Grant-Making Policy

At least annually, the Trustees of Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF), a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered number 1151621, review guidance issued by the Charity Commission to ensure there is public benefit with regard to OCF’s charitable purpose:

Charitable Purpose

The promotion of any charitable purposes for the benefit of the community in the area currently known as the County of Oxfordshire and its immediate neighbourhood and in particular the advancement of education, the protection of good health, both mental and physical, and the relief of poverty and sickness

Other exclusively charitable purposes in the United Kingdom and elsewhere which are in the opinion of the Foundation beneficial to the community with a preference for those in the area of benefit

Delivery of OCF’s grant making and wider community impact activities is integral to this charitable purpose and as part of OCF 2020 Strategy the trustees have carried out a full review of our grant-making policy. This resulted in a number of changes to grant eligibility and assessment processes ensuring they continued to work within the context of our five strategic objectives:

  • To achieve a step change in our collaborative philanthropy
  • To develop a knowledge hub of Oxfordshire’s voluntary sector and key social and community problems
  • To work in partnership to develop community-based solutions
  • To adopt a strategic, transparent and proactive approach to the distribution of OCF funds
  • To enhance our organisational capabilities and infrastructure to deliver our growth ambitions

This Document dated April 2021 is the current OCF Grant Making policy and replaces any earlier dated versions.

Distribution of OCF funds

One of OCF’s five strategic objectives is to adopt a strategic, transparent and proactive approach to the distribution of OCF funds.

Adoption of the wording ‘distribution of OCF funds’ was considered important to ensure OCF’s charitable purpose could extend beyond grant-making in terms of the ‘promotion’ or support provided by OCF e.g. to invest in resources that would enhance capabilities to deliver increased impact e.g. development of Reciprocate – OCF responsible business group.

This approach has helped to establish an annual budget available to support OCF annual grant making for each financial year, which runs from 1st April – 31st March, as part of the business planning process which is approved by the Board of Trustees.

OCF Programmes

OCF provides a variety of grant programmes that help community groups and charities in Oxfordshire improve people’s lives. 

  • Small and Vital programme makes it quick and easy for grassroots community groups to apply for small amounts of funding that make a big difference to very local, volunteer-led activities. 
  • Delivering Impact grants programme is focused on the same broad causes from Oxfordshire Uncovered, and provides support to address the social problems we outlined there. Each grants round has a focus on a relevant theme, and OCF is willing to provide core costs as well as project funding. 
  • Step Change Fund is focused on getting top-quality charitable organisations ready to make a bigger impact, supporting infrastructure developments with substantial funding.  
  • Additional Programmes are programmes which are part of a UKCF national programme e.g. Comic Relief; #iwill etc.  These are occasional rounds of funding which do not fit within our usual programmes. 

The Community Impact Panel will continue to meet and review assessments for grant applications submitted to the Small & Vital, Delivering Impact and Additional Programmes programme areas; the Step Change Fund is overseen by a separate panel, under the umbrella of OCF.  

A rolling annual calendar defines the focus of each planned panel meeting to ensure that annual grant making covers all the priority action areas of Oxfordshire Uncovered.  By reviewing applications addressing similar problems at the same time, we are able to identify the best and most effective projects more easily and use our limited resources most efficiently.  For 2021/22, we understand that this will be an exceptional period where our grant making will be influenced strongly by the need to respond to the distress and adverse impacts of Covid, both on individuals and on the voluntary sector and our grant making will reflect this through specific grants rounds and other ad hoc grant making as necessary. 

During the assessment process carried out by the office team regular reviews of number of applications; amounts requested v. amount of funds available; and prioritisation of suitable applications will be carried out and if appropriate requests/publicity for additional funds will be undertaken. 

OCF understands that we need to identify the most pressing and relevant causes to achieve the greatest impact where it is most needed.  We plan to build on the broad foundations created in our Oxfordshire Uncovered report to narrow down which aspects of housing and homelessness, children and families, and loneliness and isolation should form our focus for the next few years. Using research tools such as OCSI’s Local Insights, we will specify priority causes (e.g. educational attainment) and priority geographies (e.g. Banbury), based on evidence showing which issues affect Oxfordshire most acutely. 

Ahead of each panel OCF will have produced an evidence paper to highlight the key areas of need for the panel. 

Specific arrangements relating to each programme

Small and Vital grassroots funding to support small organisations by making application process simpler.  Reduced assessment, fewer supporting documents required and no reference requested.   

The office will provide a table of recommendations for each panel in line with the Terms of Reference and funds available.     

Delivering Impact is the programme which will host the majority of OCF community impact grant-making in themed rounds focussed on Oxfordshire Uncovered priorities.  During 2021/22 there will be a focus on COVID19 grants which may mean that themed rounds are given lower priority. Some panels may require additional expert panellists to be co-opted or a bespoke panel made up of donors and OCF trustees in line with the Terms of Reference for the Community Impact Panel.  Detailed Terms of Reference for each panel will be available.  

Step Change has its own bespoke terms of reference, application form and panel. No change from existing arrangements. 

Additional Programmes are programmes which are run nationally by UKCF working with specific funders e.g. Comic Relief, The Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport with particular aims which may not be in line with Oxfordshire Uncovered priorities. 

The panel – Terms of Reference (ToR)

The Community Impact Panel is the grant making panel of the Board of Trustees of Oxfordshire Community Foundation (“the foundation”), which has delegated responsibility to ensure effective and strategic distribution of the foundation’s charitable funds as grants for community impact on behalf of the Foundation. Grants will be made to other registered charities, constituted community groups, social enterprises, community interest companies (provided they are companies registered by guarantee) etc. 

Charitable funds to include both general OCF funds and all restricted funds which are held on behalf of named donors, this to ensure ratification and approval of any request for charitable expenditure. 

The Panel comprises a minimum of two Board members (appointed by the Board) with other volunteer members who have relevant expertise and experience of the local communities of Oxfordshire and the social needs that OCF has identified as priorities.   Volunteer members who have particular skills, long standing experience of the Oxfordshire charitable sector or needs within the county will be encouraged.  The panel usually meets a minimum of four times a year and has discretion to amend the number of meetings, depending on need.   

Where OCF enters into agreement with named fund holders, distribution of funds will be in line with individual eligibility criteria as set out in a Memorandum of Understanding and as signed off by the Chair of the Panel.  The Community Impact Panel therefore have responsibility to distribute charitable funds to include both OCF general funds as well as restricted funds which are held on behalf of named donors. 

The Chair of the Board is an ex-officio member. The quorum for meetings is four members, two of whom must be full Board members.  Approval of all decisions requires a majority. 

The Chair of the Committee must be a trustee of the OCF Board and will be appointed by the Board for a term of three years. The Chair will present an annual plan of OCF grant making for Board approval, which will identify: 

  • intended community impact of activities 
  • how the plan supports OCF strategic objectives  
  • any significant changes to current eligibility or assessment process 
  • funds available for distribution for the year  
General eligibility criteria

Eligibility criteria are regularly updated and published in the grants section of the website.

Potential recipients

When distributing OCF funds, our first priority is to award grants where the level of OCF funding will have greatest impact and to organisations that can demonstrate they are meeting identified local need.  We do not usually give to organisations with a charitable income of more than £1,000,000 p.a.   

For organisations requiring £500 – £1,500 we would suggest applying via ‘Small and Vital’ programme, those requiring £1,500-£10,000 should apply via the ‘Delivering Impact’ programme.  

For organisations seeking grants of over £10,000, an application should be made to the ‘Step Change’ programme.

There may be exceptions to this depending on the programmes available at the time.  The OCF team is happy to advise applicants appropriately. 

End-of-grant monitoring

Applicants will receive a link to an online monitoring form or in the case of Step Change regular reports will be required either from project managers or the group directly.  These may be in the form of a report, attendance by a member of the office team or panel at an event or via photographs / video provided by the group.   

Material submitted may be used by OCF for publicity purposes and groups will have agreed to this via their online application form.  OCF share their grant making data on 360 Giving, a website for all funders to provide details of grants made. 

OCF has been part of the UKCF steering group developing an improved Impact Strategy which is being rolled out during 2021.  As this becomes established the staff team will share with trustees the learnings and improvements to reporting we will benefit from.  

Impact report

An annual report produced by OCF with a focus on the impact of our grant-making includes reporting on:

  • Graphs showing geography/ethnicity/number of beneficiaries etc.
  • Testimonials and case studies, human stories.
  • Number of applications fully funded by OCF 
  • Number of organisations who apply more than three times before they are successful : focus on feedback provided and assistance with improving quality of application 
  • Number of organisations who ask for feedback following rejection v number of enquiries who have not received outcome e-mail 
  • As part of the business planning process we will agree what measures we will be focussing on when evaluating our effectiveness e.g. Community Impact dashboards

Complaints will be dealt with in line with OCF’s Complaints and Appeals Policy, reviewed every two years.


Reviewed: April 2021 
Date for next review: April 2022 
Approved by Oxfordshire Community Foundation Board of Trustees on 28th April 2021