In 2007 Martin and Gerda Essl and their children decided put their family’s dedication to social welfare into something lasting and coordinated . The result was the Essl Foundation, an Austrian charitable foundation that was established in March 2008 and endowed with adequate financial resources to ensure the long-term, annual presentation of the Essl Social Prize and other social activities.​

As set out in its foundation charter, the Essl Foundation is dedicated to:

  • supporting people in need;
  • promoting public awareness about the necessity of helping those in need while providing the individuals concerned with the appropriate training; and
  • working scientifically and supporting research​

Today, the focus of the Essl Foundation is:

  • ​the Zero Project
  • the Essl Social Prize, an award for outstanding social entrepreneurs (
  • supporting social innovation with a focus on persons with disabilities and job creation in Austria​
  • Sinnstifter: joint activities with other Austrian Foundations (
  • “Verband für Gemeinnütziges Stiften”: supporting philanthropy in Austria (

The Essl Foundation is member of the European Foundation Centre, the European Venture Philanthropy Association and has the ECOSOC Status of the United Nations.