NewsOCF"2016 top ten!" over the top of an image of Broughton Castle

2016 has been another great year for OCF – full of celebrations, new relationships and truly inspiring people doing their best to help at a difficult time for the charitable sector. Have a look at our top ten highlights from 2016 below.

Happy New Year to all of our friends and supporters – see you in 2017!

1. OCF comes of age at 21!

The happiest aspect of 2016 was the fact the OCF has been around for 21 years, all that time dedicated to supporting Oxfordshire’s charitable sector. We celebrated the fact that we made nearly £5.5 million in grants to 1,200 different charities and community groups since 1995. What is more, thanks to the generosity of our donors we have also built a £4.2 million endowment fund – a nest egg for Oxfordshire that will mean we can help into perpetuity. Read more in our 21st birthday impact report.

2. We reveal some surprising social problems in Oxfordshire Uncovered

Our research report Oxfordshire Uncovered has generated much discussion around the county, revealing some quite simply shocking issues that are taking place right on our doorsteps. Thames Valley Police Chief Superintendent Andy Boyd described it as “a reality check, which I think accurately paints the picture of life in the county. This is the first time I have seen such a holistic document describing life in Oxfordshire, and it will undoubtedly inform some of our decision-making.” We hope that it will be a starting point for more focused and strategic funding well into the future. If you’ve only got 10 minutes, have a look at our digested read, Oxfordshire Uncovered in a nutshell.

3. Businesses step up and offer help as part of the Reciprocate initiative

After launching in April our Reciprocate responsible business group has started to have an impact. Member businesses delivered the first in a series of free professional skills workshops for charities; a step-by-step guide for businesses was produced for how to run effective work experience; and members were given insights into cybercrime and community policing at an event hosted by Thames Valley Police. In the coming year Reciprocate will develop a volunteering brokerage service for member businesses that want to help their staff give their time and talents to local charities. To find out more, visit the Reciprocate website.

4. A.C.Grayling convinces us that the more we give away, the wealthier we are at Broughton Castle

On 18th June, OCF welcomed 90 guests to Broughton Castle to celebrate 21 years of community investment. Guests at the event were treated to a warm welcome from the Fiennes family in the stunning surroundings of the castle, as well as an exclusive preview of the new Oxfordshire Uncovered report. Lunch culminated in a virtuoso keynote speech by philosopher A.C. Grayling, who argued that from a philosophical point of view, giving buys us more time on Earth. Need convincing? Watch A.C.Grayling’s speech!

5. OCF builds closer relationships with Oxfordshire’s High Sheriffs

In April, Sarah Taylor took over from Tom Birch Reynardson as this year’s High Sheriff of Oxfordshire. During 2016 OCF has continued to build the relationship with the High Sheriff in office, starting by facilitating Tom’s fundraising for his Getting Court schools legal project, then providing a mechanism for Sarah to raise £55,000 to help Oxfordshire’s carers, and £19,000 towards a permanent High Sheriff’s endowment fund.

6. We support Homes for Oxford in bids to create permanently affordable housing

Homes for Oxford is a new alliance of affordable housing organisations founded in 2016, responding to the desperate housing crisis as identified in Oxfordshire Uncovered. OCF is supporting Homes for Oxford in the search for a site for innovative affordable housing. They put in a bid to develop the Wolvercote paper mill site, which was unsuccessful, but the group plans to build on the learning and investment for future projects, including one at the Irving Building in East Oxford.

7. Some great companies work with us to give money back to their community

The past year has seen family-run construction company Beard set up a new fund with the community foundation, investing £250,000 in the fund. The new foundation will support charity and community work by Beard staff, wherever possible matching the funds raised by individuals or teams, up to a maximum of £5,000. The Beard Charitable Foundation Board hopes to award £20,000 in grants each year. OCF also managed grant-making programmes for Midcounties Cooperative and Sovereign Housing.

8. OCF staff and trustee team gets a boost

Following the appointment of our new Chair John Taylor at the end of 2015, OCF has refreshed its Trustee Board, welcoming Laura Chapman and Lisa Compton as our new Grants Panel Chair and finance specialist in March, and Neil Preddy in September, who brings marketing expertise. In addition, our staff team has grown during the year, with IoD Chair and former Managing Director of Henmans Freeth Julia Iball now responsible for Philanthropy Services, and chartered accountant Katy Smith responsible for our weekly financial management.

9. OCF offers help to struggling groups via Charity Triage

In November we launched our Charity Triage service, provided in collaboration with OCVA and Charity Mentors Oxfordshire. Charity Triage gives confidential support to charities that find themselves facing an uncertain future, helping to clarify problems and pinpoint the right support in terms of training, leadership or funding. A charity can be referred to this service by an official such as a councillor or trustee, or may refer itself. One of the first charities to use the service, Full Circle, is now back on its feet and has exciting plans for 2017.

10. We spread festive cheer by supporting the Oxford Christmas Dinner

Christmas can be particularly difficult time for people who weren’t brought up alongside their biological families. On Christmas day, a group of dedicated volunteers organised a special dinner for 18-30 year olds who have recently left care, creating festive memories for them that they may never have experienced before. OCF worked with our wonderful print supplier Hunts to create quality invitations for the guests, and made a donation towards some really aspirational surprise gifts for them.