Young Professional 2020: Elizabeth McLaughlin

Elizabeth McLaughlin

Elizabeth McLaughlin

Executive Director, Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation

Planner or procrastinator?

Favorite music?
’90s Rap and R&B or Yacht Rock

Favorite web site or app?
Target app

Age and current hometown:
39, Kennewick

Briefly describe your organization: The foundation is the fundraising and community relations arm of our world-class Tri-Cities Cancer Center. We connect with donors and volunteers to help fund a variety of projects that the community needs to help prevent, detect and fight cancer. We host events, campaigns and connect with individuals to make sure that investments are available to make an impact in cancer care.

How long have you worked at the foundation? 12 years

Education: Bachelor of arts in government from Eastern Washington University. I also hold a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential.

Family? Pets?
I have a wonderful mom and dad, who let me smooch and love on their pets anytime I want. My dad is a retired superior court reporter for Benton and Franklin counties, and my mom is a health care financial whiz who has worked for many local practices and works for NW Spinal Rehab.

The pets I love and adore are an orange cat named Frankenstein and a black lab named Molly, who I call Birdie because I always give nicknames, and the most precious Scottie dog named Archie (Arch-money, Archer, Buddy).

I also have amazing friends, including my very best friend Sarah (Grandma Sarah, GS, G) who I have been friends with since we were 9. She is like a sister to me!!

What brought you to the Tri-Cities?
My dad got a job as the court reporter for Judge Duane Taber in 1985 and we moved here from Oregon. I went to Badger Mountain Elementary, Carmichael Junior High and Richland High School.

Dream vacation?
Christmas Markets Cruise

Favorite book? Movie?
Favorite Book: “First Women,” by Kate Andersen Brower. Favorite Movie: “Troop Beverly Hills.”

Favorite thing to do in the Tri-Cities? Floating in the pool with a great cocktail in the most beautiful climate on earth!

What would surprise people about you?
I am an only child!! (Maybe they wouldn’t be surprised!)

Describe your job and how you got it: After college, I was looking for a position that would allow me to move back to the Tri-Cities and use the event planning skills I had developed while serving in various positions in my sorority and our EWU Panhellenic chapter and found a position with a national nonprofit.

After three years of traveling and what I now realize was my own “fundraising boot camp,” I looked for a local position and found a home at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation. My childhood best friend died at 17 of leukemia, which marked my whole experience with cancer.

I have been lucky, until about six months ago, no one in my immediate family had any experience with cancer. I now realize I was part of a very small group, and in reality, my time was coming.

As I became more comfortable in the fundraising realm, I really found that I grew to love it. There are so many misconceptions about what fundraising is.

I’ve heard it all. . . “Watch your wallet, Liz is in the room,” “It would be great if you could double what you raised last year,” and, from some of the less informed, we’ve been called “professional beggars.”

But through investments in my continuing education, my certification and most importantly, my connection with our patients and incredible medical professionals, I have embraced the truth behind fundraising. It is a noble profession, and I am blessed to do it each and every day.

My résumé says, “Experienced Development Professional with a demonstrated history of working in health care philanthropy. Skilled in Event Management, Planned Giving, Nonprofit Organizations, Community Engagement, Relationship Development, and Volunteer Management,” but in reality, I get to connect people with amazing opportunities to make real change in our community.

It’s a pretty awesome gig.

Toughest career decision?
This is a tough and easy question to answer, which I know sounds odd. Prior to March 2020, I probably would have said something to do with board development or staffing changes. But honestly, this Covid ride has been one for the books.

When you are an organization working in a community that has such a demonstrated history of supporting major events, then you are faced with a pandemic that literally changes almost every way you do business, you have to be responsible for decisions that change sometimes by the minute.

Canceling tried and true events to embark on unknown virtual fundraisers has probably been one of the toughest sells/decisions I have had to make.

And on the reverse of that, keeping my team enthused, excited and optimistic about these challenging times was at the forefront of this decision. Uncertainty can kill a workplace or inspire the heck out of innovation.

I am blessed. I have a very committed and creative team. Time will tell if these decisions to keep going forward in a new way will be successful, but we have certainly created some exciting new plans!

How did you earn your first dollar?
First real paycheck dollar? In ninth grade we had to write résumés and I wrote mine with the idea that I would try and get a job at a summer camp in the Wenatchee National Forest that I had gone to when I was younger.

Imagine my surprise when I actually got the job.

I had to get a work permit because I was barely 15 and spent an entire summer away from my family to earn exactly $1,000. For eight weeks of work, Sunday-Friday.

It was an experience I won’t forget. I was incredibly homesick for like three weeks, to the point where the camp director sent me home for a weekend to decide if I could really finish the summer.

But I am proud to say that I returned and ended up having one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life.

How do you achieve work-life balance?
I think I am better at work-life integration. I am lucky that so many of my colleagues and board members also have become wonderful friends.

I love the fact that I have a job where my mom can come and participate in one of our cooking classes and sell T-shirts with me, my lifelong friends can volunteer at Autumn Affair and drive beverage carts at golf tournaments and that I can drop by my board president’s house for a cocktail with him and his wife.

I have been blessed to be able to connect so many of my “work” buddies with my “home” buddies. It helps keep me grounded and makes work so fun!

Community involvement and service: I volunteer for several “work” related groups, mainly as a volunteer for the Warrior Sisterhood and a past board member of Ovarian Cancer Together! I am a past board member of Columbia Center Rotary and a member of the Alpha Xi Delta-Epsilon Zeta Corporation Board.

I have worked as the fundraising lead for the Friends of Justin Raffa campaign.

I am a “Lunch Buddy” for a fourth-grade student at Orchard Elementary, which is my ABSOLUTE favorite volunteer activity ever!!! I get to have lunch with my buddy every week and spend time chatting and building a relationship.

We got to celebrate her birthday, make a gingerbread house, decorate valentines and I got to know a very special little person who could use an extra friend. I would HIGHLY encourage this program to anyone who has an hour to spare each week.