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Community foundations UK-wide are now collectively in the top 15 for charitable endowments held in the UK, with the second fastest growing endowment in the country. As we approach the General Election, umbrella organisation UKCF is lobbying for the next government to make local philanthropy one of its key strategic priorities.

Oxfordshire Community Foundation is part of a collaborative network of 48 similar organisations across the UK. The power of this network lies not just in its combined impact (making us the tenth biggest grantmaker in the UK), but also in its shared voice for social change. Unlike cause-specific charities, community foundations provide a unique, joined-up service to people who have the means to make a big difference locally, but aren’t sure where to start.

One way in which we do this is to make sure our donors benefit from all the opportunities out there to help them maximise the value of their community investment. For example, the government’s recent match-funding challenge Community First has helped community foundations raise £120 million in philanthropic gifts. In the run-up to the General Election, UKCF’s is using its Philanthropy Manifesto to lobby all political parties. As well as making the case for another match-funding challenge, the manifesto asks parties to consider other incentives for philanthropists, if they are elected to form the next government. For example:

  • Enable tax-efficient lifetime legacies
    Lifetime legacies would enable donors to pledge part of their estate to charity, whilst still retaining the benefit of the income during their lifetime, allowing them to be extremely tax efficient. We want the next government to establish a clear system to promote this.
  • Reduce the number of new private trusts
    Setting up a personal charity or private trust creates a lot of work in terms of governance and infrastructure, whereas donor-advised funds are much more efficient. We want the Charity Commission to actively encourage the creation of more donor-advised funds and fewer private trusts.

Experience in Oxfordshire has shown that philanthropists are as savvy about their giving as they would be about their other financial investments. Treating donations as a social investment means money goes further and is used in a more sustainable way.

For this reason, OCF has a strategic objective to grow our invested endowment funds to £10 million in the shortest timeframe possible, but at the least by 2020. Because our grants are made from the income coming from our endowment, this will allow us to make bigger and more ambitious grants, all the while keeping safe a nest egg that is available for the benefit of Oxfordshire’s residents into perpetuity. The measures proposed in the manifesto will support this objective.

Of the manifesto, OCF CEO Jayne Woodley said: “We have already seen how the philanthropic acts of many accumulate to develop highly resilient webs of support for communities across Oxfordshire. But we are working in challenging conditions, with growing demand and decreasing funding. The recommendations in this manifesto are a strategic response that will mobilise people to make local communities more self-reliant.”

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