Donor due diligence:

Using due diligence to grow


Donor due diligence – part 3

Going beyond official requirements is not only essential to fully protect your institution but, if done effectively, can draw out growth opportunities

Full spectrum awareness

As recent media stories have highlighted, a full spectrum awareness of the individuals behind the donor and partner relationships you form has become essential to avoid a major scandal. 

Meeting the minimum requirements spelled out by the Charity Commission no longer seems enough to protect your institution.

But how can you ensure that you go deeper, without creating a drag on resources? 

A competitive landscape


In a globalised education sector, universities face fierce competition for students, staff, research funding, league table standings, awards, and more.

Between 2000 and 2011 the number of international students worldwide had more than doubled with that number expected to rise to more than 8 million by 2025. Fear around COVID-19 stymieing this growth rate are yet to be fully realised and with virtual solutions emerging, the race to attract the international market is more competitive than ever.

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This puts huge pressure on universities to offer innovative solutions and programmes in order to attract the brightest and best students. The money required to compete is enormous and it has to come from somewhere, no mean feat when the student outrage regarding the payment of fees during the pandemic remains palpable and public purses are tight.

UK universities now operate in an environment that has many (though not all) of the characteristics of a market.

Times Higher Education

In this context, it is imperative that universities make smart Major Donor Fundraising Strategy decisions. But how to find them?

Truly know your donor 

Know your donor’ requirements are traditionally fulfilled at a relatively late stage in the engagement, just prior to acceptance. This can lead to a delay in onboarding new donors and partners. However, if done truly effectively, due diligence can be a growth opportunity.

The key is to home in on the backgrounds and reputations not just of organisations themselves, but the individuals behind the organisation who drive its values. 

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An organisation’s values are only so strong as those of its members.

So what should you look for?

Beyond the donation due diligence check list, think about further searches you should run which unlock the interests and values of the individual you are looking into. 

As part of this process, you will uncover not just reputational issues and red flags necessary for due diligence checks, but you may spot opportunities for deeper relationships and resulting growth. An individual donor might have a large international footprint and a clear appetite for ambassadorial roles, or a specific interest in a donor research tool that urgently requires funding. 

Partnership success stories, like those between Cambridge University and leading technology businesses, or major individual donor relationships, all have common themes of a shared vision and objectives. 

The takeaway

Ultimately, effective due diligence is about assessing compatibility. By drilling down into the values and priorities of an organisation and the individuals behind it, you can build trust and drive growth together. 

The trick is to do deep donor due diligence, early in your prospecting cycle so that it becomes a real growth opportunity, and not a delay in onboarding. The sooner this is done, more valuable time is not wasted at either the donation or development stages. In our next post, we will look at how cutting-edge technologies can help to uncover the most appropriate partners, quickly.

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