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The University of Cambridge: Xapien success story

Better, faster, safer fundraising at the University of Cambridge


Now that donor due diligence takes 30 minutes and not two days, it has become a vital part of the fundraising process, and not an afterthought.


Fundraisers can make quick, informed decisions and focus on building relationships with standout prospects.


Donations from third parties form a vital funding source for Cambridge to improve facilities and increase student participation rates through scholarships and bursaries. The University’s donor due diligence team perform a crucial role of protecting its academics and fundraisers from the reputational risk of associating with inappropriate donors.

They carry out reputational, ethical and financial assessments on hundreds of potential donors and partners each year to ensure they align with the values of the University, students and academics.

Their reports are sent out across the university, to schools, faculties, and departments, the 31 colleges, and Cambridge in America.

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“Two days of work
can now be done
in 30 minutes.”

Natalie Burles
Senior Due Diligence Specialist
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The fundraising process before Xapien

Step 1: Prospect research team research a prospect’s biography, personal and professional background, wealth, inclination, affinity and interests.


Step 2: Fundraising team review prospects and submit due diligence requests for certain prospects. 

Step 3: Due diligence team perform a bespoke background check and risk assessment in accordance with the University’s donor acceptance policy to ensure that any past associations will not negatively impact Cambridge’s reputation amongst key stakeholders (students, academics, partners, staff, other prospects etc). Time commitment: from four hours to two days.


Step 4: If risks are found, donations are either rejected or must pass through a series of rigorous ethics committees checks prior to funds being raised.

Step 5: If no risks are found, fundraising begins.

The challenges:

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  • If issues emerged during the background check, then up to two days of work will not result in a donation. 

  • If issues were discovered after the relationship was built, dozens of people would have wasted huge amounts of time working on the donation. Years could pass while the donation was discussed by ethics committees.

  • Prospects who would have been appropriate were occasionally overlooked due to resource constrains. For example, a historic problematic association may have caused a rejection that a more thorough background check would have revealed to no longer be an issue.

“There's nothing more frustrating than multiple people being stuck in ethics committees for years, only to find out later that a donor isn’t suitable. There’s a real cost to that, which Xapien eliminates.”

The fundraising process with Xapien​

Due diligence has become part of prospect research. The two processes, done at once, complement each other, rather than one limiting the other.

Xapien's automated background reports provide a full picture of any person or organisation, anywhere in the world, in 5–10 minutes. The platform reads and analyses data from across the internet to deliver consolidated, insightful reports including flagged risks, wealth estimates, assets, and associates. A report gives you valuable insights into prospects, as well as flagging any potential risks.

As a result, Cambridge can quickly proceed with fundraising on the basis of transparency and mutual understanding, confident that the prospect’s past won’t negatively affect the University’s future.

The results

Due diligence now aids the prospect research and fundraising process, rather than being a time-consuming gatekeeper.

Time savings

Reports that took up to two days to produce are now created in under 10 minutes. Rather than eliminating jobs, this has created more fundraising opportunities and empowered fundraisers to focus on approaching more, higher-value and higher-potential prospects.

“Xapien gives us the time and the opportunity to focus on what is genuinely productive.”

Successful relationships


As due diligence now takes place before a potential donor is approached, the risk of having to turn down a donation later in the process has been eliminated.

“Fundraisers know that if they've been assigned to a potential donor they have met the due diligence standards and they don't need to worry about wasting anyone’s time.”

Successful, frictionless relationships have been built with donors who would previously have been overlooked because of past associations.

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A prospect who offered to make a five-figure donation was checked on Xapien. The search revealed that they worked for a firm that had in the past invested in fossil fuels, but that it had now closed that investment branch.

Without the depth of information and quality of risk analysis provided by Xapien, the prospect might have been been pulled into unnecessary ethics committees. This might even have led to the rejection of the donation.

It would have taken hours of manual research, or a year’s worth of ethics committees, to confirm that the donor’s past would not affect the University’s future.

The result:


  • A positive relationship with the donor

  • A quick donation

  • The potential of a bigger donation in the near future

“Xapien is enabling fundraisers to focus their energy where they'll be most successful, raising more money for research, grants and facilities.”

When donors are being approached, extra biographical information is available to fundraisers which can be used for ice-breakers, and to develop meaningful, trust-based relationships.

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Donor assurance

Donors can rest assured that the University maintains high ethical standards across the board. They know that they are amongst trusted peers and their donations can be put to good work, quickly, as they have already passed due diligence checks.

“Xapien is protecting academics, fundraisers and other donors from associating with people who are problematic.”

About Xapien

Xapien delivers fully-automated background reports on any individual or company, anywhere in the world, in five to 10 minutes.

Its AI scours the length and breadth of the internet, reading and analysing millions of results, from websites, the media, company information and more, to deliver a concise, meaningful report that highlights risks, wealth estimates, assets, and associates.

Information in over 130 languages is compiled, translated into English and scanned for risk.

Fundraisers spend under 10 minutes reviewing the intuitive reports and forming tailored advice to their fundraising team on the basis of them. The reports, and accompanying advice can be shared with relevant stakeholders within 30 minutes, with no need to edit or amend them.

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Key benefits

  • A quick, frictionless fundraising process

  • Research reduced from two days to 30 minutes

  • Fundraising teams can focus their efforts on productive outcomes

  • Fundraisers are provided with valuable donor information earlier in the process

  • Donor and fundraiser peace of mind

  • Donations can be received and put to work, faster

Book a demo now to see how Xapien can provide you with the donor research tools you need in your research.

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