Nov 8 • 2 min read

Controversy surrounding £155 million donation to Linacre College


The recent negative media surrounding Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao’s planned £155 million donation to Linacre College, Oxford, and the proposed name change to ‘Thao College’, brings to light some of the biggest challenges currently faced by university development teams.

Stalemates between ethics committees / due diligence teams and fundraisers can frequently lead to delays in donations. The delay in receiving the donation risks the strength of the relationship with the prospect. The Times reported last month that the first instalment of the endowment (£50 million) had not yet been received, and that it was feared that Thow had changed her mind following the negative publicity, and doubts around the name change.

Recent news is focusing on Thao’s ties to the Communist Vietnamese government and her company Sovico’s supposed involvement in energy and weapons contracts with Russia. Conservative MP Julian Lewis even brought up the issue in the House of Commons earlier this year, claiming that there was an irony in the distinguished graduate college being named after someone with ties to the Vietnamese communist government, “where there’s certainly very little freedom of speech”.

Despite the negative media this situation has received in the press and in the House of Commons, the development team at Linacre College have been praised by the Department for Education (DfE) following an investigation for the level of diligence they showed in their consideration of this donation. This has emphasised the importance of having a thorough, explainable and fully-auditable process when performing donor due diligence, no matter what the outcome of the decision.

Xapien’s automated background research platform generates a fully-sourced and auditable background report on any individual or organisation, in 10 minutes. If a donation is ever brought into question, teams can show regulators that they have checked all necessary information before making the decision.

Our automated research platform also means that due diligence can be done upstream of the process, at the same time as prospect research. This means that fundraisers can enter every prospect or donor conversation fully appraised of the facts and reputation of their counter part. Both fundraisers and potential donors can enter discussions on the basis of mutual understanding and trust – no surprises or awkward conversations further down the line.

To find out more about how our automated research platform could benefit your team, book a demo today.

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