Founder of Russ Reid Dies
(Press release, Dec. 9, 2013) — Russ Reid, a marketer who determined that nonprofit organizations could benefit from a modern, professional approach to raising funds, died Saturday, Dec. 7, at his home in Sierra Madre, Calif. He was 82 years old.
Reid started the agency that still bears his name in 1964 to assist nonprofits raise money. That company continues to help nonprofits raise millions of dollars a day, every day.
"Russ's heart was always in helping organizations that help people," said Tom Harrison, chairman of Russ Reid. "His application of marketing acumen to nonprofits has literally changed the lives of countless children and families around the world."
Reid started his company in Waco, Texas, in 1964. His rationale: "We believe the best talent, creativity and technology should be put to work to solve the most pressing problems of our world today."
Russ Reid applied marketing strategies such as direct mail, direct-response television, radio advertising, public relations, government lobbying and digital communication to help such diverse organization as American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Boys Town, World Vision, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Operation Smile, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Prison Fellowship, Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, Nature Conservancy of Canada, and rescue missions and food banks across North America.
With 300 employees in Pasadena, Calif.; Fairfax, Va.; and Toronto, Canada, Russ Reid today has grown to be the largest agency in the world helping nonprofit organizations grow.
The philosophy of putting creativity and innovation to work to help nonprofit organizations fund their operations resulted in major changes in successful fundraising techniques.
One of the landmark innovations Reid developed was the long-form television fundraising program. The idea of showing the need of children in Ethiopia for World Vision or the help for sick children at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital or the results of life-altering cleft lip surgery by Operation Smile has moved millions to become involved in these organizations. The programs show the real-life victims of poverty, disease or deformity, and the work the organizations do to bring relief to suffering and positive changes in the lives of the victims.
Innovations didn't end there. In the mid-1980s, the Los Angeles Mission was a small homeless shelter in a run-down building on Los Angeles' Skid Row. The building was old, inadequate and unsafe. It needed to be retrofitted to protect it and the people it housed from earthquake damage — and the money just wasn't available. For the first time a newspaper advertisement was placed in the Los Angeles Times asking for donations for the Mission.
People responded and donated money to the Mission to help feed, clothe and house the homeless. A larger ad resulted in more new donors, and a direct-response fundraising program was born.
Over the next months and years, donors who responded to the initial advertisements were regularly contacted by mail to tell them how their support was helping serve those who come to the Mission for help getting off drugs, alcohol and the streets. These letters resulted in more donations allowing the program to expand, build a new facility and help even more people.
The program became the model to help hundreds of rescue missions and food banks across the U.S. and Canada.
"Russ Reid's innovations have changed the way nonprofits raise money on TV, in the mail and online," said Harrison.
Reid led the agency through a major transition in 1998 when it was sold to Omnicom, one of the largest marketing corporations in the world. Reid retired from the daily operation of the company in 2001, but maintained an interest in what new innovations occurred in operations — and new strategies to help nonprofits "grow beyond expectations." He also kept close personal relationships with company leaders.
Survivors include his wife, Cathie; his children Mark Reid, Paul Reid, Anne Oppermann and Janice Reid; and eight grandchildren.