Around 60 donors and supporters gathered on Zoom for our first ever online Giving Tuesday event. They heard from philanthropists who have chosen to support OCF, such as Will and Fran Perrin, about the importance of giving locally, and discovered more about our COVID response and strategic programmes.
Each year OCF celebrates Giving Tuesday – the antidote to consumer day Black Friday – and this year was no exception, as a group of invited donors joined us for online drinks, inspiring talks, and the chance to share ideas and experiences. Hosted by our Chair Nick Case and CEO Adrian Sell, the event began with an interview with the current High Sheriff Amanda Ponsonby, who talked about her family’s longstanding connection to OCF and why she chose to support us as her focus charity during her Shrieval year. Amanda said: “There’s a lot of hardship ahead of us. The important role the foundation plays is that it has the most amazing overview of the charity sector in the county, and if anyone is thinking of wanting to help and understand where to begin, they should look to the community foundation.”
After giving a brief over view of OCF’s COVID-19 response and current strategy, Adrian welcomed Fran Perrin OBE and Will Perrin OBE, Founders of The Indigo Trust, which donated £500,000 to OCF at the start of the pandemic. Fran, part of the younger generation of the Sainsbury family, inherited wealth when she turned 18, and has since strived with her husband Will to give away as much as she could in the most thoughtful way possible. She commented: “For us philanthropy isn’t just important – it’s also one of the most satisfying parts of our life. We made a promise to ourselves at the start of COVID that we didn’t want to look back and wish we’d done more – and that was a real fear, that we’d look back in future years and say ‘lives could have been saved, or people could have been helped, but we didn’t act.’
“We knew we wanted to give within the UK and within our own community in Oxfordshire, but it was a new area for us, so we wanted to go through an organisation that had the expertise and the knowledge to spend the money well. We feel very lucky that OCF is our local community foundation, because when we work on the national level, OCF is always mentioned as at the cutting edge of community foundation work. The work is data driven, so it is based on good evidence of where there is need, and that is distressingly rare in philanthropy, so that gave us particular confidence to give to OCF.
“We also know how important it is for small charities, which are often close to the breadline at the best of times – that they didn’t have to jump through lots of hurdles or have a year-long application process – they needed the money straight away. So it was crucial for us to give to OCF, within the first month of the crisis, because speed was going to be critical. If we tried to make lots and lots of little grants, it would’ve taken ages to do the due diligence; to try to find ones that perhaps we hadn’t heard of – the charities would go bust before we could get the money to them. And we didn’t know who were the amazing charities, that don’t have a national presence, but know where need is in the community and have a good track record. It made our lives easier because we had total confidence that by giving the money to OCF, it would go where it was most needed.”
Will concluded the talk by saying: “In this enormous crisis, that will unroll over the next two or three years, people should give what they can afford. We know that wealthy people in Oxfordshire can always afford to give more; there are very efficient tax schemes that enable you to do that quite efficiently, so we’d urge anyone who can to think about giving a little bit more in this terrible national crisis.”
The event was the opportunity for guests to attend informal virtual breakout rooms for each of OCF’s three strategic programmes, and then to hear from Paul Donovan, OCF Trustee, philanthropist and Co-Founder of Our Common Good. He commented: “When you want to give money away, it’s incredibly time-consuming finding where projects are. This is where OCF came in – as a convenor of the sector in Oxfordshire it’s so brilliantly connected. And the needs work, that’s data-based, really does pinpoint where the need is greatest, and where the leverage on your investment can have the greatest return. So for someone like myself wanting to do social impact investing, working in partnership has been a revelation.
“We are now working with OCF to identify a pipeline of projects that we think could benefit from scaling up and replication across the UK. Because the fundamental belief that we have is that local community-based organisations really understand where they operate and where the need is, and that they can make a difference, and that if you can take the germs of some of those ideas and help them grow elsewhere, then that is philanthropy genuinely in action.” You can see his full interview here.
Closing the event, OCF’s Chair Nick Case announced the launch of OCF’s new Friends and Patrons initiatives, which will allow us to confidently invest funds where they are most needed. He said: “Substantial, multi-year commitments help both us and our donors to plan ahead with greater confidence as we invest in our activities and the ones that those people want to support. Any commitment that you are willing to make will help us help those organisations in need of support, and cement the viability of the voluntary sector across the whole of Oxfordshire.”