step change fund

Step change Fund logoStep Change is a fund hosted and administered by Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF). The fund was established in 2014 when a group of philanthropists in Oxfordshire recognised that many charitable organisations struggle to obtain funding to build their core capacity.

Capacity building and sustainability

A consequence of a lack of core funding is that some organisations ‘chase funding’ for new projects, without sustainable benefit to the charity or lasting impact. This contrasts with the commercial world, where investors look to build on proven success, avoiding the distraction of new projects unless strongly justified and adding value. The aim of the Step Change Fund therefore is to strengthen foundations of proven voluntary sector organisations, so that they can deliver more, to more people, more often.

The fund aims to support medium-sized social organisations (income between £75,000 and £750,000) that are already making a positive difference within the county. Successful applicants demonstrate outstanding leadership and the capacity to grow. The Step Change Panel considers the group’s social impact, its future potential and whether the amount of grant to be awarded will be sufficient to make a real impact.

Project management methodology

Step Change is characterised by a rigorous application, support and monitoring process, which applicants tell us are beneficial beyond the funding itself. A project manager supports applicants through their bid to the panel, acts as an adviser and sounding board for the charity leader in setting and meeting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and reports back on progress and sustainability. Step Change continues to assess impact for a year after each project is completed.

Intelligent giving

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 intelligently and making investments at a scale that reinforces good organisations for the long term. Donors are kept well informed about the operation of the fund throughout the year and at an annual dinner arranged by the panel. This communication gives donors confidence that their funds are being well used: to empower and strengthen excellent organisations.

the impact

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 summary shows all grants made since the start of the fund, and has impact reports for every completed grant. These can be viewed by clicking on the images below (opens interactive e-book).

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The Step Change Fund continues to make a significant contribution to OCF’s annual grant making. However, what makes it an exemplar donor-advised fund is the strategic focus and proactive engagement of its donors, panel members and project managers, which adds real value to the organisations the Step Change Fund supports.

Adrian Sell, CEO, Oxfordshire Community Foundation

Martin Wilkinson explains what the panel of the Step Change Fund looks for in funding applications at a Charity Mentors event.