners with schools in tracking and assessing scholarship recipients as they leave the program. It is very important to the success of our program to track and report back on the success and progress of our BISON graduates. Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF): BISON has a unique partnership with CSF, a national K-8 scholarship organization where locally invested funds are leveraged to support more children. This partnership has resulted in $6.3 million in national funding to WNY. Out of 25 partner programs in the country, BISON is CSF's 5th largest partner. BISON collaborates with several other organizations in the community to benefit BISON children and/or graduates. They include Buffalo Prep, Education Collaborative of WNY, and the Cullen Foundation.

For 25 years, BISON has awarded 33,300 scholarships to students across 100 Western New York zip codes. BISON recognizes the need to ensure the organization can generate sufficient funding to perpetuate our mission, build on our brand equity and leverage the leadership potential of the BISON Board. BISON has committees (Governance & Audit, Marketing, Finance and Development). These committees work on objectives and goals to see significant changes in BISON's structure, including broadening our base of supporters and having the ability to raise new dollars from the greater community. BISON also continues to enhance its relationship with the Children's Scholarship Fund. In 2011, CSF commenced a nationwide fundraising campaign to expand the number of scholarships to meet the overwhelming demand. In addition, BISON works with CSF to expand the role of private scholarship organizations with advocacy and legislative initiatives to increase school choice options - especially for families in poverty in our communities. In a broader and more strategic move, the BISON Board is inspired to ensure the long-term permanence of the BISON Children’s Scholarship Fund. As part of this focus, we have begun exploring a special philanthropic effort, where we hope to leave a multi-generational legacy of high-performing educational access for underprivileged children in our community.

CHANGING THOUSANDS OF LIVES BISON has awarded over 33,300 K-12 scholarships with a private investment of $32 million. BISON is a program that works right now, instead of needing to wait for education reform and policy changes. Challenges • Nearly 50% of children in the City of Buffalo live in poverty, ranking it one of the worst in the country. • Children who live in poverty and read below grade level by 3rd grade are three times more likely to not graduate from high school than students who have never been poor. • High school dropouts are three times more likely than college graduates to live below the poverty line, and eight times more likely to serve time in jail. • Despite our growth the need is unmet. Nearly 1,000 eligible children remain on our waitlist. Solutions • This school year nearly 1,900 children residing in 100 different zip codes are in safe, quality schools of choice throughout Western New York. • BISON puts elementary students in schools of choice with an average award of $1,445 per child. • BISON is the only K-12 scholarship organization in WNY (and Upstate New York), and our K-8 program is the 5th largest program of its kind nationally. • BISON scholarships stabilize enrollment at private schools that provide a safe and academically sound environment. • BISON supports parental choice and education reform efforts, both private and public, in order to give all children a quality education. Private schools, which all our BISON scholars attend, have relied heavily on character formation and the teaching of moral values to develop each child as a whole person. Our BISON graduates are not only developing skills that will prepare them to be competitive in the global economy, they are also developing critical character traits that will help them persevere through difficult circumstances and become responsible citizens who will be good employees and wage earners. OUTCOMES OUR COMMUNITY CAN BE PROUD OF BISON conducts annual surveys to measure the success and satisfaction of our families. BISON’s 8th grade class of 2019 earned $455,200 in high school scholarship dollars to our area’s private high schools. BISON also conducts annual alumni surveys help measure the success of BISON graduates beyond 8th grade. BISON’s 8th grade graduating class of 2015 and high school class of 2019 results: • 97% graduated high school on time • 91% enrolled in a 2 or 4-year college • 1% joined the military • 1% enrolled in vocational school *Based on data received from BISON graduates who submitted follow-up information to the BISON Fund

BISON is in all eight counties of WNY. Our biggest constituency group remains the City of Buffalo, with 40% of our total demand for the program. A recent article in The Buffalo News reported that almost half of Buffalo’s children live in impoverished households, ranking Buffalo 3rd in the nation at 46.8%. The BISON Scholarship Fund is a program that works, and at a very low cost per child. In contrast, the Buffalo Public Schools’ spending at over $25,000 per student, makes it the 3rd highest among large districts in the United States. BISON also is empowering parents, often for the first time, to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs. We provide parents a hand up not a hand out. Parents need to pay a minimum of $500 while we provide a maximum award of $2,100. Due to annual tuition increases, our 2019-20 average family contribution was approximately $1,500. This contribution amount has increased at a higher rate than family income illustrating parents’ commitment to put their child in an academically sound school. The most effective way to break the cycle of poverty, and alleviate unemployment and crime is through education. We are directly investing, and at a very low cost, in Western New York’s next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs, when we invest in the education of a young person. BISON’s success establishes the foundation to provide scholarships to economically disadvantaged children until there is no longer a need in our community to do so. However, we continue to see our applicant pool increase annually. Demand from eligible families remains BISON’s greatest challenge, but also the program’s greatest incentive to work hard to secure additional funding from new sources in our community to assist more children.

External Reviews

Financials

BISON SCHOLARSHIP FUND

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2018, 2017 and 2016
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

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Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

No

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

No

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

No

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

No

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?

No