Member Highlight: Andrea Dobson

Evaluating a potential grantee’s finances is not the kind of work that shows up in news articles on effective philanthropy – but effective philanthropy would also be impossible without it.

That’s why Philanthropy Southeast’s upcoming Philanthropy Essentials workshop devotes an entire module to nonprofit finances and due diligence, skills that are necessary for any grants manager, program officer, or trustee being asked to make funding recommendations and decisions.

Teaching the module at this February’s program will be Andrea Dobson, chief operating and financial officer for the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas. She considers this work her bread and butter – and wants newcomers to the field to not feel intimidated by it.

“Financial due diligence isn't scary – it is a tool to help you as a philanthropic professional to better understand the organizations you partner with, and it is an important part of everyone's role,” she said.

Due diligence also isn’t about passing judgments or gatekeeping, Dobson emphasized. In fact, it can be a tool for discovering opportunities for capacity-building.

“Not every nonprofit that you engage with is going to have robust financial systems, large bank accounts, and clean audits. In fact, if they did, would they really need your funding?” she said. “Knowing what the gaps are helps you create a grant, and perhaps some added technical assistance, to really enable their mission and yours to be achieved.”

Andrea said she sees due diligence as a duty for foundations to uphold – in exchange for favorable tax treatment, funders need to exercise a great deal of responsibility with their investments.

“The trade-off for this tax relief is to focus on the common good – charitable purposes – in a responsible way,” she said. “Most organizations that seek funding are going to be legitimate and well-intended, but there are bad actors. Doing adequate due diligence is expected by the IRS and, by extension, the public.”

Andrea’s own diligence has been critical to the progress the foundation has been making in the past two years as part of AR Equity 2025, a new strategic direction adopted in 2019. The results of her work – and the rest of the foundation’s staff and board – are beginning to bear fruit, Andrea said, and she’s excited to see what happens next.

“I am excited about sharing the impact of our work to relentlessly pursue equity with our constituents and colleagues,” she said. “The possibilities for our work accelerating this year as we gain traction is truly inspiring.”


Southeastern Council of Foundations
100 Peachtree Street NW, Suite 2080
Atlanta, GA 30303

Visiting SECF:
All staff are working remotely at this time but can still be reached via email and by calling (404) 524-0911.

Monday-Thursday from 9:00am–6:00pm (ET)
Friday from 9:00am–12:00pm (ET)

Phone: (404) 524-0911
Fax: (404) 523-5116

Mission: SECF strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.