Oxfam is a confederation of 20 sister organizations working together to fight poverty, its causes, and its effects. Oxfam’s work focuses on long-term development programs, emergency assistance, and political advocacy on issues including agriculture, education, health, climate change, emergency response, and more.

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The problem: economic inequality and social injustice

Over 700 million people worldwide live on less than US$1.90 a day.  For those in extreme poverty, it is difficult or impossible to secure adequate food and shelter, let alone access to education and basic health care. The global poor and politically disenfranchised — namely women and girls, and racial and sexual minorities — are particularly vulnerable to the effects of conflicts, natural disasters, and climate change.

The solution: coordinated action

The causes and effects of global poverty are complicated and interlocking, so the best way to bring about real change is to implement multifaceted, broad solutions to the root causes and ramifications of poverty. These include long-term development, emergency and disaster relief, as well as political advocacy for structural change.

How Oxfam works

Oxfam is uniquely equipped to respond quickly, effectively, and on a great scale to global crises. Oxfam’s size and reach make it a world leader in combating poverty. Whereas smaller nonprofits usually have a narrow focus, Oxfam works not just to address current needs, but to influence policy and infrastructure changes on the international, national, and local levels.

Their 20 national offices work with thousands of local NGOs and nonprofits to test and implement initiatives tailored to individual communities on a wide range of focus areas, including [2]:

  • agriculture
  • education
  • health
  • climate change
  • aid effectiveness
  • emergency response
  • gender justice
  • indigenous and minority rights
  • natural resources
  • peace and security
  • private sector
  • trade
  • youth outreach
Around 700 million people worldwide live on less than US$1.90 a day.
Four boys huddled around fire in rubble in Gaza

What makes Oxfam so effective

Broad scope

In a single year, Oxfam’s worldwide work can reach upwards of 25.7 million beneficiaries, including communities and individuals who are often overlooked in more targeted anti-poverty initiatives, such as women and girls, and sexual and racial minorities.

Targeted disaster relief

Oxfam’s scale, resources, and local partnerships enable staff to act swiftly in the wake of natural disasters and global conflicts. At any given time, Oxfam is responding to over 30 emergency situations worldwide.

Local solutions to global issues

Oxfam works with a large network of on-the-ground partners. For example, to help shape 10 new laws to protect women against gender-based violence in countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, and Pakistan, they connected with 45 local partners, 141 community activist groups, and over 1,000 coalition members.

Commitment to evaluation

Since 2005, Oxfam has had a dedicated department to learning, evaluation, and accountability. 

Global leverage

As one of the largest and best-known aid organizations, Oxfam can exert tremendous influence on policy and infrastructure changes at the international, national, and local levels. In November 2013, Coca-Cola responded to their “Behind the Brands” campaign by ensuring its sugar suppliers did not expand production by grabbing land from local people who may have farmed it for generations.

Oxfam’s accountability and sustainability

Oxfam publishes its annual and financial reports on its website, along with a large selection of its policies, codes of conduct, evaluations. [3] [4] (National Oxfam bodies publish their own annual reports on their websites. [5])

Oxfam is focused on structural change to permanently alleviate and eradicate poverty. They work with thousands of local partners to ensure that successes can continue to be replicated at the local level.

Recognition for Oxfam

Oxfam has received high ratings from both Charity Watch and Charity Navigator. [6] [7]

Frequently Asked Questions

Though Oxfam is big, it relies heavily on individual donations: In the 2020–2021 fiscal year, individual donations accounted for over 41% of revenue. According to its most recent report, Oxfam spend 77% of expenditures on program implementation and management.

We recommend Oxfam for donors who want to support a large, multinational organization working to fight global poverty in a wide variety of ways and in a wide variety of places. Because Oxfam is so large, including them as a recommended charity also significantly expands the tax-deductible giving options and program locations we can offer our global audience.

Due to the breadth and scope of its work, Oxfam’s impact is inherently difficult to measure and attribute, but we believe that some hard-to-measure work, like advocacy, can be a powerful way to help people in extreme poverty. Full disclosure: Peter Singer is a member of Oxfam America’s Leadership Council, an unpaid advisory body of significant Oxfam donors. Peter’s wife, Renata Singer, was employed by Oxfam Australia in the 1990s as their publications officer.

Every national Oxfam affiliate offers tax relief, to the extent possible under the relevant national law, on donations made by citizens of its respective country. 

Donors in the United States can make tax-deductible gifts to The Life You Can Save and our recommended charities by clicking on the donate buttons across our website.

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For information about tax-effective giving in other countries, please visit our Tax Deductibility page.