Q&A on Esmée's new strategy and how we make decisions

In January, we held a webinar to share some of the thinking behind our new five-year strategy. In it, the Esmée Team give an overview of our new direction, our support and how we make decisions. We also answered questions from attendees.

We launched our new five-year strategy in October 2020 where we outlined our mission to improve Our Natural World, secure a Fairer Future and nurture Creative, Confident Communities. At the same time, we also introduced a new process for applying for our support, which we hoped would make it easier and quicker for organisations to find out if we are a good fit as a potential partner.

The webinar in split into four parts. The first part is the main session featuring an overview of Esmée's new strategy and our support. The next three parts are workshops covering our long-term impact goals and priorities for the next five years for each of our main aims. They include a 10-15 minute overview before moving on to Q&A.

You can watch the videos and see the accompanying slides and the transcripts below. You can also find answers to questions we didn't get to during the webinar and our updated FAQs.

This session features:
  • Welcome and introductions – Hannah Lim, Funding Manager and Social Change Lead
  • Esmée’s new strategy & direction: what we want to achieve – Caroline Mason, Chief Executive
  • Our support
    • What we’re looking to support, what we’re not, and how we make decisions – Sharon Shea, Director of Portfolio
    • Social investment – Ben Smith, Head of Social Investment
    • Tools beyond our funding – Shemain Wahab, Tools Manager
  • Q&A (scroll down for more Q&As we didn't have time for during the webinar)

Workshops

In our workshops below, the Team share more detail about the impact goals and priorities within each of our aims. You can also find the accompanying slides and additional questions asked related to that aim.

More Q&A

Below, you can find Q&As we didn't manage to get to during our webinar that focus generally on our strategy and our support. Please note that questions related to a specific aim are available to view by clicking on the relevant workshop above. Do also see our updated FAQs.

Do you prefer projects that focus in on any one of your 2030 impact goals, or do you prefer projects that might simultaneously work across several impacts together?

We don't have a preference. We want applicants to tell us about their priorities and how they align with our impact goals.

Do you consider funding core costs plus project activities within a grant?

Yes, we often fund both within the same request.

Is unrestricted income given to organisations you haven't funded before?

Yes.

Are 10-year grants available?

Not currently, but we are open to requests for extension funding and a number of our grantees in Esmée's portfolio have been supported over long period of time.

Why don’t you grant fund capital costs?

Whilst our grant support doesn't cover capital costs, we may make social investments for these. Learn more about out social investment support.

Can charities lead a bid and be a partner on another bid at the same time?

Yes, as long as we aren't being asked to duplicate or fund the same costs twice.

What organisation size does Esmée prefer to support?

Applicants will need to have an annual turnover of £100,000 to be eligible to apply through our online application process. Otherwise, we don’t have a preference in terms of the size/turnover of organisations we support.

Esmée has and will continue to support early stage and smaller organisations with a turnover of less than £100,000. You can learn more about this in our FAQs.

Will you still be looking to keep relationships going with those orgs already being funded?

Yes, absolutely!

How do you approach match funding? Are Esmée prepared to commit to funding - perhaps with a caveat of getting additional funding before your funding is released?

Match funding is rarely a condition we attach to funding support but can do so where it helps organisations.

What do you look for in terms of other funding committed - do you prefer to be the lead funder? Or prefer to see that applicant has significant amount of funding committed already?

We have no preference about our position within the funder profile, but there will be a requirement that full funding has been achieved before our funding could be paid.

Would you offer matched funding for a partnership including a charity, a university and a local authority, in which the money would be principally spent by the local authority on an innovative early intervention (prevention) project?

It's highly unlikely, if not impossible, that we would directly support a local authority with a grant so it could deliver services. We have not done so previously and have always prioritised voluntary organisations/non state bodies in order to address power imbalances locally. We don't rule out funding partnership approaches that may incidentally and indirectly help councils deliver services more efficiently and effectively.

Is there a way of a new organisation letting you know of their existence without making a formal application - in order to be included in your networks?

We are being a lot more proactive about monitoring the sector and strengthening our networks. So, we will be finding potential partners and applicants other than via the online application process. We are also on Twitter and happy to engage there.

Do you invite applications from potential grantees beyond the online application process and phone call? For instance, do you have scope to visit projects in action?

We do rely heavily on the initial Expression of Interest along with a review of applicants' websites. But we are also being more proactive about monitoring the sector and strengthening our networks. We still find much of what we want to fund and learn via other methods including site visits (when not beset by COVID) and referrals from trusted intermediaries.

Not sure how you can be "taking risk" seeking "game changers" etc whilst excluding start up enterprises who will be inevitably under £100k? Are these not the real innovators and those with the most passion/drive?

Whilst our online application process is only open to organisations with a turnover of £100,000, we have always and will continue to support early stage and smaller organisations who do not meet this criterion. However, we are choosing to focus our resources on finding these organisations proactively. See our FAQs for more information.

What percentage of your funded projects was led by academic/research charities?

Currently less than 1% of active grants. We don't fund academic research unless it can demonstrate real potential for practical outcomes.

Given the growing awareness of the need to collaborate globally to meet challenges and the rise of global citizenship, how open are you to approaches which bring in solutions, actors and / or audiences or beneficiary groups from outside of the UK alongside the UK grant activity?

We have done this previously and will continue to do so in the right situation. We have much to learn from what is taking place in other parts of the world - we are all grappling with similar challenges. All work we support however must primarily benefit the UK and its populations.

Will you look more favourably on 'pioneering' and 'innovative' projects, as supposed to proposals which demonstrate clear and proven impact?

No. We will not support something just because it's novel. For all that we fund the pivotal question will be whether the work is likely to contribute to achieving one or more impact goal. That will include a mix of established and proven work and work that takes an angle that hasn't been tried.

Will you fund projects which have a strategic component to influence Government change i.e. to deliver something in future they do not do now?

Yes, certainly, as long as it's a credible plan and influences in an area of one of our chosen interests. It is better still if it’s collaborative in nature. Our portfolio has plenty of examples of policy influence combined with practice on the ground.

Are you open to applications from grant-making organisations that are not endowed but fundraise through corporates and provide a wide-range of non-financial support for co-investment, to support organisations that meet this pillar of focus?

Yes.

Do you have any advice on consultation with stakeholders before submitting an application?

The nature of the consultation you undertake with those you work with, whether partner organisations or users of your services, will vary depending on context. However, we look for evidence that the connections are strong and not tokenistic and that plans have been influenced by more than those employed by the applicant organisation.

Can you share the full Expression of Interest questions so nothing comes as a surprise?

You can find an explanation of what to expect in the Expression of Interest on our Apply page. Also, you're welcome to click our Expression of Interest form to see all the questions without making a submission.

Are you operating proactively to pull together what everyone is learning about ways out of the COVID disaster?

We have recently surveyed a majority of the organisations we fund about our COVID-19 response funding and support, and will absolutely share what we learn from that. Most of this learning is not Esmée-related, however, so we’re co-funding IVAR to run its VCSE leader peer learning sessions (briefings are here). We are also going to offer peer learning conversations ourselves, and will summarise and share the learning on our website.