I suddenly find myself agreeing with the cast and production team of Les Misérables that Victor Hugo was indeed a genius! However, I have not yet made it to a cinema near me to experience the sheer brilliance of this British film, but nonetheless feel the need to share one of his many philosophical musings: “Nothing in the world is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
For me personally, as chief executive of the Oxfordshire Community Foundation, these words resonate with the sheer potency of what could be achieved by any one of the 54 Community Foundations across the UK right now in 2013. They also convey a sense of urgency to ensure that so many more individuals, families, entrepreneurs, companies, charitable trusts and public sector bodies across Oxfordshire begin to understand how the Oxfordshire Community Foundation could support them or someone they know.
Community Foundations have one simple objective — to help build thriving communities and this together with our focus on “local” has enabled us to become one of the most rapidly growing forms of organised philanthropy in the UK. However, whilst we are a charity, I believe we are unique in our independence and where others might see obstacles we always see potential which makes us an obvious solution to inspire like-minded people to take the lead and help create real and lasting social change.
Our experience lies in realising that small things really do make a difference and the only thing that matters is not always the money but how we choose to use our time.
Collaboration is a must. Learning from others, sharing our evaluations, knowledge, best practice and lessons of failure means better progress for all and avoids wasting precious future gifts of income. This is particularly important in the fragmented and under resourced charitable sector.
Somewhat strange then that the usual starting point and a disproportionate amount of charity time and effort still seems to focus on differentiation and competition rather than seeking to address the responsibilities and challenges faced by many of our shared and potential donors. Do we really understand what they are looking to achieve? Not surprising then that with any mention of the word charity, people start to feel like there’s no escape, it’s as if their eyes glaze over and they become fixated on the next thing we’ll be doing which is obviously asking them to get out their purse, wallet, or cheque book.
Fortunately, having been a banker for most of my working life I know what it feels like to be unpopular so I can deal with this! However, what my 20-odd years with Barclays did provide was a fascinating insight into the complex and often unrequited love affair people had with their money. But perhaps more importantly the point at which most realised they would always have enough money but never enough time.
Making sure we make the best use of our time on planet earth has always been what has kept me connected to humanity yet it never ceases to amaze me how many of us still seem hell-bent on ignoring the very simple truth that our time is both finite and indiscriminate. It really doesn’t matter how much money we have, who we are or indeed where we live. Time definitely favours no one, it is the one thing that we share but which also makes us all equally vulnerable.
The time has definitely now come for the Oxfordshire Community Foundation to realise its full potential but the reality is I also know that this is not something I can do alone, so I would like to ask you to make your time count by getting involved. Healthy, thriving communities are those where people make best use of all the local resources available to them and here in Oxfordshire, we have so much to give that really could make a difference.
So if you were to sadly depart this world would others see your life as a shining example or a harsh warning?
If you have ever asked yourself such questions and would be interested in hearing from others who are already starting to create and live their own legacy, then please email me firstname.lastname@example.org Together we can explore how the Oxfordshire Community Foundation and our Philanthropy Fellowship could help make your time count and Oxfordshire, a better, brighter, happier and kinder place for everyone who lives and works here.