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How’d We Get Here?

The need in Houston and the broader Texas Gulf Coast is simply immense – an estimated 200,000 homes damaged, a million cars destroyed, with 450,000 people seeking federal disaster aid. Needs will tax and strain available services and resources, but thankfully there is a swelling of volunteers and systems rushing to the scene. Now, with Irma on the doorstep, our nation will likely serve on two fronts and Team Rubicon knows we will have to continue to invest in people, tools, systems, and process.

Last week, we outlined Team Rubicon’s intent to communicate transparency and invite the broader community to journey with us in our Harvey response and we hope you will. But we want to make sure we take a step back and give you the prologue; we owe you an assessment of where we are today and how we got here. The hope is that this will allow you to better understand our journey forward, by turning around and seeing the footprints behind.

So let’s turn around. Team Rubicon has seen a tremendous jump in donations since Harvey’s landfall, but you don’t build an organization like Team Rubicon solely on the shoulders of those who give when disaster strikes – you have to build it in advance.

Our strategy thus far can be boiled up as: We are driven to deliver quality outcomes for the survivors we serve. We strive to provide a means for our veterans to reunite with community, identity, and purpose. We want to create value and capacity by building an organization that enables our generous donors (time, money, in-kind services and materials) to know we’re working towards our goal of becoming the best disaster response organization we can be.

At the danger of sounding clinical, I want you invest money in Team Rubicon. We know you have choices of what you could do with your money, and like you would expect anytime you pull money out of your wallet, it becomes something or builds something. We will dive deeper into our financials in subsequent posts, but know that 81 cents of every dollar donated to Team Rubicon goes directly to our programs. Our financial information, including 990s, is posted online at

This narrative is all well and good but does it work? Make no mistake about it – Team Rubicon has made miscalculations and learned some lessons. And we’ve got some big wins as well. The educated bet paid off, and turned into some incredible outcomes such as the growth of the Tribe and being able to more and do it better. We’ve got some hands still on the table, and right now, we’re doubling down.

Here is one such hand: Last year, we made the strategic decision to invest in our ability to generate CAPACITY (the “how much” we can do at any given time) and CAPABILITY (the “what” we can do at any given time). In it, we also set as a goal to decrease the time and cost. The moonshot – do more, do it better, but do it faster, and for less cost.

Team Rubicon made the decision to invest in our content development for the long haul and our starting point was people. We took the jump and hired Ashley and Andrew and put them under the lead of Kristen. Later in the year, we added Corey who brought his unique perspective of years in disaster response and recovery. That team was given the monumental task of driving standardization, training materials, and process and standardization in order to achieve the outcomes of quality delivery of services, a culture of safety, and a great experience for those that engage with their materials. Oh, and you don’t have much time to do it. And oh by the way, we need it to be able to scale.

So what did they produce? They produced a toolkit that every Greyshirt could have in the cargo pockets. They produced a cutting-edge and engaging onboarding syllabus that communicated our culture, expectations, and streamlined our ability to maintain the quality, but engage more people via technology. And they produced it ahead of schedule, and thankfully we’re using it as we go through our greatest growth in volunteers in our short history. Did it work? Here is a snapshot of volunteer training activity spurred by folks raising their hands to serve.

A decision, made months ago, guided by a commitment to investment and bounded by expectations for expected consequences is being used to deliver services to the survivors and value to those that serve. At least we think it is, and in subsequent transparency communications, you’ll help us see if it is working and providing the return on investment you expect. We look forward to your thoughts.

Art delaCruz is the COO of Team Rubicon. He served honorably for over 22 years in the United States Navy and enjoyed a career that included a broad range of assignments. Art commanded a Navy strike-fighter squadron, spent one year with McKinsey & Co. as a Secretary of Defense Corporate Fellow, served as a Topgun instructor, and made six combat deployments. After retiring, he spent two and a half years in the aerospace and defense sector in the roles of business development and strategy and planning.