Donors to the Step Change Fund were to gather on 7th May to hear from Project Managers and charity leaders about the impact of their philanthropy. Instead, an annual review and impact summary celebrate the achievements of the fund.

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, the Step Change Fund is a donor-advised fund held within Oxfordshire Community Foundation. The fund’s grants range from £10,000–£50,000 in the first instance, with the possibility of further funding up to £25,000 for follow-on projects, and make up a significant proportion of OCF’s annual grant-making. 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.

In the financial year to April 2020, the fund committed £459,906 to 11 projects, compared with £225,360 to five projects in the year before. The average grant was £41,810, compared to £45,072 in the previous year. Step Change Chair Nigel Hamway says: “This report shows an inspiring picture of the impact the fund is having: from bringing in new sources of income, to improving partnership working, to increasing the reach and quality of the work delivered; all our grants are helping charities establish a firmer foundation that allows them to better serve their communities. This stability will help these charities to deal with the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The 2019-20 Annual Review can be viewed below, as well as the Full Grants Summary, which details every grant made in the fund’s history, achievements to date and full impact reports for those projects that are complete and outside their monitoring period. One of the Step Change Fund’s founders Marion Stevenson says: “It is always a useful exercise for us to bring this information together in the form of reports. This helps us reflect on the performance of the fund and learn lessons for the future. As always the panel would to thank donors very much for their support. We are very aware of the trust put in the panel to make sensible decisions and are grateful for this.”

When the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic became clear, the Step Change Project Manager (PM) team contacted all grantees to establish how Step Change might usefully and sensibly provide support. From their report the panel made two small additional grants, of £5,000 to Archway and £3,000 to Oxford Against Cutting, and gained comfort about the strength and resilience of the charities the fund has supported.

Nigel Hamway emphasises: “The work of the PMs is invaluable. This year they have worked harder than ever, and they remain the most important and unique feature of Step Change. OCF expertly finds and advises applicants and administers our fund, and OCVA provides the vital health checks. This enables the panel to function and all of us as donors to know our money is being well spent, and making a difference to social need in Oxfordshire.”

Find out more about the Step Change Fund