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Congratulations to Kelly McLaughlin, the 2014 planMGO Fellowship Recipient




I grew up with a strong commitment to social justice and wanted to make an impact on the region I loved most—Latin America. My sophomore year, my advisor asked what I wanted to do with my International Studies major. “I want to work at WOLA,” I replied. WOLA is an organization fighting for meaningful policy change in Latin America, and I needed to be a part of it. With hard work and a bit of luck, I landed my first professional job there.

One of my natural talents is my ability to bring people together by identifying similar or complimentary interests, skills, or traits. I rarely meet someone without saying, “Gee, you know who you should get to know.” I relish every opportunity to meet new people and develop deep, meaningful, and long-term relationships with them. I think nearly everyone I know would say that, by the end of a conversation, if there’s an issue I care about deeply, I’ve convinced the other person why she should care too.

I used to think that fundraising was mainly for the benefit of the organization, but I quickly realized that philanthropy is a way that donors can participate meaningfully in causes they care about. Bingo! This is where I could make my greatest impact: helping donors leverage their giving to push for change. At its heart, development work is about building bridges—bringing people together to make a difference.

I started at WOLA as the Communications and Development Assistant, but our Development Director convinced me that my talents could be put to their best use in fundraising. I was promoted to Development Associate and given responsibility for our low-to-mid-range donors. Last year, I played an integral role in increasing our donor retention from 60 to 72 percent and doubled the income that WOLA received from our year-end direct mail campaign. I’ve been a guest presenter for the Chronicle of Philanthropy and a guest blogger for the Grow Report. I have already learned a lot, but I still have a way to go.

Development is not just my job, it’s also what I do in my free time. I leverage my experience in my local and global communities to help organizations that can’t afford professional fundraisers. I coach their staffs or boards on approaching and cultivating donors, building donor bases, and stewarding them effectively. I want to continue to advance my own abilities because I can see how much more I could do for them.

The planMGO workshop would be valuable not only for me, but, more importantly, for the many deserving organizations in which I play a role. I am confident I have the traits to be a Master Gift Officer, but I lack some of the more sophisticated tools that would enable me to excel in this area.

Effective fundraising makes possible the good work of social-impact organizations. Master Gift Officers are crucial in this respect. I know that with the right training, I can be one of the best.
planMGO is an immersive, four-day training event that transforms development professionals into Master Gift Officers by reengineering the nature of their relationships with donors, goals, asks, and stewardship. Visit for more details about the upcoming April 11-14 session.