step change fund

Step change Fund logoStep Change is a donor-advised fund held within Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF). Donor-advised funds provide a practical and valuable alternative to setting up your own charity or charitable trust, whilst also benefiting from access to the community foundation’s resources and local relationship support.

Capacity building and sustainability

The Step Change Fund was established in 2014 by a small group of philanthropists who wanted their donations to deliver specific objectives and to follow an agreed programme of evaluation and support.

Step Change grants have a particular focus on boosting internal infrastructure ​and/or market knowledge (​eg systems upgrades, training, personnel restructuring). The result of such a change enables the funded organisation to achieve sustainable increases in service delivery to beneficiaries and to strengthen its financial viability.

Focus on Oxfordshire

Charitable grants are approved by an independent Step Change Grants Panel against a set of criteria, which includes clear evidence of a material change in the way the charity delivers services; strong leadership; a sustainable business model; and an Oxfordshire focus.

OCF was an obvious home for the fund, and the quality of the relationship has resulted in the fund becoming a flagship grants programme for the foundation. To date, the Step Change Fund has raised £1.8m and granted £1.1m to over 30 local charities.

the process

Grants are up to £75k. Importantly, the fund uses a volunteer team of Project Managers to assess and monitor projects, resulting in a high rate of success. Nearly 90% of projects achieve or exceed their Key Performance Indicators.

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.