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Records produced by Oxfam's appeals and fundraising function


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This record group contains records of Oxfam GB (formerly Oxfam and Oxfam UK/I) only.

The catalogue describes records generated by Oxfam's appeals and fundraising work, including reports relating to market research, correspondence and publicity materials relating to fundraising with the public and correspondence and papers relating to funding from trusts and international donors.

It also describes records generated by the Regions Department, later Division, and from the mid-1970s, the Home Division Directorate, mainly pertaining to fundraising through shops and other initiatives.


  • Creation: 1943-2014


32.0 Linear metres (192 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, where available, e.g. MS. Oxfam APL/1/1/1, fol. 1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MS. Oxfam APL/1-9

Collection ID (for staff)

MS. Oxfam APL


Records produced by Oxfam's appeals and fundraising function

Biographical / Historical

The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief was formed on 5 October 1942 at a meeting in the Old Library of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. It was one of several similar groups set up around the U.K. during the Second World War, in support of the National Famine Relief Committee, to lobby for the relief of suffering behind the Allied blockade in Greece and other countries under German occupation. The Oxford Committee initially raised funds to be channelled through the Greek Red Cross. Throughout the remainder of the war it also campaigned, unsuccessfully, for the lifting of the blockade to allow relief supplies through to starving populations. In March 1943 it was registered as a charity under the War Charities Act.

In the post-war years, the Oxford Committee remained in existence to raise funds and dispatch supplies of food and clothing to refugees and others in Europe through agencies such as the Salvation Army and the Save the Children Fund. In 1948 it broadened its aims to include 'the relief of suffering as a result of wars or of other causes in any part of the world' and turned its attention also to aid for refugees in the Middle East and people affected by conflict in Korea in the early 1950s. In the 1960s, it gained national recognition through its humanitarian response to war and famine in the Congo and Biafra. In 1965, the shortened telegraphic address, 'Oxfam', which had been used informally since the 1940s, was adopted as the charity's registered name.

During the 1960s Oxfam began to highlight the need in many countries for long-term development work to address the causes of poverty. It played a leading role in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's 'Freedom from Hunger' campaign, launched in the U.K. in 1962, which aimed to combat food shortages, not by giving food aid but by enabling people to grow enough to feed themselves. Oxfam's grants to local agencies for work in areas such as agriculture and public health increased throughout the decade. By the early 1970s, it was supporting 800 projects involving local communities, overseen by eleven Field Directors based in the countries concerned. Public education, campaigning and advocacy on issues affecting poor people also became a major focus for the organization at this time.

Today, advocacy and campaigning, development work to help poor people work their own way out of poverty, and humanitarian work in emergencies, assisting those immediately affected by conflict and natural disasters, remain the basis of Oxfam's programme. As a major, international non-governmental organization, Oxfam is a world leading expert in public health in emergencies. In 1962, Oxfam was launched in Canada. Other Oxfams followed, in America, Belgium and elsewhere. Oxfam International, a confederation of non-governmental organizations, was formed in 1995. Oxfam GB, the organization founded in Oxford in 1942, and other national Oxfams are members of Oxfam International.

For further information please see M Black, A Cause for our Times: Oxfam - the first 50 years (Oxfam and Oxford University Press, 1992).

Appeals and fundraising in Oxfam:

The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief's first appeal, ‘Greek Week’, was launched in Oxford in 1943 and raised £12,700 for the Greek Red Cross, including £2,300 from a temporary gift shop. Following the end of the Second World War, the Committee collected food and clothing parcels and donations of cash for the war-affected in Europe. An office acquired in Broad Street, Oxford, in 1947 became the collection point for donations and the following year, the organisation's first permanent shop opened on the ground floor of the premises, selling donated goods to raise money for those in distress.

In 1946 the Committee branched out into national press advertising with an appeal for funds in The Times, a pioneering step at a time in which professional marketing techniques were rarely applied to charity fundraising. In subsequent years the charity would become known for its hard-hitting, and often controversial, use of advertising.

Oxfam's involvement in the U.N.'s World Refugee Year in 1959-60 and the media spotlight on famine in the Congo in 1961 led to an increase in national profile and in donations for the charity. In 1960 it launched its first regular giving scheme, 'Pledged Gifts', which, four years later, had 26,000 collectors raising money from neighbours and workmates. The organisation was a founder member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) in 1963, which enabled it to launch group appeals with other UK charities during times of humanitarian crisis.

The 1960s and 1970s saw an increasing focus on local and regional fundraising for Oxfam, both through the growing popularity of sponsored events such as walks and the expanding network of volunteer-run shops, which had reached 600 by 1975. Oxfam oversaw its local fundraising through a management structure of Area and Regional staff, which came under the remit of the Regions Department, later Division, and from the mid-1970s, the Home Division Directorate. Although the main emphasis was on fundraising, from the late 1970s the structure also encompassed local campaign groups. Further materials relating to the work of the Areas and Regions can be found in the Catalogue of records produced by Oxfam's campaign function, MS. Oxfam CPN.

Also in 1975, the co-funding of Oxfam projects by the British Government's Overseas Development Administration (ODA) and its successors started, soon followed by similar co-funding from the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) and its successors.

Public outcry following the Cambodia emergency (1979-1980) and famine in Ethiopia (1984-1985) underpinned a further rise in support for and donations to Oxfam. The 1980s saw the advent of computerised mailings lists and an increased interest in market research as a way of determining fundraising practice in Oxfam. In the 1990s, a change in the law on charity advertising saw Oxfam become the first charity to regularly advertise on television, seeking a low-value (£2 a month "or as much as you can afford"), regular, donation from new donors.


Oxfam's functions have remained fairly constant over many years, but a number of organizational restructurings have resulted in functions being transferred between departments and teams. To preserve continuity, records have been arranged according to function (in this case, appeals and fundraising) rather than department or team.

The arrangement reflects the original filing system where that is apparent, and is usually chronological. Original file titles, where they exist, are given in inverted commas preceding descriptions. Titles of reports are also given in inverted commas.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Oxfam donated its archive to the Bodleian Library in 2012.

Related Materials

Bodleian Library catalogues of materials relating to other Oxfam functions are available. These are Communications (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam COM), Campaigns (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam CPN), Donated Collections (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam DON), Programme Policy, Management and Administration (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PRG), Project Files (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PRF) and Publishing (Shelfmark: MS. Oxfam PUB).

Projects which had both a fundraising element and a campaigning element have been catalogued in the Appeals and Fundraising or Campaigns catalogue according to which was felt to be the main objective of the project, although in some cases, there is crossover and there may be relevant material in both catalogues, for example appeals run with the BBC children's television programme Blue Peter.

Further materials relating to work in the Areas and Regions can be found in the Catalogue of records produced by Oxfam's campaign function.


Catalogue of the Oxfam Archive: Appeals and Fundraising
Finding aid prepared by Antonia White, based on an earlier finding aid by Rosie Dodd
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Wellcome Trust
Edition statement
Final edition
Finding aid note
Cataloguing support provided by Rachael Orchard.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom