Pre-application Q&A, 31 January 2024

Additional Q&A


1. Could community interest companies (CICs) limited by guarantee apply to Esmée as "adopted charities", or in partnership with a charity, given that they share the mission and values?

We fund a 'lead' organisation in a partnership - this can be a CIC or a charity, or organisation with other legal structures that we can support - see more in our FAQs (#22).

2. Can charities which have just been created recently (so no previous annual turnover albeit with other grants) apply?

To meet our current guidelines organisations need to have at least a year's accounts to provide to us as part of the application process.

3. Our turnover in year 1 was over £100K but in year 2 it was only £70K, we are currently in year 3 (ends in April) and will have a turnover of £160K. Will you look at this current year to show we are big enough to apply?

We will refer to the most recent accounts, for the income level. It may be that you need to wait until the current year has completed with a turnover over £100k.

4. We are a charity that work on behalf of a landowner, who applied many years ago to Esmée for funding. However due to their financial situation, we are told we have to do our own funding now. We will never achieve £100k per year, but have exceeded this over several years. Will we not be eligible to apply on our own?

Unfortunately organisations with a turnover under £100k per year will not be able to apply to the main fund.

5. Must one meet all the priorities?

No, your work does not need to meet all of our priorities if it is a strong match to one.

6. It says you generally don't fund academic research. If this is a part of a bigger project, would this be eligible?

We often fund work that has academic research partners involved. We aim for our funding to benefit the natural environment, people and communities in the UK so we will only support an element of academic research where there are outcomes that are being applied in practice to these aims for our impact goals for the natural world, people and communities.

7. Do you fund Scottish Charities?


8. Do you have any requirements for a board other than three unrelated directors?

Also the majority of directors must be non-executive.

9. You provide funding to the Wildlife Trusts as a movement. Would you consider individual Trusts doing nationally relevant works that is not covered by this funding?

Yes, individual Trusts can apply for support for work where it is leading innovative work that can have a wider impact.

10. Do you have a maximum income level - our income is now over £3m per annum.

We do not have a maximum income level. However it's worth noting we don't tend to fund super large organisations. i.e. over £10m. Decisions are based on the impact and alignment to our longer term outcomes.

11. We are a not-for profit not a registered charity as our mission in to fundamentally change the structure of taxation to address structural social inequalities. We work cross party and with organisations across all disadvantage-effected sectors. We are political from the point of view of the charity commission. Would it make us ineligible for a grant from Esmée Fairbairn.

Not ineligible, if the work is not for profit, cross party, and you have the necessary governance in place, you could apply.

12. Would you consider funding a CIC limited by shares? (That meets the governance requirements and has not for profit/charitable aims)

Yes, provided it meets our governance requirements including an asset lock we would consider funding.

13. Do you fund the purchase of land and buidings for project delivery?

We choose to focus our grant support on revenue costs, however, we may make social investments for land and buildings. Learn more about out social investment support.

15. We have went over our annual return deadline for which there are good reasons including undertaking a full audit of the organisation however it flags as red within OSCAR (Scotland). We have received an extension from Companies house to complete this process with the auditor but there is no vehicle for OSCAR to reflect this within their database. Will this affect us?

We would need to understand the reasons for that flag and would discuss that during the assessment but it would not exclude an organisation from applying.

16. Are you open to a discussion regarding religious organisations? There is a difference between activities that take place to promote or advance religion and activities that are delivered by religious organisations either on their premises or elsewhere. Projects that help children access choral music are an example, as are soup kitchens and job clubs?

Thanks for your question. We have had time to discuss this further internally to clarify our position. We would not provide unrestricted costs funding to an organisation whose charitable mission is to promote religion, as the advancement of religion is one of our exclusions (work we do not fund). However, we recognise that many religious organisations play important roles in their communities, supporting people of all faiths and none. We would therefore consider applications for projects or restricted costs from these organisations, provided they were open to all and did not proselytise as part of the requested programme. We would explore accessibility, targeting and the role of the organisation within the community during the assessment.

Esmée's strategy and guidance

17. Could you give us some information on the differences between your arts/culture and community themes? I am a bit unsure on which would suit our work best.

With our 'place based' funding for communities under 'Creative Confident Communities' the main criteria is that the work is led by communities, ie co-produced; and can embed long term change that is held by strong partnerships within a place. The range of creative activity involved can be broad from 'artform' activities (visual art, music, theatre), to any activities considered as creative for those taking part, any other 'cultural' activities which can include things like creating vibrant and useful civic spaces by and for the community. We will support work which is embedding the changes long term - ie if the work is a project we would want to see how this leads to long term change for the community. We also fund arts under A Fairer Future - from the perspective of pathways to creative practice that addresses structural barriers. See the A Fairer Future section of the website under 'Arts & Creativity Making Change'.

18. What does 'top of the cliff and bottom of the cliff' mean? [See reference to this in the transcript - under 'what we are looking for']

We mean the difference between tackling issues at the root e.g. via policy change or systemic change at a national or regional level, and tackling the problems the issues create e.g. providing front line services to support people affected by inequality.

19. How do you view part-funding of projects? Do you prefer to fund a certain percentage of costs alongside other funders?

We would consider part funding. We don't have set percentages we would consider, it's discussed on a case by case basis. We have part funded and fully funded projects. We would ask about sustainability of the work beyond our funding.

20. Could you please advise whether you will fund projects that support the redistribution of grants please?

We have supported a range of delegated funding programmes. These tend to come about through existing partnerships. However, if this is your request we would want to understand what is the extra value of supporting your organisation to make grants vs us doing it directly, and also how it meets our longer term outcomes in our strategy.

21. How does funding for core work fit with a project proposal?

We will certainly consider requests for core costs when the work of an organisation clearly aligns with our funding priorities. We can consider unrestricted grants to charities. Requests for project costs should consider full cost recovery for organisations.

22. Does funding cover overheads or core cost of the applying organisation or is it purely direct project costs?

We can and do fund core costs and think that full cost recovery budgeting is important.

23. Do you have an Esmée definition of lived experience on your website/literature?

See our page on language and how we classify our data using the DEI Data Standard.

24. In terms of evidencing that our work fits Esmée Fairbairn's description of 'people who are educationally or economically disadvantaged' - what criteria do you use?

We use the DEI Data Standard, which you can learn more about on our page on language and how we classify our data.

25. What is your general view on charities having reserves/not having reserves? And amounts?

We don't have a set amount/level. We want to ensure our funding has the most impact and consider where our money can most add value. Since charities come in lots of different shapes and sizes and we are aware that some organisations will have for a long time struggled more than others due to systemic inequality to raise unrestricted funds, we consider the reserves levels on a case by case basis.

26. Do you have any priorities for any particular geographical areas or regions? For example, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Midlands etc.

We aim to support change in all four UK countries. We don't currently have 'priority places' the way some other funders do but we do take into account need of different places and whether or not we have pre-existing funding relationships in a place in relation to particular areas of our strategy (ie we aim to support partnership working within sectors and across georgraphical areas (city, region, town).

27. What is your view on research-focused projects?

It is unusual for us to fund academic research. We would look for evidence of demand from practitioners for the outcomes it produces and be confident that could not be met by normal sources of academic funding.

28. On your FAQs you mention that you don't fund ‘academic research unless it can demonstrate real potential for practical outcomes’ so if we are funding from a University, and we have aspirations to make an impact on nature restoration and community cohesion - would this be considered?

It is unusual for us to fund academic research. We would look for evidence of demand from practitioners for the outcomes it produces and be confident that could not be met by normal sources of academic funding.

29. In A Fairer Future - could our 'reducing offending' for prisoners on release - idea fit well here?

Within our Fairer Future funding priorities we outline three areas of interest in relation to the criminal justice system:

  • Fewer young people, particularly those experiencing racial inequity, in contact with the youth justice system (CYP Rights)
  • The negative impacts of the criminal justice system on women and their families are reduced (Gender Justice)
  • Disproportionate harm caused by racial injustice in systems, policy and practice is reduced (Racial Justice).

We would consider work that fits these outcomes, and goes beyond benefitting individual programme participants, instead evidencing wider benefits through changes to systems and practice.

30. Can grants be used to fund apprenticeship/intern positions within a wider project?

They can and we are particularly interested in this if it can help to break down barriers faced by some people in accessing careers in the sectors we fund. However, we can't fund apprenticeship programmes indefinitely and will look for evidence of how they contribute to change beyond the end of our grant.

31. Does the sustained change need to be changes to policy/statutory support or can it be changes to public attitudes and a more active community?

It can be the latter.

32. Rural areas often have very little ethnic diversity within their populations. Are rural organisations marked down on this in your assessment process?

We expect organisations to have thought carefully about their approach to DEI but appreciate that what that means will depend on the context they operate in. We will also consider all aspects of diversity - not just ethnicity.

Applying for funding

33. Do you have deadlines for applications? What's the timeframe on decisions? And if successful, how soon are grants made?

Other than for specific programmes where a deadline is specified or are by invitation only, we have no deadlines and we accept applications throughout the year. We aim to give a decision on expressions of interest within four weeks. For applications we invite to submit a full proposal, it can take up to three months from when we receive the proposal. Decisions for grants of less than £90,000 can be quicker. You can check our online guidance for more detail on our application and decision-making process.

34. Could you clarify the likely timeline from submitting an Expression of Interest to securing a decision on a Proposal, based on an application for a multi-year grant below the threshold of £90k. Reading section 3.6 in the FAQs, decisions on the two stages should be forthcoming within four weeks and then within three months. This suggests an overall timeline of four months. However, the last sentence states that the full process can take up to six months.

Happy to clarify. EOIs take us up to 4 weeks to decide on, then if we invite a proposal the organisation has 3 months to write and submit the proposal. Once it's submitted we take up to 3 months to offer a final decision. Added up, it averages to 6 months for us to get people a final decision. Hope that helps.

35. We have different projects that fall under different priorities of the natural environment. I tried to reach out to Esmée for a opportunity to discuss which project would be best aligned, but I was directed to the Expression of Interest page. Are there any opportunities to discuss project options with Esmée pre-application?

Unfortunately, as a small team managing a large number of proposals, we aren't generally able to have conversations with organisations about their work before they apply for funding. These sessions were set up to try to give some opportunity to engage pre-application.

36. If we have multiple projects that we believe are well-aligned with Esmée's strategy, should we outline all of them in the EOI?

We would suggest that you prioritise your projects based on which is most critical to your organisation and is the strgonest fit to our strategy. While we cannot consider multiple EOIs at a time. If your EOI is declined you can submit an alternative EOI, there is no gap required between making EOIs.

37. If an EOI leads to a conversation with your team, do you expect applicants to have a specific project ready to talk about and potentially move forward with, or will that conversation help guide and shape the nature and content of the next stage application?

We expect you to have an idea ready to bring to us, this can be a project or a collaboration and strategy for change. The EOI conversation is then an opportunity for you to give us some detail on the vision, opportunities, practicalities and challenges around that project based on which we can consider how and if it fits with the impact goals in Esmée's strategy.

38. If we are an existing grantee, do we have to wait until we report before we start the re-application process?

No, you can discuss a continuation request with your funding manager in advance of the final report. If you are invited to submit a continuation proposal, that would include an interim end of grant report to provide an update on progress so far.

39. How much emphasis do you put on available website information in the EOI process? Our website doesn't always keep up. Is it advisable to spend a bit of time on our web content first?

I think it depends how out of date the website it, and how relevant the current information is. We use this alongside the written information in the EOI and in your published accounts.

40. If we apply under (e.g.) A Fairer Future and we have specific work planned on migrant justice, is it better to package this as a project or can we apply for core funding to support this work?

Core funding is fine - we prefer, when possible, to give core costs grants.

41. Does maximum grant size relate to an organisation's turnover?

We do consider an organisation's turnover when discussing grant level because we want to understand what the impact of our grant will be and be confident that an organisation will be in a sustainable place at the end of a grant. That isn't a hard and fast percentage we will consider and you should apply for the level of funds you need to do the work.

42. Am I correct in thinking that it is a rolling deadline i.e submitting the EOI when we are ready rather than by a certain date? Is the Youth-Led Creativity Fund the same?

Other than for specific programmes where a deadline is specified or are by invitation only, we have no deadlines and we accept applications throughout the year. At the moment, applications to our outcomes for ‘young people leaving care’ is by invitation only. And we’re currently closed to applications for ‘youth-led creativity’, but will be reopening in early February. We have a Q&A webinar for that programme on 7 February.

43. We would be applying for funding for one stream of our work, so would this mean we are applying for project costs rather than core?

It depends, in some cases where a percentage of permanent staff costs are attributed to the work then that may still be core costs rather than project.

44. If we apply and are unsuccessful, can we apply again? What feedback or dialogue can take place to improve our chances going forward? Thanks.

We don’t have a cool-off period but whilst an organisation who has been turned down for funding can apply again, the new application should not be for the same work and costs. The amount of feedback provided depends on what stage of the process the application is declined, at the least we will offer top line information on why the work isn't a fit to our strategy.

45. Can private organisations apply on behalf of clients to add value on their behalf to a project we are involved in e.g. we are a youth engagement agency and could offer applications to boost outcomes for youth voice in geographic areas or for specific policy issues.

We can only fund charities or other organisations with not for profit legal structures, so no, we would not fund a private organisation. Some organisations we fund will work with private organisations for their application or development of their work etc. for example consultancies.

46. Does the application need to align only to one of Esmée's three key aims or can it align to both ‘A Fairer Future’ and ‘Creative, Confident Communities’?

No, it can, and many of our grants do, align with multiple strategic aims.

47. We recently had an EOI turned down - on the basis of not supporting adult social care responsibilities. We are aiming to change the system through piloting new models and offer support to people who cannot access social care funding. Can we re-submit the same work, but make it clearer why we believe it fits your aims? Or are we able to check out with someone whether any work pertaining to adult social care would not be considered?

Applications for the same work which have previously been declined are very unlikely to be successful. We would advise only submitting a further application if you are confident there is a strong fit with a specific outcome within our funding priorities.

48. Do you have a minimum percentage of project costs you will support? i.e. if the project is budgeted at £3m, would you consider a grant of less than £200k?

In short no, we will consider applications for work that meets our impact goals (which may be part of a larger scheme of work). We'd want to know that the rest of the funding for the work is secured or that strong leads for the remainder of the funding needed are in the pipeline.

49. Do you fund organisations that meet your criteria, is a great project, however don't require a large bank balance to function, we only need core funding? Is this something you would consider?

We are happy to provide core funding to organisations with an annual turnover of over £100,000.

Other questions

50. At Cornwall Wildlife Trust we have a new strategy regarding our ambitions to implement community organisation in some of Cornwall's most deprived areas. Our website currently doesn't have information regarding this, but we are hosting a launch event in April with national, regional and local stakeholders, our partners and the local community, would Esmée Fairbairn be interested in attending?

Do send us information about the event and we can see if someone is available to attend. For face to face events we will try to fit this with visits to see grantees etc but will often be able to join online events that are relevant to our work.

51. When you attend community events and do visits, does that happen across UK or it is South East England centric?

Funding managers spend time away visiting projects across the UK. Sadly, with over 900 active grants we don't get out to see as much of the work we fund as we would like.

52. Do you consider attending events for organisations you are not currently funding if they align to your priorities?

We appreciate the many invitations we receive from organisations we fund and those we don't. As a relatively small team, we have to prioritise contact with organisations we already have a relationship with; however we may attend events where we are assessing an application and it will give us a good insight into the work, or if we think there is very strong potential to support an organisation in future (if their work is meeting an important and unmet strategic need within the areas of work we support).

53. In what ways does Esmée Fairbairn engage with charities in Wales?

We are a UK-wide funder. You can see what grants we've made in Wales using 360Giving's GrantNav tool. Learn more about using this in our funding data. We also currently have a Wales-specific initiative to support communities to protect and restore their local freshwaters. You can learn more about this in our most recent update about Blue Spaces - Wales.

54. Have you funded much with universities and colleges?

We rarely fund universities, colleges directly, as we don't tend to fund academic research. There are exceptions when the benefit of working with a university and delivering impact are distinct.

55. Can you give an idea on the percentage of grants awarded by size of grant?

We publish this data annually in our Annual Reports as well as part of our submission to 360Giving - an online database that can show you who's funding what, where and how much.