Testing a new approach to make New Connections

We are ringfencing £1.5m to find and support organisations that could not, or would not, usually apply to Esmée.

For our funding to reach the people most affected by injustice, we need to reach beyond our standard way of working. We have funded some significant organisations seeking to tackle injustice, including racial injustice, over many years. But our funding criteria for annual income and governance have also limited access for newer, smaller, and historically under-funded organisations. With New Connections, we are testing a new approach to find and support them.

New Connections funding

What we're doing

We are ringfencing part of our funding budget to make new connections with organisations that could not, or would not, usually apply to Esmée. By making new connections, we want to support the work these organisations and movements are doing towards our shared goals, but also to learn more about what they need, and how funders can better support them.

This fund is not open to applications.

For the first phase in 2023 and 2024, we are starting with work led by and for communities experiencing racial inequity. We will get in touch with a group of organisations, identified through research, to:

  1. Make up to 20 grants of £60k for up to two years to organisations who we believe are a good fit to our strategy and are led by communities experiencing racial inequity, but do not meet our usual turnover or governance bar.
  2. Give additional capacity building support for organisational development, communications, finance – built around what the organisations want and need.
  3. Set up a peer network for funded organisations, co-designed by them, to enable peer support and learning, but also to help shape Esmée’s future processes and funding practice. To support their participation, we will provide an additional £10k over two years for peer network members.

Wherever we can, we will learn from existing research and learning - including funds already being set up and operating in the sector - and not take time and effort away from organisations' work.

What we hope to achieve
  • Increased funding to organisations led by and for communities experiencing racial inequity; in particular those working at the intersection of our three main aims: our natural world, a fairer future, and creative, confident communities.
  • To improve our ability to support and work with changemakers with lived experience who are often the best placed to make an impact.
  • To broaden our networks, and develop new models of support in collaboration with those changemakers.
  • To better understand what good support, wraparound support and skills development for energetic leaders and small organisations looks like.

A work in progress

At this stage, we have chosen not to have an open application process for New Connections. Since 2020, we have researched and been recommended organisations and movements whose work looks key to our strategy that we haven't been able to fund because they don’t meet our usual turnover or governance bar. We want to test out a change to our funding practice, but also to avoid wasting organisations' valuable time in applying when there are a small number of grants on offer.

We are just getting started on this work and will work closely with those funded through New Connections to help shape our support in future.

As with all our work, we welcome feedback. If you want to share your thoughts with us on our plans, please send us an email: communications@esmeefairbairn.org.uk.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply for the funding?

New Connections is not open to applications. We are approaching organisations that we think are a good fit for our strategy to see if they would be interested in working with us through New Connections.

We are open to applications to our main fund and we support work towards racial justice across our strategy. See our guidance to learn more about how to apply and the eligibility criteria.

Why are you targeting communities experiencing racial inequity?

We are committed to tackling injustice, including racial injustice, and as a funder, we want to address the discrimination communities experiencing racial inequity face due to funder practice and processes, including our own. We have committed to a range of actions to ensure more of our funding reaches organisations led by communities experiencing racial inequity. To date, we have done this in various ways: in our strategy for A Fairer Future, we launched a new racial justice priority to better support organisations led by communities experiencing racial inequity; we also fund in partnership with organisations who have the experience and reach to fund smaller organisations; and working proactively to seek out organisations who are doing amazing work towards our goals.

We know there is more that we can do, and New Connections is one of the approaches we are developing.

Who have you consulted to come up with this?

We worked with a consultant to review the experience of similar approaches/initiatives from other funders, and used this to inform a series of short ‘sprint’ sessions with members of our Involving Young People Collective and Esmée staff to develop options. We plan to work closely with the organisations we fund to help shape our support and the development of New Connections.

How have you found the organisations you’ve identified for this funding?

We have found organisations in the following ways: speakers at sector or community events we have attended; research into our areas of work – key campaigns on social media, sector news websites, and 360Giving data; via community support organisations; and from recommendations from people we fund, other funders, or partners.

Who are the organisations that you will work with through New Connections?

We will be approaching organisations we have identified over the next few weeks to ask them if they would like to work with us as part of New Connections. As with all our funding, we will publish the grants on 360Giving, and plan to share more about this work as it progresses.

All the organisations we are approaching:

  • Are a fit to our strategy and operating at the intersection of our impact goals, with the potential to be a longer-term partner beyond New Connections.
  • Are led by and for communities experiencing racial inequity.
  • Do not meet our main fund's eligibility criteria – particularly in relation to governance or turnover.
  • Are a UK registered entity (Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Company Limited by Guarantee, Community Interest Company, Community Benefit Society, etc) with a UK bank account.
  • Have a minimum of 1 director.
What else are you doing to support organisations led by the people they serve who may not meet your eligibility criteria?

We have and will continue to work in partnership with other funders and organisations who have the experience and reach to do this well. We are also exploring ways we can open up our funding towards specific outcomes – for instance, our Blue Spaces - Wales programme.

Learn more