Models of engaged and participatory philanthropy: the Rank Foundation’s approach

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Prior to this year’s St Andrews philanthropy roundtable discussion on ‘engaged and participatory philanthropy’, David Sanderson, Chief Executive of The Rank  Foundation, outlines the foundation’s engaged philanthropy model. 

The Rank Foundation operates a model of ‘engaged philanthropy’, a distinctive (but not unique) style of collaborative grant making that looks to offer more than just a traditional grant and, in our view, goes well beyond the transactional ‘grants plus’ model that is so often referred to within the wider foundation sector. This involves a proactive, high engaged approach but in our case, for most part, seeking a social return that includes the added value that derives from belonging to an extensive, mutually supporting network, built around a strong relational approach.

In the context of our place based programmes, these follow a systematic approach, as we look to target areas where our existing knowledge and networks are already strong, as we initiate a thorough, extensive reconnaissance phase, gathering local intelligence on what works and how we might help. Part of this includes a strong desire to find local partners, not just funders, who can help to grow and develop these programmes whilst maintaining a strong mission focus. Supported by our robust external evaluations, along with a theory of change model that looks to define what this ‘added value’ will look like, these long term investment plans look to maximise impact in our chosen areas, with a multiplying or magnifying effect and where the outcome is greater than the sum of each part.

In Dundee, for example, our initial investment of £2M (over 3 years) embraces 21 social purpose organisations, designed around a programme that looks to build organisational resilience through leadership and enterprise. We currently work with a range of other organisations and other funders including the City Council, social entrepreneurs and local businesses. We employ a local associate in all of our ‘cities’, to ensure a strong and consistent presence.


  • Financial Capital. Rank provides regular grant funding but will often work with organisations or places for 6 years or more, with flexibility in funding including options for repayable grants. We have also recently introduced catalyst grants to stimulate local enterprise.
  • Intellectual Capital.   This embraces everything from sharing good practice, paid and supported internship programmes, advice, education, training and support, access to significant development & leadership bursaries, steering group meetings, external evaluations and review: these are not add-ons, this is integral to the way we do business.
  • Social Capital.   Access to formal networks from the Rank Fellowship to the newly established RankNet, the wider Rank network including an annual networking conference, leveraging additional support from pro bono advice to the creation of ‘added value’ across the UK, where learning and sharing is valued and supported: this sits at the very core of our engaged approach both within a place based context and beyond.

David Sanderson MBE DL is Chief Executive of The Rank Foundation. Further information about The Rank Foundation and its activities can be found by clicking here.

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