Apply for funding

Print guide

In 2015 we spent £33m in grants and committed £6m in social investments to 307 organisations doing legally charitable work in the UK across the arts, children and young people, environment , food and social change sectors.

Our grants support organisations’ core or project costs, including staff salaries and overheads. We do not fund building or equipment costs, or individuals. 2015 grants ranged from £5k to £1.5m (median average £100,000), with support lasting 1 - 5 years (45% 3 years). Search our database to see what we fund.

There are no deadlines – you can apply at anytime.

We have a two stage application process:

  • 1st stage: apply online. We acknowledge by email within a week and decide whether to take it further within a month.
  • 2nd stage: answer a set of questions from a Grants or Social Investment Manager. We make a decision in 2 - 4 months.

Before applying:

To make your online application you will need to:

  • Decide whether you are applying for a grant or social investment and select the appropriate online application form
  • Give details of your organisation, and what you are applying for.
  • Answer three questions in no more 1,000 words (about two sides of A4 paper):
  1. Give a brief description of your organisation and its relevant track record
  2. What do you want to achieve with our funding?  
  3. How will the grant be spent? 
  • Attach your most recent accounts (or budget if your organisation is new).
  • Attach your constitution if you are not a registered charity.

You might find it helpful to know:

Once you've started the application form, you can save and return to it at any time by clicking on 'Save my progress and resume later'. After providing an email address and password, you will receive a confirmation email which will contain the link to return to your in-progress application form.

After submitting your application, you will receive an email with a copy of your completed application for your own records.

We recommend using the following browsers both of which can be downloaded for free: Internet Explorer (Microsoft), Chrome (by Google) or Firefox (Mozilla).

If you have any questions on the application process, please check the FAQs or contact us at or 020 7812 3700. 

If your application is unsuccessful:

Unfortunately we receive far more applications than we are able to fund. Of the 3000 first-stage applications received in 2015, only 1 in 10 went on to receive funding from the Foundation. We have no restrictions on reapplying, but you might find it helpful to look at why we turn down applications before deciding to submit another application.

We appreciate how challenging fundraising can be and if your work doesn't fit with our priorities please see our other sources of funding help.

Video: Hints and tips on how to apply to Esmée

View subtitled version of this film



Do you have funding deadlines? When are these?


There are no deadlines – we assess applications on a rolling basis so you can submit an application to us at any time.


How much can we apply for? What is the maximum amount we can apply for?


You should apply for the amount you need (although we generally will be looking for organisations to be developing a sustainable funding base, so this means not over-relying on any one funder).  The Foundation does not set limits and makes grants across a fairly wide spectrum of sizes.  Looking at grants we’ve made will give a useful indication of typical grant sizes.  The Foundation rarely makes grants that are smaller than £5,000.

There is no maximum.  However, the Foundation makes only a small number of grants in excess of £500,000 and it is unusual for the Foundation to give a grant of this size or larger to an organisation with which it does not already have a relationship.


We want to make an application but: we do not have a set of accounts, track record or constitution.


The Foundation understands that new and emerging organisations are an important part of civil society - and recognises they may not have the documentation and record of established organisations.  In these cases we will want to know more about the people involved (and their personal track records), a clear view of what the organisation's plans are, and budgets for the proposed work.  We are unable to support groups that do not have a constitution.


How long will I have to wait for a decision?


We aim to acknowledge your first stage application by email within a week of receiving it.

We expect to decide about whether to take it further within a month.

At second stage, we expect to notify you of the decision within four months of receiving your second stage application.


Can I speak to someone over the phone to see whether we are eligible for funding?


For a conversation to be meaningful we first need to read your first stage application.

We will call you if we need to know more.  Existing grant-holders should get in touch with their grants manager at the Foundation.


We already have a grant from the Foundation.  Can we discuss further funding?


If your organisation already has a grant from the Foundation, and you would like to discuss further funding, you should contact your grants manager six months before the grant is due to expire.


We are a social enterprise/ CIC (community interest company)/ company. Are we eligible for funding?


The Foundation funds work that is legally charitable, but this can be carried out by social enterprises, community interest companies, and companies limited by guarantee. We are highly unlikely to fund CICs limited by shares or companies limited by shares.

In the case of non-registered charities, we need to see a copy of the constitution to check that there is sufficient public benefit and protection against private gain. Furthermore, we will review the constitutions of non-registered charities for evidence that:

  • There is a minimum of three directors, the majority of whom should not be paid employees
  • The salaries and benefits of employees are approved by a majority of non-executive Directors
  • In the case of CICs – in addition to the above, an asset lock clause that ensures that funds are not transferred (without due consideration) to a body without charitable objects.

We work across more than one of your sectors, which funding priority should I choose?


We welcome applications which cross more than one of our sectors and your application will be assessed with that in mind. To help us track and report on applications and grants however, we would like you to choose one (the most appropriate) sector and specific funding priority for your proposed work.