Unlocking change

Nesta Arts & Culture Impact Fund

Managed by Nesta, the Arts & Culture Impact Fund (and its predecessor, the Arts Impact Fund), brings together public, private and charitable funding to demonstrate the potential and impact of social investment in the arts.

Nesta’s Arts Impact Fund was launched in 2015 to stimulate and test the market for social investment within the arts and culture sector in England. The Fund provided capacity building support and unsecured loans of £150,000 - £650,000.

As a specialist fund, the Arts Impact Fund built a foundation for social investment to become a more integral part of the funding mix in the arts and cultural sector. It proved successful in showing how social impact investment can help build resilient, innovative and sustainable, creative organisations, and help organisations to grow and innovate faster. Nesta also provided capacity building support to organisations funded. Over five years, a total of £8.8 million was invested across 27 enterprising arts organisations.

In 2019, together with Nesta, Big Society Capital, Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Bank of America, we invested in the Arts & Culture Impact Fund, which builds on the success of the Arts Impact Fund. And in 2020, Freelands Foundation invested £3 million bringing the fund to a total of £23 million.



We, alongside a number of other social investors, had struggled to engage with the sector, yet we felt that in the face of continuing cuts to public sector grants, social investment is well-placed to support organisations looking to innovative, diversity income streams and strengthen Balance Sheets.

Impact goals

In line with our approach to social investment, this investment meets our objective to influence the social investment market by stimulating a more supportive wholesale investment market. It also supports our impact goals in Creative, Confident Communities and A Fairer Future:

  • Everyone can access the benefits of culture and creativity
  • A new inclusive generation of leaders and artists

Esmée was completely instrumental in the establishment of the Arts Impact Fund, and has been an unwavering supporter throughout, with so much more than their capital investment. We have benefitted from their expertise on the investment committee, as well as their generosity with their social investment experience, which has significantly informed our due diligence, assessment and relationship management processes. Our approach to impact in particular was inspired by Esmée's approach, which allows the investee organisation to determine and drive the metrics against which we measure impact performance. This helps reduce administrative burdens and ensure that our interests as lender are aligned with those of the organisations we fund. Without Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, this work would never have happened.

Fran Sanderson, Director - Arts & Culture Investments and Programmes, Nesta
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£20m Arts & Culture Impact Fund launched

The Arts & Culture Impact Fund is a new £20 million fund, which will be managed by Nesta and offers loans to social enterprises in the arts, cultural and heritage sectors to innovate and grow.

Find out more