About us

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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.

We have launched a new strategy, which will focus our work on three interdependent aims.

Learn more about our strategy
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Meet our people

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

Our people
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    Our values

    Our organisational values act as a guide for staff and trustees about how we work at Esmée.

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    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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    Our portfolio

    We publish all our grants and social investments on 360Giving, an initiative that aims to help UK funders share their data in an open and standard format online.

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    Investments

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

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    Strategy

    Information about our strategic plan including our impact goals and the outcomes we hope to achieve by 2030. We also outline how we will work in support of our mission.

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    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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    Governance

    Information about our governance.

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Our Annual Report

Read our latest Annual Report
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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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