On Monday donors to OCF’s Step Change Fund gathered to hear about the progress of our flagship grants programme, which in 2017/18 made £252,000 in investments that boost the operational management of Oxfordshire’s leading small charities.
Our Step Change grants programme gives substantial amounts to charitable organisations with strong leadership, enabling them to invest in improvements to the way they operate. Since April 2017, significant investment in training, research, systems, premises and marketing has helped six different organisations make a ‘step change’ in their ability to deliver core services to beneficiaries.
The Step Change Fund is run by a group of donors and volunteers, and is overseen by a dedicated grants panel. The Step Change methodology involves the organisation seeking funding pitching to a panel of experts, and outlining a series of defined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Once successful, the group is allocated a project manager who works closely with the charity leader over several years in order to ensure the KPIs are met. The fund benefits from its own investment from a cohort of significant donors, each of whom gives not less than £25,000 every year for at least three years.
At Monday’s event the panel and the donors for the Step Change Fund heard from one of the project managers, who has supported Archway Foundation to improve their processes for dealing with volunteer befrienders. They also heard from Rick Mower from RAW Workshop, who have used Step Change funding to revamp their premises and make their wood upcycling enterprise commercially viable. The enterprise trains and employs adults facing barriers to employment, such as ex-offenders and those with mental health difficulties, in carpentry and sales.
The event was the chance to share the annual review from the Step Change panel, which demonstrates how the fund has exceeded its own KPIs. For example, the panel has challenged itself to ensure that 80% of organisations funded each year meet their target milestones and are on track to achieve their projects’ KPIs, reflecting an agreed step change – and in 2017/18, 82% of projects completed met this aspiration. The fund currently has £485,350 available for distribution.
Step Change panel chair Nigel Hamway comments in the report: “Our purpose is to help organisations to diversify their income streams and grow sustainably. We have a dedicated group of donors who have stepped up and provided security; our relationship with OCF is growing closer; and our Project Manager’s group is strong and helping us to learn through their experiences. Our pilot projects are completed and have ended their follow-up period, so we can now start to measure impact.”