step change fund
Smart giving to grow local charities

Step Change is a charitable fund focused on helping leading Oxfordshire charities grow and thrive. It uses a unique approach to ensure donor funds are well invested, resulting in an exceptionally high success rate during the life of the fund. 

The aim of the Step Change Fund is to strengthen foundations of proven voluntary sector organisations, so that they can grow to meet the challenges faced by some of our most disadvantaged neighbours. For many people in our county, these challenges are multiple and often embedded across generations and within areas. The Step Change Fund supports medium-sized social organisations that are already making a positive difference, making substantial grants to strengthen them over the long term.

If you are a charity looking to apply to the Step Change Fund, please find details here >>

Capacity building and sustainability

The Step Change Fund makes substantial grants to charities with a turnover of £75k–£750k whose beneficiaries are amongst the county’s most disadvantaged people. They must demonstrate that they have outstanding leadership.

The Step Change Fund is hosted and administered by Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF). OCF provides the first point of contact for charities and ensures that applicants meet the fund’s broad eligibility criteria. This guidance, combined with the proven Step Change methodology, has seen the fund achieve an 80% success rate and an average increase of 61% in the turnover of the organisations supported.

The Step Change methodology
  1. Charity submits an ‘Expression of Interest’ setting out the proposed project
  2. If invited, charity pitches a full bid detailing key performance indicators, with support from a Step Change project manager
  3. On approval, project manager agrees project milestones against which tranches of the grant are released
  4. Following the final payment, performance continues to be monitored for one year
Intelligent giving

The Step Change Fund was established in 2014 when a group of Oxfordshire-based philanthropists recognised that many charitable organisations struggle to obtain funding to build core capacity and thus fail to achieve sustainable growth. Donors to Step Change understand and value the vital contribution to the community made by voluntary sector organisations. The fund gives donors a unique vehicle for combining their resources and making investments at a scale that reinforces the best organisations for the long term.

The fund maintains regular communication with its donor community: an annual dinner, quarterly updates and access to members of the Grants Panel ensure donors understand where and why funds are being allocated and can see the impact of their giving.

the impact

Between 2014 and 2021, the Step Change Fund has made around £1.7 million in charitable investments into 32 different charities. The average grant is £35,000.

Every year a review is published of the Step Change Fund’s achievements, including grants made and how well grantees are meeting their KPIs. In addition, a full grants list shows all grants made since the start of the fund, and summarises the outputs of Step Change grant-making to date. These can be viewed by clicking on the images below.

Next steps

To further build the fund, we seek donors to join our group and make a pledge for the next phase. If you’d be interested in joining us, please contact Step Change Chair Sandy Arbuthnot at sandy.arbuthnot@oxfordshire.org.

Step Change Fund logo
QUICK LINKS
Become a Step Change donorStep Change panelApply to Step ChangeContact OCF
Button: Download this info as a PDF

Donors to Step Change can be confident that their contributions are used to support the most effective charities and that grants are only disbursed after agreed project milestones have been met. We are proud that our grants support excellent projects at the best charities.

Sandy Arbuthnot, Step Change Chair and donor

Step Change case studies

Bridewell Organic Gardens

Bridewell is a mental health recovery service providing social and therapeutic horticulture in a working garden to adults living in Oxfordshire. Their goal is to help people into jobs or voluntary roles out in the wider community.

The Gatehouse

The Gatehouse is a community drop-in centre offering free support services for adults who are homeless, vulnerably housed, on low income and looking for company and community. They offer a free cafe six times a week, therapeutic workshops and a one-to-one casework team.

Archway Foundation

The Archway Foundation helps people in Oxford and Abingdon who feel unwanted, excluded and forgotten, matching them with volunteer befrienders and social networks that give them back a sense of belonging.