Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

'Philanthropic innovations'

In 1999, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation sold its holding in M&G, which led to a significant rise in the money it had available for future grantmaking. This prompted a review of its work. A consultants’ report identified many positive characteristics, but also identified weaknesses. One comment was that the foundation ‘had not yet made the transition to being a fully professional grantmaker’.

This prompted change which took place between 2000 and 2003. The foundation has moved from being a generalist, reactive funder to a specialist proactive one. It has established four new grantmaking programmes with specialist staff and knowledge. The foundation’s ‘grants plus’ approach offers the expertise of the foundation’s staff to grant recipients to help them with business planning or arranging seminars, for example.

In addition, the foundation is now working on a series of special strategic initiatives. There are currently nine of these and one example is the four-year £3 million rethinking crime and punishment initiative, which aims to raise the level of public debate about the use of prisons in the UK.

The foundation is also running a pilot loans programme to test the demand for loan finance in the voluntary sector. James Wragg, policy and communications manager, says: ‘In a relatively short time the organisation has travelled a long way. The foundation is now regarded as one of the leaders in its field and has been described by one commentator as a “philanthropic innovator”.’

The Charity Awards 2004 - Highly CommendedMargaret Hyde
Chief executive
11 Park Place
020 7297 4736
Reg no. 200051


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