A Strange Year...

Writing a reflective, end-of-year blog post for 2020 is… a complex task. It is impossible to overlook the profoundly challenging year it has been for us all; the knock-on effects for the not-for-profit sector will undoubtedly be felt for years to come. However, we want to end the year by shining a light on some of the work that has most inspired us this year.

As ever, we have been in awe of the resolve, empathy and ingenuity our clients and partners have shown – in the face of monumental adversity – to ensure they can be there to support the people and communities they serve. This is what I want to focus on. Here are just a few of the myriad examples of our clients doing unbelievable work in unfathomably difficult circumstances.

Tackling the threat of starvation in India…

In March, international children’s charity Magic Bus shifted it’s focus to relief efforts as due to the pandemic, millions of families across the country lost their livelihoods and incomes, and the most marginalised groups faced hunger as a result.

They distributed cooked meals and dry rations to communities all over India, delivering over 18,000,000 meals to over 57,000 families in need. They also distributed masks and hand sanitiser and provided information and advice to communities to help them avoid the virus.

As well as helping keep families and communities safe and fed, they transformed the Magic Bus programme by making it completely virtual. By moving all their classes online, they continued to provide young people with the support and skills training they need to find a sustainable career from the safety of their homes. Over 1,600 young people successfully applied for jobs that they will start once it is safe to do so.

Supporting young people’s well-being…

Due to the March UK lockdown, Midlands-based charity Sport 4 Life UK had to make significant changes to how they delivered their programme for young people to improve their education and employability outcomes. They moved sessions online to connect participants with experienced mentors to support them in making confident and informed decisions about their future, as well as the opportunity to check in on their wellbeing.

Whilst schools and colleges were faced with closures and strict social distancing measures, they offered a free online mentoring service, to provide one-to-one support for pupils aged 11+ to increase self-confidence and improve physical and mental wellbeing.

For young people aged 16-29 out of work or in part-time education, they provided free online Sports Leadership qualifications to develop their leadership skills. The course supported learners with essential life skills, including how to communicate and organise effectively, as well as learning to lead basic physical activities to younger people.

Getting more people physically active…

In July, London Sport, Our Parks and Sport England joined forces to launch the Couch to Fitness programme, to bring at-home fitness sessions to a range of new communities across the capital.

The campaign saw impressive results with 54% of people regularly taking part coming from ethnically diverse communities whose activity levels had been disproportionately affected by the covid-19 lockdown. Participants progressed at their own pace with digital advertising boosting motivation through relatable and inspiring stories of similar people who had succeeded on the programme previously.

During three weeks of campaign spending, more than 800,000 Londoners were reached with almost 50,000 social media users directed to the landing page from a Facebook advert. The programme also featured as part of the national Better Health campaign and, by the end of October, had achieved more than 29,000 sign-ups.

Inspiring social entrepreneurship…

In August, housing association Aster Group launched a social enterprise incubator called inc for emerging entrepreneurs. The first-of-its-kind in the sector, it aims to develop social enterprise projects that will improve lives and remove barriers to opportunity for those living in its community of more than 90,000 customers and 30,000 homes.

The ten-month programme provides a syllabus covering all areas of business development, growth and ethics; mentoring to support personal growth; a digital workspace for networking and collaboration; and access to sector resources, funding and investment. Its early impact highlights the important role social enterprises can play for the housing sector.

Analysing the state of fundraising…

In October, Laureus Sport for Good, the International Platform on Sport and Development, streetfootballworld and the Sport for Development Coalition launched an inaugural sector-wide fundraising survey - seeking insight from staff and volunteers at sport for development organisations of all shapes and sizes across the world.

It was the first of its kind focused solely on organisations using sport as a tool for social good, with the primary aim to review the state of fundraising in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Data collected has been used to benchmark fundraising performance across the sector, analyse the impact of covid on income, and inform the future of fundraising in the sport for development sector globally.

A winning combination...

In November Salaam Peace reflected on their award-winning community engagement programme, addressing the challenges disadvantaged young people disproportionately faced because of Covid-19. The innovative project, based in East London, invites 10-14 years olds to a drop-in study support session every Saturday. It provides a safe and social space to complete homework and revision, with support from trained members of the Salaam Peace team. Once a month, instead of an academic session, Salaam Peace deliver an interactive life skills workshop covering fundamental skills that are not necessarily covered extensively in mainstream education. Afterwards the young people enjoy representing the Salaam Peace youth football teams in the Hackney Marshes Saturday Youth Football League.

In the space of a single day, participants access organised educational and sporting provisions that facilitate increased educational attainment, physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, and the development of positive peer relationships.

Raising the game...

I am, of course, incredibly proud of the Oaks team for their unwavering enthusiasm and commitment to supporting our clients. These clients are the reason we exist, and it is a genuine privilege to play our small part in supporting their work: something which we have never felt so keenly as we have this year.

The team also continued to support our charity partner Noah's Star.

Based on a staff vote at the beginning of the year we decided to support the amazing organisation for a second consecutive year. The team went on to arrange a successful Quiz Night with local organisations (pre-lockdown!), write bids for them, and donate Christmas gifts for their volunteers. Jess in our team even raised over £2,500 in the second lockdown alongside her Edgbaston Hockey teammates, by racking up 2517 km in walks and runs, equalling the length and width of the UK!

And looking ahead to 2021…

I am delighted that Oaks will power an exciting new digital learning and networking platform called Fundraisrs. This free digital community is for fundraisers, of any experience and sector, to access a wealth of advice and support. It will be a place come together and share learning and experiences. I hope to see you (virtually) there!

Head to to find out more!

Lastly, I want to thank our clients and partners. Your trust and partnership have meant more to us this year than you could ever imagine.

Here’s to a successful, and more hopeful, 2021.

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