OCF has lost one of its most influential and important supporters in Jane Wates OBE, who passed away last week. Jane dedicated her life to philanthropy, showing lifelong compassion for others and a dedication to sharing her time to make the world a better place.
A Henley resident, Jane was also involved with Berkshire Community Foundation since 1991, and she was able to bring an understanding of the community foundation model to OCF right from the start in 1995. She made the first individual donation to OCF’s endowment in 1997. Derek Wood QC, who chaired OCF at this time, commented: “This represents a real milestone in the development of the community foundation’s endowment fund.” Since then, the collected endowment funds we help to manage have reached £6 million. The building of an endowment, for the permanent good of the community, supports her view that philanthropy needs to be a long-term commitment, tackling the root causes that lead to an ongoing cycle of lack of achievement and deprivation.
In 1998 Jane became a trustee of OCF, and spent 20 years in this role as one of our most hardworking and passionate board members, alongside a similar role in Berkshire. She brought expertise to community foundations from a lifetime of voluntary work, for which she was awarded an OBE in 1999. This work has focused on the alleviation of deprivation for young people and families, building on family values, and crime prevention. Some of the charities she has supported over the years include the Agnes Smith Advice Centre in Blackbird Leys; the Chiltern Centre for Disabled Children; Ufton Adventure, which aims to increase aspiration for disadvantaged children; the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment; The River and Rowing Museum in Henley; and her local church.
She was a mainstay of OCF’s grants panel for many years, helping us allocate funds in a fair and impactful way to support thousands of people to make a better life for themselves. In 2018, Jane agreed to join Sir Hugo Brunner in becoming a patron of OCF. In this role she was keen to share her passion for giving through community foundations, and wrote (in her rather difficult-to-read hand!): “I want to advocate for the personal fulfilment and joy that can be experienced through giving. I would encourage anyone who has the means to give to work with community foundations to understand the needs, and take action to help.
“Community foundations provide an opportunity for funders to form a similar and like-minded philanthropic group to brainstorm priorities, outcomes and KPIs. Collaboration is very important.”
As always Jane lived by her intentions, playing a key role in OCF’s funder’s forum events, which brought together philanthropists and trusts to understand how to work better together. Shortly after becoming Patron she played a huge role on the organising committee for OCF’s Call My Wine Bluff event, an introduction to our work for people in Henley and South Oxfordshire, and a chance for her to again apply her perceptiveness, networks and sense of fun to benefit the community.
Over time, Jane was reinforced in her belief that early intervention with families and young people is the most effective way to improve society, and she supported a pro-active approach. Writing about her passion for education in 2018, she said: “It is acknowledged that early childhood education has the potential to nurture a young child’s inherent relational capacity with themselves, family and wider communities. Children are exposed to fast-changing ways of learning in a fast-changing world, with online platforms becoming more and more relevant.
“But we need to develop offline opportunities to encourage socialisation and self-sustainability as well, which promote friendship and loyalty. To do this we must develop a sustainable programme that can be replicated and attract substantial government and charitable funding.” One of Jane’s last philanthropic actions was to give significant support to OCF’s Growing Minds programme, which brings together charity and statutory delivery partners to improve school readiness in disadvantaged communities. In investing in this programme Jane once again showed herself to be a leading light of philanthropy in Oxfordshire.
OCF’s Chair Nick Case says: “Jane has been a fantastic supporter of OCF since its inception in 1995. Her contribution as a trustee and financial supporter has been immense, and it was a great privilege to work alongside her. She brought a unique combination of compassion, energy and strategic vision that have made her a role model for all that philanthropy should be, and was an inspiration to all of us. Her dedication, positivity and sense of humour will be sorely missed in the community foundation world.”