The Colleges of the University of Cambridge: Investing for Success

As part of the Committee of College Development Directors “Investing for Success” Initiative, the Colleges of the University of Cambridge have commissioned external consultancy Halpin Partnership (Halpin) to work with them in providing independent research and analysis to support this project.

Halpin is a specialist higher education consultancy and their assigned consulting team for this project has extensive fundraising and development expertise across the higher education, public and charity sectors.

About the research project

Between October 2021 and January 2022, the Halpin team, led by Susie Hills and Shaun Horan, will undertake an open and inclusive consultation process. The project is made up of several important stages, giving development office staff, development directors and bursars the opportunity to participate via either a survey, one-to-one interviews or group discussions.

Our approach includes:

  • Desk review and analysis of college data to include, office structures, staff data, fundraising KPIS, DPAF awards
  • A short survey to be sent to all development staff – gathering insight on their experience of working in their college, success, motivations, challenges, culture.
  • Individual interviews with a selection of Development Directors including staff from colleges who received DPAF funding  – to better understand the impact of this funding.
  • Individual interviews with a selection of College Bursars – understand expectations on development offices from a College management perspective, challenges associated with this and obstacles to success
  • Discussions Groups first with development staff and then with Development Directors for deeper qualitative feedback on working experiences.
  • Invite staff to share motivations and inspirations to your work via Vox Pop videos and an innovative online whiteboard programme.

Who does the project report to?

Upon completion of the review, the Halpin review team will present the final report to a specially formed Steering Group represented by the following members of College development staff;

  • Jo Ryan, Lucy Cavendish College
  • Bill O’Hearn, Trinity College
  • Rachelle Stretch, Trinity Hall
  • Maša Amatt, Gonville and Caius College
  • Fran Malaree, Churchill College
  • Samuel Venn, Darwin College
  • Corinne Lloyd, Magdalene College
  • Matthew Mellor, Pembroke College
  • Rachel Lawson, Corpus Christi College
  • Emily Williams, Jesus College
  • Sian Cook, Wolfson College

The remit of the Steering Group will be to oversee the project. In practice this includes commissioning the project, setting the scope and monitoring progress in relation to the project deliverables against the timeline set out.

How can I take part?


In order to obtain feedback on the working experiences of College development offices Halpin will invite all Development staff members to fill out a short survey The survey is available online (see below for a link) and should take 10 minutes to complete.

The survey is intended to take a snapshot of your view of your role, motivations, challenges and success at work. This will aid the review into recruitment and retention opportunities for colleges.

Click here to complete the survey. 

Interviews – DPAF

To better understand the impact the DPAF has had on fundraising activity, Halpin (with advice from the Steering Group) has selected a variety of DPAF funding recipients and other members of Development staff to interview in November 2021. If you have been selected, a member of the Halpin team will be in touch shortly to arrange an interview.

Interviews will take place over video (Microsoft Teams) or by phone and will be held with Halpin consultants Penny Hubbard and/or Osaro Otobo. The interviews will be informed by the findings from the survey and the desk review and will allow us to seek more detailed views on specific areas.

Interviews – Bursars

We will also hold individual meetings with a select group of Bursars – working with the Steering Group to identify interview participants. It is important to understand the view of this group. During the interviews, we will seek thoughts and opinions on:

  • Their perception of fundraising and where it fits in the College strategy,
  • How it relates to the Central fundraising function,
  • How they view the challenges of recruitment and retention in Development Teams,
  • How they feel Development could make the best case for investment.

Discussion Groups

In order to obtain as much qualitative feedback as possible we will speak with a range of development staff from a variety of different Colleges. Alongside the interviews and survey we will also run discussion groups which will offer an opportunity to share your experiences of working in your College and help identify common obstacles, reasons for success and areas for change. There specific discussion groups just for Development Directors and just for Development Staff.

The sessions will be run online and will last for 1 hour. We have sessions running from mid-November onwards – please click on your chosen date below to register. Places are limited and you must register in order to attend.

Focus Groups for Development Staff only

Focus Groups for Development Directors only

Whiteboard and Vox Pops

To collect as wide a cross-section of views as we can and to allow people to contribute in different ways we are also setting up the following:

  • Whiteboards – There are two virtual “whiteboards” which are anonymous for team members to post aspects of their work that they love and those that they would like to change.
  • Vox Pops – Staff are invited to record short videos on their phones on what they love about their roles.
    • This will provide valuable information on what motivates and inspires staff to work as well as offering the opportunity to share ideas for change and improvement.
    • Please see our dedicated webpage for details on how to get involved and submit your video.

Please note this is an optional activity, we understand not everyone will feel comfortable on camera. If you would like to send your written ideas and comments to Halpin, see below.

Links will remain open until January 2022.

How do I contact the Halpin team?

We encourage you to use the survey and group discussions to provide your feedback however you can email a message directly to the Halpin team.


Halpin Partnership Fellow, Penny Hubbard, is a member of the consulting team for this project. Penny is working with Trinity Hall under a separate contract within her own business Penny Hubbard Coaching and Consulting Limited. Halpin is a separate entity to Penny Hubbard Coaching and Consulting Limited. We do not foresee that her role presents any conflict of interest with the project we are undertaking.