The fourth biggest charity in the UK in terms of revenue raised, Oxfam was founded in 1942 in Oxford as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. The original aims of the charity was to relieve famine in Greece caused by military occupation and blockades during World War Two. In the 75 years since it was founded, Oxfam has grown internationally and is now one of the world’s best-known disaster relief organisations.
Oxfam’s main stated aim is to end extreme poverty throughout the world. There are three main areas in which the charity works; disaster relief and emergency response, development at a grassroots level to lift communities out of poverty and campaigning on issues as diverse as the refugee crisis and pollution. The charity has expanded from its Oxford base to cover the whole of the UK, as well as having subsidiaries in Australia, Canada and many countries of Western Europe.
Disaster Relief – this is perhaps what Oxfam is most strongly associated with. In the aftermath of a hurricane or when famine strikes, the charity steps in and supplies food, water and shelter to people affected. In the longer term, Oxfam works with local partners to help people to grow their own food and make a living to support their family.
International Development – Longer term projects are also funded by Oxfam across the world. The charity promotes women’s rights, helps people build sustainable livelihoods which can withstand fluctuations in demand, and provide millions of people with food security.
Campaigning – Oxfam is a leader in the selling of FairTrade items such as coffee or chocolate through their shops. In recent years there has been an emphasis on the plight of refugees, and campaigns on other global issues such as workers’ rights and rights of girls to be educated.
Oxfam’s most visible fundraising activity is their high street charity shops, the first one of which opened in Oxford in 1948. There are around 750 Oxfam shops in the UK, and the charity was one of the first to offer specialised charity shops selling just books, bridal clothing or music. Shops are stocked primarily with donated goods, with a small selection of FairTrade products also being sold. Oxfam has a major corporate partnership with Marks and Spencer; M&S shoppers can donate used clothing into bins in store, and donors of M&S clothing into Oxfam stores receive money off vouchers. Oxfam are also very well-known for their bookshops, and are the largest retailer of second-hand books in Europe. Rare, vintage and expensive items are sold through Oxfam’s online shop and shipped around the world.
In addition to their partnership with Marks and Spencer, Oxfam work with other corporate partners such as the Co-Operative Bank and Visa both to raise funds and support their overseas work. Oxfam runs its own events such as the Oxjam music festival and encourages regular giving through payroll or GiftAid. Oxfam uses a mix of paid and volunteer staff in its UK fundraising activities. There are around 23,000 Oxfam volunteers working in their shop network in the UK each week.