2027 – A Look To The Future On Expertise in Grant Making

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The Big Lottery Fund, the UK’s largest funder of community activity across the UK, has today announced a grant of more than £500k of National Lottery funding to support 2027’s work to bring new experts into the grant making sector.



The Big Lottery Fund’s grant to 2027 will last over ten years and seeks to achieve long-term lasting change by diversifying the voices, expertise and experience in a field that was last week revealed to be 99% white, 68% male and 74% above median income at trustee level.

The Big Lottery Fund’s ambition is to support people to have the confidence and power to influence decisions that affect their life and their community. What better place to start than ensuring those involved in funding decisions are reflective of the communities funders seek to support.

Most people know little about the world of grant making and wouldn’t see themselves as working for a trust or foundation. People who are frontline workers themselves from working class communities are likely to feel that such careers simply ‘aren’t for them’ even though the value they can bring to us as grant makers is vast.

This is exactly the challenge that the 2027 coalition is helping us and other funders to overcome – they are running a leadership programme for brilliant frontline workers from diverse, working class communities to help them take placements (and later careers) in the world of grant-making.

This is a really exciting opportunity for the foundation and grant-making sector to reap the benefits of having diversity in our staff teams. We can become more knowledgeable, innovative and well-rounded – making better decisions about the issues impacting on communities. Momentum is building and 2027 provide reason for optimism!

Bringing lived experiences into grant making

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Great funding practice is an ongoing conversation between a foundation and the communities they wish to support. The issue many of us in the foundation sector are trying to resolve is how we can embed these experiences and perspectives meaningfully as a core part of our operations.



Much like the wider society we operate in, the foundation sector lacks diverse voices within positions of power. Recent data published from the Association of Charitable Foundations revealed that 60% of trustees on foundation boards over the age 65, 99% are white and most are recruited through close pre-existing networks. While many in our sector may be well versed in holding consultations and focus groups with the various community groups that we work with, it creates an uncomfortable divide between those within leadership and decision-making roles, from predominately white and middle class backgrounds, and those expert by experience who are sometimes mined for their knowledge or included when we need them. We need a far better integration of people with lived experiences working within our organisations in a more meaningful way.


This is why Esmée Fairbairn Foundation are thrilled to support the 2027 programme; a 12-month placement programme that places talented frontline workers with lived experience of social issues or injustice into funding roles within the foundation sector. Crucial within these roles, is the opportunity for each Associate on the programme to use both their skills and experiences to make strategic and meaningful decisions about where and how funding is allocated. More broadly, the programme will also give us an opportunity to learn and take a fresh look at expertise, diversity and equality in everything we do from recruitment practice to decision making. There is also a 2027 campaign for better governance which encourages foundations commit to ensuring that a minimum of 40% of their trustees identify as from the communities they most exist to serve by 2027.


Foundations are an integral part of the civil society and, as the world we operate in changes, then so must we.  This is about building better funding practice and developing alongside colleagues that bring different expertise and experience.. As the programme launches in October, we look forward to hosting two Associates at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and we look forward very much to welcoming them.


For more information on the program see

Interested in hosting an Associate? Please contact Jake Hayman ay