BISON SCHOLARSHIP FUND

Giving families a choice, giving children a chance

Buffalo, NY   |  www.bisonfund.com

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 info

1995

Principal Officer

Ms. Amy E. Popadick

Main address

284 Delaware Avenue

Buffalo, NY 14202 USA

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EIN

16-1477288

NTEE code info

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 and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

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

The BISON Children's Scholarship Fund

Tuition assistance is provided for economically disadvantaged children kindergarten through 8th grade. The tuition assistance BISON provides varies according to family income and size. Our maximum award is $2,100 and the average is approximately $1,360. About 25% of the families are receiving the maximum assistance and each family must partner with us by paying a minimum of $500 towards the tuition.


BISON is designed to give parents a full range of choices about their children's education. Families awarded a BISON scholarship will be able to enroll their child in a private grammar school (K-8th Grade) of their choice across the eight counties of WNY.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

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

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.

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.

Financials

BISON SCHOLARSHIP FUND
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Operations

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

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BISON SCHOLARSHIP FUND

Board of directors
as of 1/15/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Paul Bauer

No Affiliation

Paul Bauer

No Affiliation

Thomas Beecher

Barranty's

Patricia Farrell

Wilmington Trust

Andrew Fors

Fors Holdings, Inc.

Christopher Jacobs

Avalon Development

Nancy Naples

No Affiliation

Dennis Szymkowiak

Szymkowiak & Associates

Tod Martin

The Martin Group

James Nash

Cohen & Lombardo P.C.

Betsy Sullivan

No Affiliation

Kellie Ulrich

Heather Williams

Ontario Specailty Contracting

Rev. Joseph Rogliano

St. Mark/St. Rose

Paul Seminara

SalesForce.com

Jonathan Amoia

Sandhill Investment Managment

Brendan Kelly

M&T Bank

Michael McCabe

Delaware North

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and 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 and 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