FORTY-something female looking for serious relationship with good cause – this is how a personal ad with Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF) might look.

The organisation likens itself to a dating agency, match-making donors with local charities. It wants the relationships to go well beyond a first date.

Troubled teens, adults with learning difficulties, abused women, impoverished pensioners, bereaved families, homeless people and asylum seekers, are among those benefitting from the foundation’s work in Oxfordshire.

“We connect people and bring them together, a bit like a dating agency matching donors with groups in need of funding,” said OCF chief executive Jayne Woodley.

“Everyone has different causes they feel passionate about and want to support. It’s our job to put the pieces of the jigsaw together.”

As well as playing Cupid, the foundation is a sort of Robin Hood, redistributing some of the county’s wealth and putting it where it is needed most – without the stealing bit, obviously.

For instance, well-off pensioners in Oxfordshire are encouraged to give their winter fuel allowance to OCF’s Surviving Winter Appeal every year.

Between June and March this year, OCF raised almost £15,000 in this way for charities working with older people across the county.

Last year, a group of five Oxfordshire philanthropists clubbed together to create a £500,000 fund to be distributed among local groups which pass their ‘Dragon’s Den’ style application process.

Grants of between £10,000 and £50,000 are available from the fund.

Ms Woodley said: “This is an exciting amount of money that can be used to ensure the long-term sustainability of particular projects rather than the sticking plaster approach.”

Once an applicant is successful, OCF’s Future-Building panel appoints an experienced project manager to work with the charity to help them get the most out of the funding.

Trax, a project born in Blackbird Leys, Oxford, 23 years ago to help young car crime offenders is among the first to receive a grant and has been awarded £33,000.

Yellow Submarine, which trains and employs adults with learning disabilities at its cafe in central Oxford, is receiving £45,000.

Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Marion Stevenson is on the Future-Building Fund panel.

She said: “The donors are a particular group of people who want to give back. They have money to give and they want to give intelligently.

“They understand the challenges of working in the voluntary sector and the problems of living hand-to-mouth. It’s very difficult for charities to get funding for infrastructure costs, so they are constantly having to dream up new projects, which leaves them fragmented.

“The Future-Building Fund will make a significant, long term difference to some of the fantastic organisations in our area.”

The world’s first Community Foundation was created 100 years ago in Cleveland, Ohio in the US and the movement now includes 1,700 foundations in 51 countries.

Oxfordshire Community Foundation, one of 48 foundations in the UK, was established in 1995 by the late Sir Ashley Ponsonby, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire 1980–1996.

Since then, it has awarded £4m in grants, benefitting over 2,000 local projects and has grown its endowment fund to £3m.

Community Foundations are now one of the leading sources of funding for local charitable causes in the UK.

Change of ownership for horse charity

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Delilah, a Shetland pony

JO Corfield’s horse therapy centre Hopethruhorses was taken under OCF’s wing in September. 

By creating a “charity-in-a-box” within the Foundation, the centre has become a charitable fund and does not need to become a registered charity in its own right. 

Almost £1,500 in donations has been channelled through OCF to support Ms Corfield’s work with troubled and traumatised people and horses. 

She also benefits from the foundation’s advice and support.

She said: “They’ve been incredibly helpful and friendly. I work entirely alone so it gives me credibility as a charitable organisation without actually having to get trustees and do all the admin. I can get my funding through them. I have had one large donation and a few smaller ones.”

The centre rescues horses destined to be put down and gives them a job helping children and adults with a range of mental health problems. 

Ms Corfield, 56, of Chipping Norton, was forced to move her herd of 19 horses and ponies to a less suitable site near Didcot last year, after the landowners at her former paddock in Charlbury wanted the land back. 

She said: “At the moment, funding is extremely tight. But with travel costs and vet bills my outgoings are huge. 

“We would really like to find someone with land to donate.”

Getting youngsters into work

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Skills: Senior bike technician Steven Gardner helps Archie Page, 10, to adjust a wheel hub

MOTOR project Trax has come a long way since it was set up 23 years ago to draw young people in Oxford away from car crime. 

Back in 1992, its aim was to tackle the spiralling problem of car theft and joy riding on the Blackbird Leys estate. 

The project, now provides young people across Oxfordshire with mechanical and practical skills training. 
As well as the £33,000 Future-Building Fund, the charity has received a separate £30,000 Comic Relief grant through the OCF.

Many of the young people who come to Trax are struggling with mental health issues and drug or alcohol misuse. Others have been unable to secure work or training after leaving school. The project aims to create employment opportunities around refurbishing recycled bikes. 

The students are trained and paid to run courses for 8-16 year olds on how to rebuild and maintain a bike. 

The panel was impressed by Trax’s business model and agreed to fund capital expenditure and the salary for a social enterprise leader. 

Trax manager Lyndon Biddle said: “This grant is fantastic for us. It’s seed funding to get the project off the ground. 

“It’s difficult for young people to get their first real job when they have no experience to put on their CVs. We’re going to give them that experience thanks to this funding.”