Pre-application Q&A, 27 September 2023

Additional Q&A

The following were given written answers during or shortly after our pre-application Q&A webinar on 27 September 2023. Please see the full transcript for questions answered live during the webinar.


I have a question about being 'legally charitable'. Are organisations able to apply if they are not charities registered with the Charity Commission, as long as they are not-for-profit with charitable objects.

We do support non-charities that meet these criteria. See our FAQ on what types of organisations we're able to support.

Can social enterprise (LTD) apply?

Yes, a limited company can apply, including companies limited by guarantee and CICs. The work you are doing with our grant funding should be legally charitable.

Can I ask about whether being formally being constituted as a charity is needed for unrestricted funding? Or will being an exempt charity be also acceptable?

Exempt charities would be eligible for restricted funding (which includes core cost support).

Will you consider applications from health /medical sector orgs, where the application is not for direct funding for the items listed in what you don't fund?

It would depend on what the scope of the work was. We don't fund health/medical projects or work, but if you were delivering work that strongly matched our outcomes and had a good track record in that area, we would consider the application.

Our 2022 income was less than £30K, but our 2023 is more than £30k, which one do you take into account, 2022 income or 2023 income?

We have a minimum income of £100k to submit an expression of interest.

Your guidance states that you don't fund equipment, if there were key items needed linked to artistic delivery could a case be built for this?

Hi, we don't fund capital or applications that are soley equipment, but if it was included as part of a larger budget of revenue and delivery, that's fine.

Is there a limit on the amount of free reserves a charity can hold?

We do not apply a 'limit' we'd look at the financial information in the round, to understand the rationale for reserves and plans to use them.

Could we ask if you would fund projects that benefit schools (in terms of the curriculum, rather than core funding for schools)?

We tend not to support work that is purely in schools and is part of the curriculum. We will consider work that has broader ambitions such as having an impact on the community. An example is Sistema Scotland, which is an in-school programme of music education. But its ambition is to have a much wider impact on the whole community. If it's a group of schools working together with the aim of creating a different model of practice that then has a community effect - has an effect wider than just with the children that you're working with - then we will consider it.

For arts and creativity work with children and young people, we support work focused on traditional art forms as well as new technologies and media. We also focus on how children and young people access arts education and participation outside school. In assessing applications, we want to understand who is delivering the programme, how skilled and appropriate they are to do this work, and what progression routes they offer for those who want to continue a career in the arts.

See also our FAQ on work in schools.

Application process

Appreciating the volume of EOIs you receive, if an organisation has not got beyond the EOI stage on say 3 occasions is there the opportunity to get feedback?

Unfortunately, due to the number of applications we receive we are not able to provide further feedback than what is offered in the declination letter.

Do you look at accounts if the organisation is a education institution?

For all proposals we will look at the accounts for the receiving body. For expressions of interest, we just ask for your turnover for the previous year.

How much do you consider the budgets/ annual accounts/ reserves position when looking at a charity?

We do examine the organisation accounts and budget for the work, including looking at the reserves position to check it is not particularly high or low.

Is it best to apply for core costs for an organisation with diverse programming or focus on one programme area?

We provide both core costs and programmatic funding so we would advise looking at our priority areas, if a wide span of your work is a fit with one or more priorities then a core cost/programme funding request would be assessed the same way.

You mentioned looking at track record including how charities have handled things that haven't gone to plan. Is that something that should be outlined in the proposal, or is that at EOI stage?

In the EOI we recommend using the limited space to highlight elements of your track record that demonstrate how the outcomes you are seeking funding for are achievable. We would then explore track record in further detail at proposal stage.

How do you view applications from organisations with a strong track record who are confident they can meet all the requirements, but are new to Esmee requesting funding of, say, £300k+?

Hi, in terms of the level of the request we will look at this relative to the turnover of the organisation, the scope of the work and your funding mix. We may start a funding relationship with a lower amount in some cases, but if the work is strong and the request is timely, we would consider a larger amount from a new applicant. This would be assessed on a case by case basis.

What is the minimum match-funding contribution we should seek to source? Does this need to be secured at time of application?

We don't have a strict minimum level. We would encourage a diverse and balanced mix of funding but there is no set limit.

We are working on a new website, but thinking about that, should we potentially wait until this is complete before putting in an EOI? The re-design is based on extensive feedback through another project and this is the final part of the implementation of that work.

Hi, we do look at websites as part of the EOI assessment process, combined with what you've written in the form. So it's very much up to you, but if the current one lacks information that is crucial, perhaps waiting would be a good idea.

Do we need to have a set time period from the end of a previous grant before we are able to submit a new EOI?

No. We do not have to be a cooling off period between grants.

If you’ve been a grantee in the past, but some time ago, is it better to reach out to your former grant manager (who is still in the organisation) and would they usually aim to make time to speak to you, or is it better to just submit the EOI cold?

We would advise submitting an EOI so that it can be passed to the most relevant member of the team for assessment.

Once contact has been made with a Funding Manager through a previous approach, I take it an applicant organisation is welcome to contact them ahead of making a new application, in line with their previous feedback?

Funding Managers have limited capacity but may be able to offer some brief advice ahead of a new EOI being submutted.

If your first EOI was unsuccessful are you able/advised to try again?

If you're not successful, you can apply again without needing to wait. However, unless your expression of interest is very different, it's unlikely to get a different result, as we will already have looked at your organisation details and website to judge whether your work is a potential match for our aims. See also our FAQ about applying again after an unsuccessful application.

Is there any scope for resubmitting an EOI for the same project if the project has become more aligned with your priorities since being unsuccessful?

If you're not successful, you can apply again without needing to wait. However, unless your expression of interest is very different, it's unlikely to get a different result, as we will already have looked at your organisation details and website to judge whether your work is a potential match for our aims.

Is it worth resubmitting an EOI for a completely different project or would this likely be unsuccessful considering you look at our website and all our work?

If you're not successful, you can apply again. However, unless your expression of interest is very different, it's unlikely to get a different result, as we will already have looked at your organisation details and website to judge whether your work is a potential match for our aims.

Esmée's strategy and guidance

Could a link to the long-term outcomes you mentioned be posted?

The long term outcomes can be found underneath each priority - either in the strategy document or on the pages on our website for each priority under the relevant aim, as well as in our guidance, also under the relevant aim.

Can you comment on what might be seen as a contradiction between A) the creative confident communities outcomes which must necessarily relate to a particular community and B) the criteria you mentioned about wider or regional impact?

Hi, the Creative, Confident Communities strand is place-based and designed for work that is delivered in a particular town, city or neighbourhood. However, as part of this we would look for evidence of replicability and new models, which could influence other places and sectors more widely.

Can strengthening bonds in communities be between organisations and sectors rather than local communities?

We have an outcome under Creative, Confident Communities which is 'the corporate, cultural, public, voluntary, and community sectors work better together with communities to achieve collective change'. So if your work enabled that, then yes that would potentially something we might fund.

Would you also consider proposals that include grantmaking to community organisations that are partners (as long as they also meet the £100K income threshold)? Thank you.

Potentially, yes. We would consider a range of things including fit with strategy and what the on granting is seeking to achieve, and what is the added value of using an intermediary to distribute funds.

We are are undertaking a regional pilot and would like to expand into other areas across Wales, part of the pilot is grantmaking to community and charity not for profit organisations, would you support us to support them?

Hi, we have in the past funded work that includes regranting to other charities and community groups. We would explore this in more detail if invited to proposal stage.

I was wondering if you had any priority (geographical) areas in the UK this year?

We do not have any specific priorities in terms of geography. There may be times when we will do proactive work to identify organisations within a geographical location. For instance, we recently ran a Blue Spaces programme for organisations in Wales.

Are you able to take applications through an organisation (Charity) that is for a wider partnership collaboration of voluntary sector organisations that work across a London Borough?

Yes, we encourage collaborative approaches across our aims. We can fund both existing or new collaborations. One organisation will need to apply as the 'lead' - they will be treated as the grant-holding organisation in our system and hold responsibility for the progress of the work. We'll need the collaboration partners to confirm their involvement. Not all partners have to be registered charities. You'll also nominate two contacts; one from the 'lead' organisation and one of the partners. You can include anticipated costs of setting up and co-ordinating networks or partnerships in your application.

Please note: The 'lead' organisation will need to meet our minimum eligibility criteria.

When will your priorities be released for post 2027?

We have not begun work on a strategy for post 2027, we would expect to release information when we begin work on this closer to the time.

About Esmée's funding and investments

Can you share where your investments are derived from so we can be aware in reflection to certain groups or communities where it maybe a barrier from a religious or ethical point of view.

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation was founded in 1961 by Ian Fairbairn with an endowment, the original capital for which came from his stake (and subsequent sale) in the M&G fund management business. Beyond this, the endowment has grown as a result of the purchases and sales, over many years, of a wide variety of global investments – including equities, bonds, property and private equity. Our investments finance all our charitable activity – including our grant funding. We also aim to align our investments with our charitable objectives.

Our investment portfolio is invested via pooled funds, which means that we invest in a large range of companies that change from day to day. We can and do earn interest on our investments, and while we try to minimise our investment into areas that may conflict with our charitable objectives, we do not have any strict exclusions. We also hold derivatives (in the form of currency forwards).

Learn more about how we invest and our range of approaches to sustainable investing. You can also see our history to learn about the origins of the Foundation. If you'd like to know more or have other questions, please email

What percentage of your funding is based on recommendations from third parties?

A relatively low percentage - most would be via previously funding an organisation, knowing of the organisation or through approaches from the applicants themselves.