About us

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.

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Meet our people

Who's who at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Meet our staff and trustees.

Our people
  • The FiELD, East London Dance

    Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

    Our commitments on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as an organisation and through our work.

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    Climate Change

    Our commitment on climate change.

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    Investments

    Our approach to investing, how we invest and an overview of our investments.

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    Governance

    Information about our governance.

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  • Action for Conservation

    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.

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    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.

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Our History

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.

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