Founder of Russ Reid Dies at 82, Built One of the Largest Marketing Firms Serving Nonprofit Organizations in North America

By Jeremy Reynalds, ASSIST News Service On December 14, 2013

Russ Reid

PASADENA, CALIF. (ANS) -- Russ Reid, a marketer who believed that nonprofit ministries could benefit from a modern, professional approach to raising funds, died Dec. 7 2013 at his home in Sierra Madre, Calif. He was 82.

According to a news release made available to the ASSIST News Service, Reid started the company in 1964 that still bears his name to assist nonprofit ministries raise money. That company continues today.

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"Russ's missionary heart is the foundation of the work we do to grow ministries and expand their impact," said Tom Harrison, chair of the company, speaking in the news release.

Reid was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and thought he would grow up and be a missionary. That's what he told the teacher of his first grade class because his mother had said she had "dedicated him to the Lord's ministry."

Reid started his company in Waco, Texas. His rationale was, "We believe the best talent, creativity and technology should be put to work to solve the pressing problems of our world today."

With 300 employees in Pasadena, Washington, DC and Toronto, Canada, Russ Reid today has become the largest agency in the world helping nonprofit organizations.

Over the decades, Russ Reid has represented organization including Prison Fellowship, Promise Keepers, The Billy Graham Association, the American Red Cross, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and many Gospel Rescue Missions and Food Banks across North America.

"Russ Reid's innovations have changed the way nonprofits raise money on TV, in the mail and online," said Harrison in the release. "This has led to not only temporal success, but in many cases, eternal impact."

One of the innovations Reid developed was the long form television fundraising program. 

The news release said, "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, the news release said. 

In the late 1980's, 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 donor "acquisition," 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 Los Angeles Mission fundraising program became a reference point for other similar organizations. A "network" of Missions was developed to assist them in raising funds in a cost-effective, "group-buying" program. More than 80 Missions currently work with Russ Reid.

Through this work, the news release said, Russ Reid became a supporter of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, (AGRM), an organization that represents hundreds of Missions in North America.

In 2007, the Annual Russ Reid Rescue Award for Lifetime Achievement was announced at the organization's conference. Each year a major figure in the Gospel Mission organization is recognized with the award.

Reid led the company through a major transition in 1998 when it was sold to Omnicom, one of the largest marketing corporations in the world. Even after his retirement, Reid remained interested in what new innovations occurred at the agency. He also kept close personal relationships with company leaders.

The news release said survivors include Cathie his wife of 32 years, children Mark Reid, Paul Reid, Janis Reid and Anne Reid Oppermann, and eight grandchildren. Russ and Cathie are longtime members of La Canada Presbyterian Church in La Canada, CA.

About the agency

Russ Reid provides services in digital fundraising, direct response television, and direct mail to help nonprofit organizations grow. Russ Reid is a part of Diversified Agency Services, a division of Omnicom Group Inc.

© 2013  ASSIST News Service (ANS)