Russ Reid: a great marketer and a great mentor

The non-profit fundraising community has lost a pioneer, innovator and man of integrity. Few in our business would disagree that Russ Reid not only changed the way we raise money for great causes — he changed it for the better.

Russ passed away late last week. I respected him and have high regard for the influential agency he founded 50 years ago.

I knew Russ — and worked with his agency, Russ Reid Company, for many years. During that time I was vice president of marketing at World Vision. Russ’ agency was a great partner, helping World Vision transform the way it raised money to help the poorest of the poor.

His groundbreaking work in television, marketing strategy, data usage and direct mail personalization revolutionized fundraising for dozens of organizations that do good work.

But Russ was more than a master of marketing. He was also a mentor to me personally. I once asked him over lunch how he had built such a great company. His answer was “authenticity and teamwork.”

By authenticity, he meant two things: First, that he was always clear about his value system, and second, that he wanted his people to let him know when they were not personally experiencing those values.

By teamwork, he meant that everyone at his company was in it together. He said when a player fumbles, it’s not OK for everyone to point and say, “He fumbled!” Instead, it’s everyone’s job to jump on the ball.

For those of us who have devoted our lives to funding Kingdom work, that’s advice to live by — and it has shaped me to this day.

Farewell, Russ. Until we meet again.