I couldn’t resist popping into my local Oxfam shop last week when a jacket in the window caught my eye.
As I was looking around, it struck me how their shops have evolved over the past 20 years of my life…when I did some digging I found their first second-hand shop was established in Oxford in 1947!
Did you know...
In 1965 Oxfam pioneered the first fair trade programme with their "helping by selling” range - buying ethical products direct from producers and returning profits to them through a dividend system. Today this is known as the “sourced by Oxfam” range of ethically sourced and sustainable products.
In 1974 they were the first charity to set up their own dedicated recycling facility vowing never to send clothes to landfill and recycling over 12,000 tonnes of textiles each year which were unsold in their shops.
In 1985 the first Oxfam Bridal Outlet opened - there are now 12 Oxfam bridal departments in shops across the UK, as well as online. And in 1988 volunteers got involved in the first Red Nose Day – the start of a long and successful partnership against poverty.
In 1991 Oxfam and other charities launched Cafédirect – the first coffee to carry the Fairtrade mark – giving thousands of farmers a way to sell their produce at fair prices.
In 2007 Oxfam’s online shop was launched – the only one of its kind selling thousands of unique items. Their online store raises c£20m each year
Then in 2008 – Oxfam and M&S launched the Clothes Exchange- later known as Shwopping – a first-of-its-kind ‘take back’ scheme. You can now donate your unwanted pre-loved items in donation bins in participating retailers Joules, Superdry, and Sainsbury’s car parks too.
In 2019 Oxfam launched Second Hand September, asking people to pledge to say no to new items of clothing for one month. The campaign was mentioned 450 times in the media last year alone
And then this year, in 2023, Oxfam kicked off London Fashion Week staging its first ever runway show, titled Fashion Fighting Poverty. The collection showcased a range of second-hand clothes on sale in Oxfam’s 650 UK high street shops and online site, styled by British Vogue stylist and thrift-shopping queen, Bay Garnett.
This is a pretty impressive track record of innovating to stay relevant and raise awareness of their mission to tackle the injustice of poverty.
It got me wondering about the team coming up with these different fundraising strategies...and then other teams at the organisation deciding how to deploy the funds to support over 8 million people across the globe.
Oxfam is an enormous charity with 4,000+ staff and 15,000+ volunteers worldwide - all overseen by a Board of Trustees.
The charity has been heavily criticised in recent years for some major safeguarding failings. Their new CEO, Danny Sriskandarajah, is overseeing an overhaul of their systems and culture to prevent it from happening again
“From war zones to natural disasters, from famine to epidemics, Oxfam operates in some of the most difficult environments on Earth – environments which always carry safeguarding risks.
The true test for us is what Oxfam does to minimise these risks, and how we respond to incidents when they arise... My first duty has been to ensure that Oxfam learns the lessons of the past, and improves our policies and practice.”
As a trustee on a charity board, you are responsible for ensuring the charity stays true to its mission and manages its resources responsibly. This includes providing oversight of the design and delivery of its strategy and operations. It’s a big responsibility but an incredible way to use your skills in a different context to your day job.
As an accountant, your professional skills and experience will be particularly in demand to help support the Board in understanding the charity’s financial position - and ensuring financial compliance and resilience and the best use of the funds available.
Of course, don’t expect to start your volunteering experience on the Oxfam Board - it is important to find a charity of a size and scale to suit your expertise and a cause you feel particularly passionate about. You may even want to start with a role as a volunteer supporting a charity’s finance team or sitting on a Finance Committee, rather than diving in with a trustee role and its responsibilities
Check out Charterpath’s website for a whole host of non-profits looking for volunteers with financial skills. Nothing there that sparks a passion? Have a look at our Resources page where you can find other websites promoting volunteer roles and training.
If you need any more motivation just read Oxfam’s annual report which is packed full of inspiring stories about their impact. It is also a good reality check - they estimate that someone is dying of hunger every 36 seconds in East Africa due to the devastating effects of climate change and knock-on effects from the war in Ukraine. It puts shortages in British supermarket shelves in perspective
Don’t doubt the difference you can make. Chart your path into the non-profit sector today
PS I bought the jacket 😜
If the idea of volunteering your skills with a non-profit has caught your imagination - follow these 3 simple steps:
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Alice Clementi and Alex Marsh co-founded Charterpath as a community interest company in 2020, with a mission to increase the proportion of accountants volunteering from 10% to 50% - inspiring more accountants to volunteer their time and expertise, connecting them with non-profit opportunities, and engaging with a wide range of organisations so volunteering is a core part of an accountant’s career. For more information, visit www.charterpath.org.uk.