Guidance for support

Circles South East

PLEASE NOTE: We are making some key changes to our strategy in one of our aims, A Fairer Future. Because of this we will temporarily close to new applications in funding priorities for A Fairer Future until autumn 2022, when we will share our revised strategy.

We remain open to applications in Our Natural World and Creative, Confident Communities.


If you would like to request any information from us in a more accessible format to you, please get in touch by email or phone: 020 7812 3700.

If helpful, you can also download the Guidance for Support as a Word document.

Download sample application forms

You can download our guidance and sample Expression of Interest and Proposal forms as Word documents. Please note that these are for guidance only. To submit an application, you will need to do this using our online application system.

About Esmée

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve our natural world, secure a fairer future and strengthen the bonds in communities in the UK.

We support people and organisations with brilliant ideas who are doing everything they can to bring about the change they want to see.

Under this strategy we are changing our approach. In addition to funding organisations with larger, longer grants, we will take a more active role ourselves. Working in collaboration with others, we will use all our tools to unlock change - not just grants and investments - but our influence, endowment, and our ability to broker alliances and remove barriers.

Who this guidance is for

This guidance is for organisations looking for a grant or social investment.

We encourage organisations to apply as part of a partnership or collaboration, and welcome work which fits more than one of our impact goals or funding priorities.


Our grants support organisations’ core or project costs, including staff salaries and overheads. We also provide unrestricted funding for charities. We do not fund building or equipment costs, or individuals.

We are choosing to focus our grant funding on work that we believe will deliver the greatest long-term impact and create change for the future. This means we will be making more longer-term grants to organisations that will have a lasting and significant contribution to our impact goals, and fewer short-term or small-scale grants.

Social investments

Our social investments start with the social need and tailor the investment to it: adapting and selecting financial instruments that are most appropriate. We invest directly into organisations and indirectly, through funds.

Are we the right funder for you?

It is difficult to get support from Esmée. The vast majority of people who apply for our funding are not supported. Before committing to lots of research on what we support, or putting in a proposal, please check your eligibility by taking this short quiz. It will also help you to decide whether this would be a good use of your time.

From 2020, we will be supporting fewer organisations for longer and providing more support. It is already difficult to get a grant from us, and it will now be harder. The organisations we support will be doing truly exceptional work, which we think could have a ripple effect, i.e: an influence that reaches beyond direct results and is taken up by others, with the potential for long-term change.

What we don't support

  • Organisations with an annual turnover of less than £100,000 (see our FAQs on how we assess turnover)*
  • Organisations without at least three non-executive trustees or directors
  • Organisations without an asset lock - unless they are a registered charity (see our FAQs for information about the types of organisations we support in terms of governance)
  • Grants for less than £30,000
  • Social investments for less than £100,000 or more than £2m
  • Work that is not legally charitable
  • Work that does not have a direct benefit in the UK
  • Grants to individuals
  • Capital costs including building work, renovations, and equipment (the exclusion applies to grants only, we may make social investments for these)
  • Academic research – unless it can demonstrate real potential for practical outcomes
  • Healthcare with a clinical basis, including medical research, hospices, counselling and therapy, arts therapy, education about and treatment for drug and alcohol misuse
  • Independent education
  • Work that is primarily the responsibility of statutory authorities
  • The advancement of religion

* We will be working with partners to identify new ideas we could support which are at an earlier stage and might not get through our applicant quiz. We will contact organisations proactively to apply for this support.

We are looking for:

  • Unusual collaborations and ambitious partnerships which are delivering at scale and involving or engaging a range of charity, public sector or corporate stakeholders
  • Work which makes connections across our aims: Our Natural World, A Fairer Future and Creative, Confident Communities
  • Communities or people most affected being involved in campaigning or leading change
  • Work which uses a preventative approach
  • Work that has practical plans to achieve and sustain change over the long-term

For social investments, we also look for:

  • The existing or potential ability to repay our investment
  • Alternative forms of investment and social investment in innovative models
What applicants will need to show
  • Their organisation is leading the way itself, or part of a partnership or collaboration which is aiming for transformative change
  • The work is pioneering by breaking new ground, or using tried and tested models to push things forward in a new way
  • The work is ambitious and aiming to make a long-term impact. To be funded by Esmée, it’s not enough to be keeping good things going, you need to be driving change for the future

Flexibility in our support

To better support organisations, we have adapted our approach and increased our flexibility.

Flexibility on reporting:

Following IVAR’s principles of better reporting, we encourage everyone we fund to submit a report they’re already producing. This could be an Impact Report, a report for your trustee board, a progress report you’ve written for another funder, or your Annual Report. If you don’t have a written report, we could have a learning conversation instead – please let your Funding Manager know if this is something you’d prefer.

Our strategy

Our strategy focuses on three interdependent aims:

  • Improving Our Natural World
  • Tackling injustice to deliver A Fairer Future
  • Nurturing Creative, Confident Communities

You can see the overall framework for these alongside our impact goals by 2030 and our priorities for the first five years below. Keep scrolling down to see more detail about our aims and the priorities within each aim.

Strategic framework-2021.png
Great Crested Newt

Our Natural World: priorities

We want to ensure that our natural world is restored and protected and that people benefit from its recovery. Working with others, we will contribute to three key impact goals:

  • Preserved and improved species health and habitats
  • Clean and healthy freshwater
  • Sustainable and ethical food

By focusing on these areas we aim to make a significant difference on climate change.

If you are working across more than one area, this will make us more, rather than less likely to support you. We are keen to support organisations working in partnerships, as well as key organisations that work across our priorities to convene, mobilise or generate new ideas.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:

We commit to funding more organisations led by communities experiencing racial inequity, and in Our Natural World - where the majority of organisations are not ethnically diverse – we will use our position as a funder to influence recruitment and governance practice to be more inclusive.

Impact goals by 2030 Priorities in first 5 years
Preserved and improved species health and habitats. Peat 

Space for nature
Clean and healthy freshwater. Freshwater
Sustainable and ethical food. Nature friendly farming

Fishing in tandem with nature


Esmée has long been a supporter of peatland due to its value for nature, climate change and for a range of other benefits including flood prevention and purifying water.  Whilst still under-appreciated, peatland bogs are more effective at carbon storage and mitigation than tropical forests.  Peat has relevance across many of our priorities (habitats, climate, freshwater, nature-friendly farming).

Impact goal:

Preserved and improved species health and habitats

We want to support:
  • Peat to be recognised as a climate change superpower as well as for its importance to nature
  • Peat to no longer be a component of horticultural products and people understand the implications of their buying choices on global peat stores and climate change
  • Degraded peatland sites to be restored for nature and for people
  • All important peatland sites, including those outside protected areas, to have statutory protections at least as powerful as currently in place and those that are to be properly applied
  • Farmed peat soils to be managed sustainably
  • All UK countries to manage their peat resource sustainably

Space for nature

The scale of nature’s decline in the UK cannot be addressed by our existing nature reserves nor without fundamentally changing the way we use the land. Fortunately, this decline is mirrored by a growing movement for connecting with nature and for finding and creating more wild spaces for nature - enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes.

By restoring space for nature near where people live, we will ensure that communities lead change but also that nature is accessible to all.

Impact goal:

Preserved and improved species health and habitats

We want to support:
  • Restoration of space for nature at a landscape scale, through collaborative working between landowners, communities, businesses, regulators and NGOs
  • Restoration of marine habitats at scale, reconnecting coastal areas with their natural heritage
  • More wild spaces for people in the UK - particularly those who have not experienced wild nature - to enjoy near where they live
  • Work which aids the recovery of nature whilst also delivering other benefits, such as building carbon stores and reducing flood risk


One of the biggest challenges to the UK environment is the poor state of freshwater and the amplifying impact of climate change on the pressures that already exist.  Wildlife in freshwater has declined at a faster rate than in other habitats and is particularly susceptible to climate change.  Despite the magnitude of the problem, it is easily disregarded by a public unaware of the implications of poor water stewardship.

Impact goal:

Clean and healthy freshwater

We want to support:
  • Nature-based solutions to environmental challenges such as flood, drought and poor water quality, that also allow the restoration of wetland at scale or demonstrate smaller scale solutions that could be applied more widely
  • Engagement with biggest abstractors of water to reduce their impact, and to invest in improving the freshwater environment
  • Improvements to legislation and regulation for abstraction and water pollution that are fit for purpose and properly applied
  • Campaigns that mobilise communities in improving and raising the profile of freshwater environment - shining a light on poorly understood issues and bad or illegal practice
  • Work which holds to account polluters of all kinds that recklessly damage freshwater habitats, through legal action and shareholder engagement
  • Improved understanding of the needs and state of freshwater wildlife in our rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands – so that measures can be put in place to enable recovery

Nature-friendly farming

There has been huge loss of biodiversity on farms:

  • 56% decline in farmland birds since 1970
  • 97% of wildflower meadows present in the 1940s have been destroyed (3 million hectares)
  • Current farming approaches result in 0.1 to 0.3 tonnes of soil lost per hectare per year

Large areas of farmland will be unprofitable within a generation under the current model, but markets have not yet recognised the added value of nature-friendly farming. However, increasing innovation and a growing sense of awareness have created a window of opportunity.

Impact goal:

Sustainable and ethical food

We want to support:
  • Landscape-scale initiatives to enhance soil health and wider farmland biodiversity
  • Ambitious work to drive access to, and public demand for buying and consuming, food from local and nature-friendly sources
  • Greater transparency and accountability within supermarket supply chains
  • Work to encourage the transition to agro-ecological farming or food production, reducing pollutants and emissions
  • Initiatives designed to make nature-friendly farming the ‘new normal’

Fishing in tandem with nature

Overfishing is the biggest driver of biodiversity loss in the seas yet there are currently poor safeguards to prevent damaging exploitation. The implementation of an effective network of marine protected areas is key to tackling this, alongside more sustainable aquaculture.

With the UK leaving the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy, there is real opportunity for change for marine life, as well as the coastal and island communities who depend upon it.

Impact goal:

Sustainable and ethical food

We want to support:
  • Designated and properly enforced marine protected areas across the UK which enable marine life to flourish
  • Work to ensure that small fishing businesses which demonstrate a sustainable approach to fishing and aquaculture can continue to play a key role in the economy of coastal communities
  • Innovation in alternative forms of UK aquaculture for sustainable farmed seafood
  • Increased consumer understanding of seafood choices, and changes in procurement and consumption
  • Improved understanding of the status of marine wildlife populations so that safeguards can be put in place to allow recovery
  • Ambitious collaborations for influencing policy across regions and nations

A Fairer Future: priorities

We want to contribute to a just and anti-racist society, where those most likely to have their rights denied have those rights protected, as well as the opportunity to speak and be heard, and the freedom to express their creativity.  We want to shine new light on areas of need and challenge the cultures, systems and behaviours that stand in the way of change.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:

We commit to funding more organisations led by communities experiencing racial inequity. In A Fairer Future, we aim to give more long-term funding and support to organisations working to advance racial justice. We will also work with partners to identify, fund, and nurture smaller organisations led by communities experiencing racial inequity that are working towards our impact goals.

Climate change:

Across all our aims, we are keen to support work which addresses the causes and impacts of climate change.

Impact goals by 2030 Priorities in first 5 years
Injustice and structural inequality is challenged and changed. Acting early on the root causes of problems

Children and young people’s rights

Young people leaving care

Tackling injustice

Creativity transforming lives
A new inclusive generation of leaders and artists. Empowering young leaders

Removing barriers to creative careers

Cultural education

Acting early on the root causes of problems

We want to see more action taking place to prevent problems from occurring, not just to cope with the consequences. In particular, getting early support to children is vital, whether that is in the first years of life, at key transition points or to counter the negative impact of trauma that can reverberate through lives.

Impact goal:

Injustice and structural inequality is challenged and changed

We want to support work that:
  • Makes the case for shifting investment of resources away from crisis and towards prevention
  • Ensures more young children facing disadvantage get quality support in the early years, by changing policy and practice at scale
  • Supports teenagers facing challenges before they reach crisis point (challenges like exploitation, impact of early trauma and/or problems with police, family, school)
  • Identifies and challenges the root causes that contribute to cycles of disadvantage and unlocks change for the future
  • Addresses a persistent and difficult issue where the current approach isn’t working

Children and young people’s rights

We believe that all children and young people should have their rights respected, no matter how challenging their circumstances.  We recognise that some young people do not always get the support or services they need and fund those who work alongside young people to create fairer systems.

Impact goal:

Injustice and structural inequality is challenged and changed

We want to support work that:
  • Challenges persistent inequalities so that children and young people can access the education, housing and services they are entitled to
  • Results in changes to legislation, policy and practice for the benefit of those most likely to have their rights denied
  • Is driven and shaped by young people with direct experience of being let down by the system

Young people leaving care: a focused funding stream

Applications for this priority are by invitation only.

We believe more needs to be done across the UK to reduce the risk of young people falling off a ‘cliff edge’ of support when they leave care. We want to see care leavers supported - by the system and by their own networks - to feel emotionally stable and be financially secure, and ultimately flourish as an adult.

Impact goal:

Injustice and structural inequality is challenged and changed

The work we support will lead to:
  • More care leavers developing and sustaining stable, supportive and fulfilling relationships
  • Young people having more say over the decisions that matter to them, their voices being listened to, and acted on
  • Consistent and good quality support for young people that leads to successful transitions and independence
  • A system that responds quickly to messages from research, learning about good practice and the voices of young people, with challenge when things go wrong, and sharing and spreading of what works well

Tackling injustice

A just and inclusive society benefits us all. We seek to support those who are most likely to have their rights denied due to race, gender, disability or immigration status. We want people’s voices to be heard, to shine new light on areas of need, and to change the cultures, systems and behaviours that stand in the way of progress.

Impact goal:

Injustice and structural inequality is challenged and changed

We want to support work that:
  • Changes legislation, policy and practice to reflect the needs of those most likely to have their rights denied
  • Is driven and shaped by individuals with experience of being let down by a system, so that they can themselves have a direct impact on changing that system
  • Brings to light and challenges the reasons people experience prejudice, or are ignored or mistreated by public authorities
  • Holds those in power to account and persuades them to take responsibility for making changes

Creativity transforming lives

We believe creative activity can help people facing difficult social or personal issues and can be a powerful way to tackle inequality and injustice. We are interested in those who use the power of creativity to address vital issues and help individuals to reach their potential.

Impact goal:

Everyone can access the benefits of culture and creativity

We want to support work that:
  • Develops models of creative participation which enable people to find solutions to the social or personal issues that affect them
  • Uses arts and culture to address social and environmental injustice
  • Uses creativity and culture to help people and communities recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and beyond

Empowering young leaders

Young people can play a vital role in unlocking change.  We value the energy, insight and leadership young people bring to issues and the impact this work can have on young people, their communities and their sense of civic engagement. We are interested in work that provides progression routes for young people with experience of disadvantage to create a more diverse group of cultural, environmental and social leaders for the future.

Impact goal:

A new inclusive generation of leaders and artists

We want to support work that:
  • Enables more young people currently under-represented in decision making to steer policy and have a real chance of influencing change
  • Supports a new inclusive generation of leadership to develop solutions to issues they want to change in the social, environmental and cultural sectors
  • Ensures youth leadership and solutions are central to COVID-19 recovery

Removing barriers to creative careers

We want to support those building a cultural sector that reflects our society, with open access for those who are currently missing out or facing significant barriers.  A more representative, inclusive workforce could influence policy and practice to ensure better, more fulfilling engagement with culture and creativity for everyone.

Impact goal:

A new inclusive generation of leaders and artists

We want to support work that:
  • Opens up access to a career in the arts for those who are currently missing out
  • Leads to a creative sector workforce that is representative of the wider community, enabling the widest range of stories to be told and diverse ideas and perspectives to flourish
  • Enables a new inclusive generation of leadership to tackle challenges in the sector
  • Supports freelance artists to sustain and develop their careers during the period of COVID-19 recovery and beyond
Applicants must:

Build their talent support around an accessible recruitment process that works to tackle potential barriers for applicants, offer strong signposting to further opportunities and progression routes for participants, and be working at a scale that could influence the wider sector.

Cultural education

Applications to this funding priority are by invitation only.

Cultural education - in a classroom or through access to arts and culture - can contribute to all aspects of a child’s development, particularly supporting creativity, critical thinking, empathy and resilience. The arts equip children and young people with skills that will be increasingly important in future careers. Despite this, access to arts and culture is not distributed equally across the UK or in education settings. By supporting cultural organisations to work together with educators and artists, we will protect the right to high quality creative experiences for every child in school and in the community.

Impact goal:

A new inclusive generation of leaders and artists

The work we support will lead to:
  • Creativity being a key part of every child’s education
  • High-quality cultural education being accessible to all, with online delivery supported to reach beyond the digital divide
Hijinx Theatre

Creative, Confident Communities: priorities

We want to strengthen the bonds in communities, helping local people to build vibrant, confident places where they can fulfil their creative, human, and economic potential. Places where the local economy works better for the people who live there, where there is equality of access to arts and culture, and where communities are at the heart of change.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

We commit to funding more organisations led by communities experiencing racial inequity. In Creative, Confident Communities, we will also work with partners to identify, fund, and nurture smaller organisations led by communities experiencing racial inequity that are working towards our impact goals.

Climate change

Across all our aims, we are keen to support work which addresses the causes and impacts of climate change.

Key features across our work in Creative, Confident Communities

For all our priorities in Creative, Confident Communities, we want to support work that:

  • Is inclusive and accessible: by this, we mean work that engages and represents the diverse communities in a place.
  • Is co-owned, co-created, and co-designed with local people: by this, we mean that local people are at the heart of change. For us, the process is just as important as the outcomes.
  • Is collaborative: by this, we mean unusual alliances, cross-sector and multi-agency approaches.
  • Has potential for sustained change: by this, we mean benefits communities beyond the lifetime of our funding.
  • Has potential for scale: by this, we mean there is scope to share learning and/or replication elsewhere.
  • Can demonstrate multiple benefits for local people: for instance, this could include reduced isolation, increased volunteering levels, as well as increased skills and engagement.

You can find additional guidance for each priority below.

Impact goals by 2030 Priorities in first 5 years
Communities use their power to make change happen. Communities working together for change
Local economies work better for the people who live there. Community driven enterprise and regeneration
Culture and creativity build thriving communities. Community-led art and creativity

Communities working together for change

Communities thrive when people have the power to take action and the capacity and capability to work together for change. We seek out ambitious work that puts communities themselves at the heart of the changes they want to make and can provide transformative models for others to learn from. We will support communities to exercise greater power over their economic, social, and environmental future.

Impact goal:

Communities use their power to make change happen.

We want to support work that:
  • Has local people at the heart of the change, is inclusive and accessible to all communities in a place.
  • Takes a partnership approach resulting in the corporate, cultural, public, voluntary, and community sectors working together with local people to deliver collective change.
  • Motivates and enables communities to use their collective ideas, skills and assets to bring about their vision of what they want their local area to be.
  • Creates strong networks that continue to benefit communities beyond the lifetime of our funding.
  • Tests new or uses proven models, provided there is scope for sharing lessons and replication elsewhere.

Community driven enterprise and regeneration

When communities have a greater stake in local transport, businesses, housing, and services, they can work better for communities, and generate financial and social returns that stay local. We believe that supporting stronger, sustainable, connections between people and their local resources can help rebuild and create collaborative, thriving, and green local economies for all.

Impact goal:

Local economies work better for the people who live there

We want to support work that:
  • Takes a localised, community-led approach to engage people with the common goal of changing and reinvesting in their local economy for the better.
  • Tests and grows new, sustainable models of community-led enterprise, which may include community ownership, with the aim of creating better outcomes for local people.
  • Offers learning for others, or has the potential to be replicated elsewhere.
  • Is inclusive and represents the diverse communities in a place.
  • Champions environmental justice, regenerative enterprises, green recovery and access to nature in any economic development.

Community-led art and creativity

The power of culture and creativity to transform lives and communities is undervalued. Through our long-term interest in, and history of, supporting culture for social impact, we understand the role that culture and creativity can play in releasing potential, strengthening community relationships and bringing people together. We want to see the best of community-led culture and creativity as a core component in local regeneration and planning for the future.

Impact goal:

Everyone can access the benefits of culture and creativity

We want to support work that:
  • Transforms places through a collaborative approach to culture that is co-created with local people alongside cultural organisations and other local players.
  • Is led by local people, is inclusive and represents the diverse communities in a place.
  • Enables and strengthens cultural organisations with a strong track record of community engagement to influence local decision-making and policies.
  • Is ambitious with the potential for scale through a cross-sector or multi-agency approach. We will support work at different scales including: national initiatives and programmes working in multiple places; and region-wide activity as well as county, city or borough-wide programmes.
  • Is linked to wider networks and has the ability to share learning, as well as contribute to wider learning about co-creation and co-design.

How to apply for funding

There are 6 steps to apply for funding:

Application process2.jpg

PLEASE NOTE: There may be delays to assessment response times due to the impacts of the pandemic on the team's capacity, so please bear with us. We hope to increase the team's capacity in the coming months with additional staff and we're also making improvements to our systems behind the scenes. In the meantime, thanks so much for your patience!

1. Quiz

Take our short quiz to find out if your work meets the minimum eligibility criteria for Esmée support.

2. Read the guidance

Read the guidance to decide whether your work could contribute to Esmée’s impact goals. If you have questions, check our FAQ.

3. Expression of Interest

When you are ready to tell us about your work, you can submit an expression of interest through our website. This is in two parts.

First, some details of your organisation including: charity or company number; total income for the last financial year; number of trustees and non-executive directors; and date established.

Second, we want to know more about what you’re aiming to achieve and how you will make it happen with Esmée funding by answering two questions:

  • What work would you like Esmée to support? (100 words)
  • How is your organisation well placed to deliver this change? (100 words)

Your answers to both questions are meant to be short. In addition to these, we will also be using your organisation details and the information on your website to judge whether your work is a potential match for our aims.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI): Once you’ve submitted your Expression of Interest, you will be redirected to a DEI monitoring form to complete about your organisation. . We want to use the information we gather to help us identify and address structural inequity, and ensure that the reach of our funding and our funding practices are fair and just. Learn more about how we're classifying our data.

Response times: We will get back to you within four weeks about your Expression of Interest.

When you are ready, you can submit an Expression of Interest.

4. Initial conversation

If we think that your work potentially matches our aims, we'll invite you for a call to learn more about your plans.

We will use this to:
  • Get a sense of whether your organisation and its work could contribute to our 5 year impact goals and priorities.
  • Find out more about your organisation and its work.
  • Consider whether we might be the right funder for you.
The conversation will cover:
  • Fit to our strategy: How does your work complement our strategy or the work of others in our portfolio?  Do you provide a challenge that we haven’t considered but should?
  • Attitude/philosophy: Who you work with and your appetite for collaboration; your capacity for learning and how you’ve acted on it, your ability to take advantage of opportunities; your energy.
  • Track record: Your organisation, its work and how you plan to achieve it. Your role, influence, and the level at which you operate.

After the call, we’ll consider your work alongside other potential funding at a fortnightly staff meeting and decide which are a good fit with our strategy, and ask them for a proposal.

5. Proposal

If we agree that your work is a good fit for our strategy, we’ll invite you to submit a proposal, which you'll have three months to do. If you have a business, project or strategic plan already in place that describes your work, which you can use to show how your work aligns with our strategy, please use this rather than write a new proposal.

We will use this to:
  • Find out in more detail how your plans align with Esmée’s impact goals and priorities.
  • Understand what the planned outcomes of your work are, and how Esmée could work with you to achieve them.
  • Gather some important documents on your organisation.
The proposal should cover:
  • Alignment with Esmée: What funding from Esmée will enable you to deliver, and how your current work or future plans align with our impact goals and five-year priorities.
  • About you: A summary of your organisation - its origins, major milestones, experience of working strategically and influencing.
  • Support: In a sentence, what you would like us to support. The amount of funding you are requesting from us and over what period. If you are requesting multi-year funding, we encourage you to account for inflation.
  • The Work: What you plan to deliver with the funding; the approach you will take and how this will achieve your intended impact; who you collaborate with; what risks you have identified.
  • COVID-19: A short update of how COVID-19 has affected your organisation and what changes you’ve made as a result.
Additional questions:
  • Outcomes: Tell us up to three outcomes you are planning to achieve, and what your indicators of progress might be. These should contribute to Esmée’s impact goals and five-year priorities. See our guidance on outcomes for more information.
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI): Tell us about your approach to DEI within your organisation and through your work. We are interested in hearing about current challenges and any changes you are looking to make.

Why we ask about DEI: We think it's a key responsibility for us as a funder to influence more inclusive practice in the sectors and organisations we support. By learning about the progress of those we fund, we will be able to share good practice with others. We also want to support organisations that have further to go on DEI, which are keen to improve their practice.

Supplementary Documents:

Along with your proposal we will also ask for the following documents:

  • Management accounts from end of last financial year end to present, including current freely available cash balance.
  • Budget / cashflow forecast for next 12 months.
  • A copy of your safeguarding policy.
  • A copy of your Constitution, Memorandum and Articles of Association or other rules (only if you are not a registered charity).

If you do not have an existing business, project or strategic plan which covers this information, and are putting together a proposal just for us, it should be 4-6 pages for smaller requests (£60k or less), and 8-12 pages for larger ones. You will have two months to submit. When we receive the proposal, we’ll set up a follow-up conversation to discuss it.

6. Follow-up conversation and decision

When we receive your proposal, we will start our potential relationship with a call in order to:

  • Explain our new strategy. We will explore how we could use our additional tools to support your work, and how the proposal might fit with our future portfolio.
  • Build the relationship. It’s important to us to build bridges and networks with all organisations working towards our goals, whether or not we decide to fund them.
  • Build our understanding. The more we listen and learn from you, the better our assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal, and how we could best work together, will be.
  • Understand the impact of COVID-19 and the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in our work more widely.
The conversation will cover:
  • Mission and vision: What is your understanding of the broader context of your work and the communities it serves? We are looking for our funding to make a significant impact – does your ambition match up?
  • How you work: What is your methodology? Is it new or established? Sometimes we are looking for pioneering approaches, lateral thinking that opens up new ground – is there evidence of that? What is significant, important, or different about this proposal?
  • What could go wrong: Is the work new and untested? What other risks are there? How does the potential impact balance the risk?
  • Voice: To what extent is the proposal grounded or designed in collaboration with those it is supporting?
  • Collaboration: To what extent do you collaborate and who or what else needs to be funded for your work to be successful?  How do we see them interacting with our extended tools and new approach?
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion:  What is your approach to DEI?
  • Governance and finance: How robust is your organisation, and how strong is your governance?

The Trustees work with our executive team to make decisions on how to use our resources and make funding decisions.

Decisions are made depending on the size of the funding request:

  • Grants up to £60k - Executive Team
  • Grants up to £200k & social investment up to £400k - Executive/Trustee committee, which meets every 6 weeks
  • Grants over £200k and Social Investment over £400k - Trustee Board, which meets 5 times a year

We aim to give you a decision within three months of receiving your proposal. However, there may be a few occasions where larger requests take longer due to the timing of our Board meetings. Decisions are usually faster for smaller grants (£60,000 or less).

See our FAQs for more on how we make decisions.


We will give feedback to every organisation we ask to submit a full proposal. Feedback will not be given on expressions of interest, but we will track and use our team’s assessments to amend our guidance, answer frequently asked questions, and give more general application advice on our website and twitter.

New Ideas

We are committed to supporting organisations with vital, new or unusual ideas on the issues we care about. Ideas which could change the way we work, think, or create in future.

We want to support organisations that are grounded in evidence or experience, which have already delivered some initial work and have a workable governance model in place or are working towards one. They might be entrepreneurial, or want to shake up existing ways of working, and will now be ready to learn and develop. We want our funding to move organisations on to being able to take on additional support in the future; to grow an acorn into an oak.

Organisations with new ideas which already meet our funding criteria should take the quiz and submit an expression of interest. In addition, we will be working with partners (other funders, the organisations we fund, and other support schemes for new ideas in our sectors) to identify new ideas we could support which are at an earlier stage and might not get through our applicant quiz. We will contact organisations proactively to apply for this support.


Under our funding priorities we will support infrastructure, “backbone”, or second tier organisations which are key to achieving our impact goals. We are interested in progressive organisations which can accelerate collaboration, further best practice, or amplify collective voice.

In addition, we will identify and support a few key players that are doing essential work across all our sectors and impact goals. We are looking for organisations that can move issues on, accelerate the pace of change or stop wasted effort. We also want our funding to ensure future independence, capacity and integrity of the charity and social enterprise sector.

Infrastructure organisations which are working directly towards our funding priorities should take the quiz and submit an expression of interest. For infrastructure organisations working more broadly, across all our sectors or goals, we will contact organisations proactively to apply for this support.


Can I apply as part of a partnership or collaboration?

Absolutely. Please nominate one organisation to make the application and handle any grant administration and payments. 

Our work fits more than one funding priority – it that ok?

That’s great. When you apply, you can indicate a primary and secondary priority. You can also let us know during our conversations if you meet more. 

How do I apply for a social investment?

The process for applying for a social investment is the same as the grant application process. The only difference is at number 4 – the proposal stage – when there are no set questions to answer, and we will ask you to submit your investment or business plan documents to us by email rather than through our online portal.

Why do you turn down applications?
A full list of FAQs

There is a longer list of frequently asked questions here.