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 an organization in Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council since 2014. Is NGO Associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. And is a member of the European Foundation Centre, the European Venture Philanthropy Association, Verband für gemeinnütziges Stiften and Sinnstifter.