Guide to applying:

About Esmée Fairbairn Foundation Audio version of guide to applying

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life throughout the UK.  We do this by funding the charitable work of organisations with the ideas and ability to achieve positive change.  We take pride in supporting work that might otherwise be considered difficult to fund.

The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK.  In 2013 we committed over £38.8 million to a very wide range of work. 

We respond to need.  As an independent funder, we can take risks on work which breaks new ground, deals with challenging and difficult issues, or needs a more unusual form of financial help such as a loan. We aim to encourage enterprising people and projects and always look to support work which is sustainable and responsibly planned.  We also believe in stewardship - embracing the future while still valuing the past.

The majority of our funding is through the Main Fund.  The sectors that we support are:

We sometimes run funding programmes outside the Main Fund focused on specific themes.  All programmes running are listed on the sectors and strands page of our website.  We currently have a Food Strand and a Merger Fund.  We also have a Finance Fund that makes social investments.

To get a better understanding of the Foundation, our grant-making and social investments have a look at the what we fund section and our short film about applying to Esmée.

Using this Guide

Use this step by step guide to find out everything you need to make an application (please note all links on this page open in a pop-up window).  Click 'next' to move onto the next step or click on the guided links across the top. At each step we provide you with useful information and easy access to relevant content elsewhere on the website. Once you have completed the guide you should have enough information to know whether to make an application.



Printing the guide

After step 2 - select your fund, you will be able to print the whole Guide to applying for your relevant fund.  If you require an audio version please contact us at



Who was Esmée Fairbairn?


Esmée Fairbairn (née Bethell) was born in 1887 into a wealthy family in Yorkshire.  Her first husband was Hugo Stobart with whom she had three sons, Simon (d. 1941), Oliver (d. 1984), Paul (d. 1997).  Ian Fairbairn and Esmée married in 1941.  During the Second World War Esmée worked with the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS).  She was also involved with the early Citizens Advice Bureaux movement.  Esmée was killed in an air raid in London in 1944.
Read more about our history.


Where does the foundation fund geographically?


The Foundation funds work across the UK (or work where there is a clear primary benefit in the UK).  Note: the Foundation does not fund work in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.