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Oxfam is a confederation of 20 national 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. Within these categories, Oxfam addresses a wide range of issues including agriculture, education, health, HIV/AIDS, climate change, aid effectiveness, emergency response, gender justice, indigenous and minority rights, natural resources, peace and security, private sector, trade and youth outreach.

Oxfam works in over 90 countries across the world, with thousands of local partner organizations. Oxfam has been providing emergency relief to the developing world since 1951. It has undertaken thousands of interventions, and at any given time is responding to over 30 emergency situations worldwide.

The Problem

Economic inequality and social injustice. According to the World Bank, around 702 million people worldwide live in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than US$1.90 a day. For those living 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 are particularly vulnerable to the effects of conflicts, natural disasters, and climate change. Women and girls, and racial and sexual minorities who live in extreme poverty are especially vulnerable to abuse and disenfranchisement.

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, and political advocacy to bring about structural change.

How Oxfam is different from other charities

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

Why Oxfam is effective

Committed to evaluation

In 2005, Oxfam established a department dedicated to learning, evaluation, and accountability and since then, have made increased investments in this area. You can read more about Oxfam's commitment to and sharing of impact measurements, including research, evlauations and impact reports, here.

Global Leverage

As one of the largest and best-known aid organizations, Oxfam exerts tremendous global influence. Unlike smaller nonprofits with narrow focus areas, Oxfam’s interventions have the potential to influence policy and infrastructural changes on the international, national, and local levels.

Inclusivity and scope

Oxfam's 20 national offices work independently with thousands of NGOs and nonprofits at the local level, to test and implement initiatives tailored to individual communities. Oxfam’s work provides aid to communities and individuals--including women and girls, sexual and racial minorities--who might otherwise have been overlooked in more targeted anti-poverty initiatives. From 2013 to 2014, Oxfam’s worldwide work reached 20,700,000 beneficiaries.

Effective campaigns

Oxfam takes bolder stances in advocating policy change. For example, Oxfam’s “Behind the Brands" campaign seeks to publicize ways in which the world's biggest food companies are profiting from practices that harm the global poor. In November 2013, Coca-Cola responded to this campaign by taking responsibility for ensuring that its sugar suppliers did not expand production by grabbing land from local people, who may have farmed it for generations, but lacked the legal documents and the power to avoid eviction.

Targeted disaster relief

Oxfam’s scale, resources, and local partnerships enables the organization to act swiftly and efficiently in the wake of natural disasters and global conflicts, helping communities meet immediate survival needs while re-building for the future.

Local solutions to global problems

Oxfam approaches global issues with local solutions. For example, over five years, Oxfam, together with 45 local partners, 141 community activist groups, and over 1,000 coalition members, contributed to the shaping of 10 new laws to protect women against gender-based violence in countries such as Uganda, Nigeria and Pakistan.

High Impact

Oxfam’s accountability and sustainability

Oxfam is recommended by The Life You Can Save, and has received high ratings from Charity Watch and Charity Navigator.

Oxfam publishes its annual and financial reports on its website, along with a large selection of its policies, codes of conduct and evaluations. The national Oxfam bodies publish their own annual reports on their websites.

Oxfam is focused on structural change to permanently alleviate and even eradicate poverty. It works with thousands of local partners, ensuring that successes can continue to be replicated at the local level.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will Oxfam use my donation?

Though Oxfam is big, it relies heavily on individual donations. In fiscal year 2014-2015, individual donations accounted for 36.4 percent of revenue, and the proportion is often higher in individual countries. In the financial year 2013-2014, according to the most recent report released by Oxfam, the organization spent 70 percent of expenditures on program implementation and management. For financial data on specific national Oxfam branches, please see the relevant website. As an example, Oxfam America spent 77.3 percent of their expenditure directly on programs in the financial year 2014-2015.

Why does The Life You Can Save recommend Oxfam?

Oxfam has been one of our recommended charities since before our current charity selection process was adopted in November 2016. We recommend Oxfam as a large multinational organization working to fight global poverty in a wide variety of ways and in a wide variety of places.  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.  We recommend Oxfam to give donors who want to support a large, well-known organization that is a strong advocate for the poor a suggestion on how to do so.  Oxfam also significantly expands the tax-deductible giving options and program locations we can offer our global audience.  Full Disclosure: Peter Singer is a member of Oxfam America’s Leadership Council, an unpaid advisory body of significant Oxfam donors.  Renata Singer (Peter’s wife) was employed by Oxfam Australia in the 1990s as their publications officer. 

Is my donation tax-deductible?

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. U.S. residents can donate to Oxfam America above or here. Australian donors can support Oxfam Australia here.

More Information

Image credits
Photo #1: Jane Beesley/Oxfam
Photo #2:
Photo #3: Anita Kattakhuzy/Oxfam
Photo #4:
Background: Tom Greenwood/Oxfam

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