How Covid-19 helped to re-define the core values of nonprofit Team Rubicon

For many, the Covid-19 pandemic has put a new emphasis on the importance of community. For nonprofit Team Rubicon, this new focus has led it to reform both its marketing strategy and its core disciplines.

Team Rubicon has worked closely with communities since its inception, serving mobilising veterans to continue their service by stepping into natural and humanitarian disaster zones in order to provide aid and support.

As the project’s chief marketing officer, Lorey Zlotnick, told The Drum on a recent panel at the Can-Do festival, “we do everything from mucking out homes, to clearing debris, to making communities resilient. We always say building resilient communities builds a resilient nation.”

Zlotnick joined Rubicon in April this year, and the irony of joining a disaster erelief charity during one of the biggest disasters in living memory is not lost on her: “Joining a natural disaster relief organisation in the middle of a global pandemic creates its own challenges, for the industry as well as the company. We’ve certainly had to pivot.”

She explained that the unprecedented nature of the pandemic has meant Team Rubicon has had to alter its approach to recruitment quickly: “At a time where other people are slowing down and trying to figure out what they’re going to do, we’re jumping in and spending, because we’ve had to build our volunteer basis.”

Zlotnick outlined that the need to adapt quickly has resulted in “something of a three-pronged approach that’s raising awareness for who we are, mobilising and recruiting veterans and also speaking to our partners and donors.”

“We have a volunteer base that is primarily made up of veterans, but… that is a finite group of people, so we’ve had to ask civilian volunteers to come in and help us. So our media buys are now primarily focussed on that group.”

However, she explained “safety is paramount, so anyone who is 65 or older is not currently serving on missions in the middle of Covid-19. So we’ve also had to extend our media buy to replace those veterans.”

In order to reach civilians, Zlotnick explained Team Rubicon has leaned on its core mission for inspiration.

“We definitely tell human interest stories. It’s not just about the people we help, but the communities that we serve as well.”

“There’s so many rich stories, but there’s also the story of how we’re using technology to help people.” As an example, Zlotnick referred to the way in which Team Rubicon has optimised Microsoft software to best serve its mission: “We’ve got proprietary software through Microsoft, but we have taken it and customised it for our volunteer platforms. We’ve also given it to other organisations to help them with their volunteer platforms.

”For us, it’s not about how do we reach a consumer on their worst day, but how do we get in there and help other organisations too. For example, we’ve helped serve over 5m meals through Feeding America by mobilising our volunteers in order to help their initiatives.”

Zlotnick concluded that during the pandemic, Team Rubicon has “not just pivoted [its] marketing message… we’ve also pivoted the actual organisation in our core disciplines.”

“I don't think we're ever going to go back to what ’normal’.”

Zlotnick originally spoke to The Drum's executive editor Stephen Lepitak at The Drum's Can-Do festival. You can watch the panel in full here.

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