Emerging Leader Spotlight: Margaret Espineli

by Rayna Clarke, Lautman, Maska Neill & Company

Margaret Espineli, Marketing Manager for Direct Mail at Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), never intended to pursue a career in fundraising.

In fact, she didn’t even plan to work for a nonprofit! She says, “It’s not something that was brought up during career discussions, either in school or among my family. I started at MSF in 2019 as the temporary Marketing Assistant — I figured if I didn’t like it, there was a deadline at the end of it.”

But working for MSF appealed to her on a deeper level: “I also wanted to apply to MSF because I knew they did work in the Philippines, where I’m from, with a focus on women’s health.”

Once Margaret was working at MSF, she loved the marketing team and describes her path to direct mail as “the stars aligning.”

Soon, she was promoted to Direct Mail Coordinator and learning the ropes of DM fundraising: “One of the biggest lessons I learned was that I’m not the target audience. Just because something doesn’t appeal to me doesn’t mean it won’t work in the mail. So when we do get it right, it’s such a high-five-all-around moment — here’s tangible proof that I’m really understanding our donors.”

At MSF, it’s all about responding swiftly to crises, and some of Margaret’s proudest moments have come during emergencies: “While our Urgent Gram mailings are definitely solicitations, they are also a chance for us to let our donors know what we’re seeing on the ground and what we’re doing in response. It’s such a huge group effort to get these out ASAP, and it’s lovely to see how multiple teams come together to make it happen.”

Margaret is a current member of the DMFA and finds great value in their sessions and events: “As someone whose only nonprofit experience is with MSF, I always encourage anyone with a similar background to attend these events. They give me a more well-rounded view on the industry and best practices. I’m also really nosy and love seeing what other orgs are doing — so it’s always a win!”

All jokes aside, Margaret is passionate about encouraging others to pursue direct marketing as a career. When asked what advice she would give to someone considering our industry, she says, “Do it! It’s cheesy to say, but it really is incredibly rewarding knowing that your work goes towards making sure people are getting the help they need.”

Sometimes, cheesy is just the truth.