About us

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Founded in 1961, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation is one of the UK’s largest independent funders.

In 2021, we provided £51.6m in grant funding towards a wide range of work in support of our three main aims: to improve Our Natural World, secure A Fairer Future and nurture Creative, Confident Communities. We also have a £45m allocation to social investments. Our funds are generated by our investment portfolio.

Learn more about our strategy

Celebrating 60 years of Esmée

In 2021, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation turned 60. We wanted to take some time to reflect over the last 60 years, and to celebrate the breadth of our work and all that we have achieved working with so many brilliant people and partners.

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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

    Read about our commitment to addressing the causes and impacts of 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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    Governance

    Esmée is governed by a Board of Trustees who meet six times each year to set and oversee the delivery of the Foundation’s strategy. We also have a number of Trustee committees, which support our work throughout the year.

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    Open and trusting grant-making

    Learn about our commitments to open and trusting grant-making, which is part of a campaign launched by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR).

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    Working for Esmée

    Our vision is for Esmée to have a diverse team of staff and Trustees – with the skills, knowledge, experience, networks and insights required to deliver our strategic plan.

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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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