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

PO Box 1134

Buffalo, NY 14205 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

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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 workNew!

Charting Impact

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

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What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

Founded in 1995, the BISON Children's Scholarship Fund is a privately funded tuition assistance program for low-income elementary school children to attend private school of choice. BISON’s mission is to provide low-income parents a full range of choices for their children’s education. Families awarded a BISON grant are able to enroll their child in a private school in any of the 8 counties of Western New York.

A quality education can break the cycle of poverty. That’s why it is so important for children to begin their academic instruction in successful schools. Elementary school lays the foundation for all future educational – and ultimately life – success. Tuition assistance and scholarships are traditionally reserved for the college level, but the early years are the most important of a child’s education. Scholarships to prestigious schools are of no help to children who are under educated early in their academic careers.

BISON scholarships provide educational opportunity to low-income families, changing the course of thousands of children’s lives while investing in Western New York’s future.

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.

The BISON Children’s Scholarship Fund maintains strong relationships with various organizations both locally and nationally. Our partnership with the Diocese of Buffalo that began in the 2011-12 school year continues through the 2016-17 school year. The partnership with our national partner, Children’s Scholarship Fund, continues to be strengthened with a funding renewal through the 2016-17 school year as well. Other partnerships that include foundations, corporations, individuals and BISON Board members who remain committed to the giving children the opportunity to attend the school that best fits their needs.

Through continued growth and collaboration with our partners, BISON is able to act as a conduit to give families a choice and children a chance. Our partner involvement along with the leverage created through our matching funds from the Children’s Scholarship Fund creates the main funding sources for our scholarship program, maximizing the number of awards we provide.

Our Board is active in the identification and cultivation of prospective donors as we continue to cultivate donors and enhance relationships with institutional investors as represented by our relationship with the Diocese of Buffalo. As our largest donor, supporting approximately 900 students by leveraged funds, they have a vested interest in ensuring that children have the opportunity for a private education. Many of their Catholic schools rely on the BISON Fund to remain viable.

While we are very proud of our impact in the Western New York community, awarding over 22,000 scholarships and serving nearly 15,000 families, we are not done. Our Board members have taken leadership roles to identify new strategies to improve and enhance our program. Accomplishing this takes a multi-faceted approach: Our main objectives remain to raise the sufficient funds to meet the continuing need in our community.

BISON’s challenge:
• 94% of all U.S. public school districts have average math achievement below the 67th percentile.
• 6.6 million low-income children born between 2002-2010 will be at increased risk of failing to graduate from high school on time because they can’t read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade.
• By the time low-income children reach 4th grade, 83% struggle to read a simple children’s book.
• Catholic schools in WNY continue to close and consolidate. In the past decade, 29 Catholic elementary schools have closed and 12 have merged. Many of these schools rely on BISON scholarships to remain viable.
• The Buffalo News reported that almost half of Buffalo’s children live in impoverished households, ranking Buffalo 3rd in the nation at 46.8%.
• BISON received a record number of applications, with families from public school increasing by nearly 15%. Of those applications, City of Buffalo families equated to nearly 40% of the total demand. Additionally, 750 economically eligible children remain on the waiting list.

Since 1995, BISON has awarded over 22,000 scholarships with a private investment of more than $17 million dollars, positively impacting 15,000 families in our community. For the 2013-14 school year, nearly 1,750 children attend 78 different schools in Western New York. The BISON Children’s Scholarship Fund meets these challenges at a very low cost per child.

BISON’s benefits:
• This school year, 1,750 children are in safe, quality schools of choice.
• BISON meets these challenges at approximately $1,010 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 US.
• BISON graduates continue to succeed beyond 8th grade, with 65% attending a private high school and the balance attending a top performing charter or public high school. Additionally, more than 95% graduate from high school and more than 80% continue on to college.
• BISON is the only K-8 scholarship organization in Western New York (and Upstate New York), and is the fifth largest program (out of 27 national programs that partners with the Children’s Scholarship Fund).
• BISON scholarships stabilize enrollments at private schools that provide a safe and academically sound environment.
• They empower parents, providing them with a larger stake in their child’s education.
• 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 of 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.

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 $1,500. Due to annual tuition increases, our 2012-13 average family contribution was approximately $1,500, a 3% increase from the previous year. 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

Fiscal year: Jul 01-Jun 30

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Operations

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

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Board Leadership Practices

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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