Oxford spires skyline at night, dramatically lit

OCF has a long history. Since the first community foundation was created over 100 years ago in Cleveland Ohio, USA, the movement has grown to include over 1,800 foundations in 51 countries worldwide, with 47 in the UK alone.

Early days of Community Foundations

The first community foundation was established in 1914 in Cleveland. Philanthropy pioneer Fred Goff discovered that many of his predecessors had left benevolent wills and significant sums of money to benefit causes that had since become obsolete. He realised that a better way to ensure a community’s future was to create a fund that was held by its citizens in perpetuity, to be used at their discretion to address the needs of the day.

The Cleveland Foundation is a superb example of how well the community foundation model can work. It has raised close to $1bn in donations, has made grants of over $1.75bn, and now has over $2bn in endowment investments – showing a 4x ‘gearing’ ratio. Few investment firms, let alone charities, can demonstrate better financial acumen.

Community foundations in the UK

The first foundation in the UK was in Swindon, established in 1975. UK community foundations have grown to manage over £692 million in their combined endowment funds. The network is the fourth largest giver of charitable funds in the UK, having collectively given out over £1 billion in grants to charities, community groups and individuals.

OCF is a member of UKCF, the national body that supports and accredits community foundations in the United Kingdom.

Find about more about our Quality Accreditation

The story in Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire Community Foundation was established in 1995 by the late Sir Ashley Ponsonby, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire 1980–96. He became our President, embracing the potential of community philanthropy. To find out more about our history, take a look at the report we published on our 21st birthday in 2016.

In 2020, OCF celebrated 25 years with Amanda Ponsonby, High Sheriff of Oxfordshire for 2020/21. Inspired by her late father-in-law Sir Ashley Ponsonby, Amanda hoped to inspire many new patrons to share our vision for the future and be involved in the next 25 years of OCF.

See Amanda talking about her role and link to OCF at our Giving Tuesday event in December 2020.

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  • “It is so uplifting to meet so many people blessed with generous hearts and a deep sense of community.”

    Ali Mosawi, one of OCF's donors
    Ali Mosawi
  • “I really appreciate your work on what for my parents is such an important project. I am glad that the fund has been developing so positively and swiftly.”

    David Evans, fundholder of the Maggie Evans Fund
    David Evans
    Maggie Evans Fund
  • “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

    Winston Churchill
    Winston Churchill
  • “I give for a mixture of motives: I do it to make my life more interesting; I do it to make myself feel a better person. I do it because I can; to have the pleasure associated with mixing with the people whose fields I support. I do it for the dream of actually achieving something!”

    David Harding
    David Harding
    Hedge fund manager, philanthropist and OCF donor
  • “I opened a fund with OCF because of their knowledge, expertise and extensive contacts. I wanted to be part of it, to make my dream come true in helping the very young – the fund encompasses everything I’ve done in the past and expands the impact I’ve achieved”.

    Jane Wates
    Jane Wates
    Jane Wates Patron Fund
  • “OCF’s knowledge and resources drive real change. They unlock the power of community, allowing people to feel more connected to those around them, and for all who live in Oxfordshire to have better lives.”

    Amanda Ponsonby
    High Sheriff of Oxfordshire 2020-2021

Ark T Centre

The Ark T Centre is an arts project in East Oxford, and is situated in a high-risk area for Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). Ark T is an open and inclusive community, where people, art, and powerful ideas come together, using the transformative powers of creativity to change lives.


SOFEA’s mission is to enable the transformation of people’s lives, and their communities, with a major focus on young people. They enable people to fulfil their potential through work, wellbeing, study and purpose projects, providing the means of reducing the immediate effects of disadvantage by relieving food insecurity in the wider community.

Good Food Oxford (GFO)

Good Food Oxford supports the existing work of many organisations in and around the city working to make our food system more nourishing, less wasteful and more sustainable.


Thrive offers activity clubs and mentoring for young people in two of Oxford’s most deprived areas – Blackbird Leys and Barton. Their clubs and activities are countering the effects of social exclusion.