“Trust” and the Incredible Impact it Drives

Matt Colvin

How unrestricted funding helps Team Rubicon meet dynamic needs.

Pandemic. Social distancing. Isolation.

When 2020 kicked off here at Team Rubicon (TR), our focus appeared to be an extension of the last several years—build capabilities to fill more unmet needs, break old processes to innovate, and create opportunities for elevated impact for vulnerable populations. All this built into the “lofty” goal of responding to 140 disasters globally. Sitting down to write this blog, those aspirations feel small, reductive, and restrained compared to what TR is up against at this moment in its response to the coronavirus. Between March 1 and late July we received more than 300 requests for assistance from more than 226 communities, including Italy, New York City, and Los Angeles.

See where Team Rubicon is planning responses to COVID-19 on our new data dashboard.

At this moment, we have more than 50 active responses underway across the nation with six more in the planning stages. Already, 206 operations have been completed. In the Navajo Nation, our months-long COVID-related medical operation has finally wrapped up after serving 3,026 patients.

Hot spots. N95 masks. Quarantine.

Who would have thought that, in just a few short months, these words would become part of the global vernacular? Who could have imagined a situation like the one we’re facing now, where global economics grind to a halt and 6.6 million American citizens file for unemployment in a single week?  Or that in April, roughly 23.1 million Americans would count as unemployed. At 14.7%, the unemployment rate was the highest since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking the monthly data in 1948.

Team Rubicon first began tracking COVID-19 in January as part of our regular coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), which prompted us to contemplate how a medical response to China’s COVID-19 epicenter, Wuhan, would unfold. In a matter of weeks, it became apparent we needed to prepare for landfall in the U.S., and within days TR found itself at a crossroad unlike any other in our 10-year history. As COVID-19 began to spread, TR quickly realized that this would impact our entire country and world.

In the face of uncertainty, but armed with facts and a bias for action, we made the conscious decision to restructure the entirety of the organization. A decision of this magnitude for an organization of our size is hard to fathom, but it’s grounded in our culture. We immediately made adjustments to ensure continuity of operations, maintain focus on keeping our Greyshirts (volunteers) and the communities we serve safe, and maximize our ability to deliver services in this complex environment.

There’s no playbook, but we have the players—our people and culture were the keys to a successful shift to remote work, restructuring of the organization, and the safe, effective delivery of services for vulnerable populations.

  • By arranging all operational resources into a Task Force model specifically designed for crisis operations, we achieved “unity of effort” and unified command—a single point of accountability and direction—to achieve the above.
  • By designing a simple, effective daily schedule, we achieved a level of transparency and speed in our communications that we had never reached before.
  • By leveraging our technology platforms and partners, we streamlined operational planning, decision-making, and visibility allowing for coordinated execution across our entire country and dozens of partner agencies

We envision Team Rubicon’s future as being “the best damn disaster response organization in the world,” and every decision we make drives us toward this goal. TR’s hallmark qualities, not unlike that of the military, have been the ability to pivot quickly and adjust to meet the needs the mission requires.  As every airman, soldier, marine or sailor learns from day one in boot camp, success as a team is everyone’s job.  Specialists become generalists and, on the front lines, you have to be ready to perform differently to achieve mission.  An intelligence specialist becomes a rifleman, a cook becomes a damage control person. Needs dictate how and who responds.

None of this is possible without the unrestricted investment and support of our funders and partners.

Our Unrestricted Ready Reserve Fund is the key enabler for Team Rubicon’s ability to respond. Unrestricted contributions provide incredible agility for Team Rubicon as shown in our recent pivot to meet community needs, coast-to-coast, in a whole of America response to the coronavirus.  The reality is that the ‘how’ and ‘where’ Team Rubicon responds is beyond our control, but our ability to enable flexibility and rapidly respond is wholly within our control because an ever-growing cadre of corporate, institutional, and individual believers trust we’ll make the right decisions when called to do so. TR is extraordinarily thankful to our partners who share this mindset, and who contribute from this platform of trust to TR’s Ready Reserve.

Thank you to all our top FY2019-2020 Unrestricted Ready Reserve and programmatic funders who believe in our bold vision. You’ve played a pivotal role in TR’s ability to make bold choices and reposition our efforts to effectively respond to this pandemic. 

The Ahmanson Foundation
CBS EcoMedia
Farmers Insurance
Goldman Sachs Gives
The Home Depot Foundation
Jack Links
Kendeda Fund
Kevin and Chelsea Washington
The Marcus Foundation, Inc.
Mountain Dew
Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG)
PepsiCo Foundation
PwC Charitable Foundation
Schultz Family Foundation
The USAA Foundation
The TK Foundation
Under Armour
Wounded Warrior Project

If you’re interested in donating to Team Rubicon’s Unrestricted Ready Reserve please reach out to your point of contact or email Development@TeamRubiconUSA.org.

To learn more about our response to Coronavirus, visit https://teamrubiconusa.org/neighbors/.


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