Founded in 1961, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation is one of the UK’s largest independent funders.
In 2019 we made grants of £35.8m to a wide range of work in the arts, children and young people, the environment, food and social change. We also have a £45m allocation to social investments. Our funds are generated by our investment portfolio.
In October 2020 we will launch a new five-year strategy, after closing to applications during COVID-19 in order to support the organisations we fund and to revise our strategy.
Meet our people
Who's who at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Meet our staff and trustees.Our people
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Our commitments on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as an organisation and through our work.Read more
Our commitment on climate change.Read more
Our approach to investing, how we invest and an overview of our investments.Read more
Information about our governance.Read more
Advisory Panel for Our Natural World
We recognise the expertise of others and are delighted to be able to call on the support of a brilliant panel of experts to help us deliver our strategy for Our Natural World.Read more
Involving young people
We want to do better at listening to and involving young people more directly with our work so we're working with the Involving Young People Collective to help us design and test ways in which we can do this.Read more
In 1961 Ian Fairbairn, a leading City figure, decided to endow a charitable foundation with the bulk of his holdings in the company he had joined some 30 years before, M&G.
M&G was a pioneer of the unit trust industry in the UK. It grew out of Ian Fairbairn’s determination that investments in equities, previously the preserve of the affluent, should be available to all – giving everyone the potential to own a stake in the nation’s economy.
His purpose in establishing the Foundation was two-fold. In the interests of wider prosperity, he aimed to promote a greater understanding of economic and financial issues through education. He also wanted to establish a memorial to his wife, Esmée, who had played a prominent role in developing the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and the Citizens Advice Bureau. She was killed in an air raid during the Second World War.
Esmée Fairbairn’s sons, Paul and Oliver Stobart, also contributed generously to the Foundation established in their mother’s memory.
In 1999 the Foundation sold its holding in M&G as part of the company’s takeover by Prudential Corporation PLC. As a result of this sale, the Foundation’s endowment grew significantly in value. So did the size and scope of the grants it was able to make.
Today, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-making organisations in the UK.
You might be interested in
16 September 2020
How our impact-first approach led us to our first Perpetual Bond
We share our learning from our social investment into Fair for You and our first Perpetual Bond along with how it could open up finance options for social purpose organisations looking for equity-like investment.Read more
Insights from our response to COVID-19
In this Insights report, we summarise how we responded to COVID-19 and what we learned about ourselves as a funder as well as what organisations we support have told us about how they've managed and some of the risks they now face.Read more
Revising our strategy - update
An update on our new strategy, which we plan to launch in October 2020.Read more
Insights in Brief: Social Investment and COVID-19
A new report sharing what we've learned from our social investments in light of Coronavirus, and how we could use this to inform the stages of rescue, recovery and revival.Read more