Customer Story

Team Rubicon & Classy: How Technology Drives Exponential Growth

Team Rubicon started by accident. It all began when a small group of veterans and medics traveled to Haiti in 2010 to provide support for those affected by a catastrophic, 7.0-magnitude earthquake. After spending two to three weeks providing aid, they were so deeply moved by the impact they were making, they decided to start a nonprofit organization.

Today, Team Rubicon maintains a roster of 35,000+ volunteers able to deploy throughout the United States and abroad to communities affected by disasters, and has responded to more than 100 disasters around the world. But how does one nonprofit organization grow so rapidly?

How One NPO Started in the Wake of a Disaster

When Jake Wood, chief executive officer and co-founder of Team Rubicon, went to Haiti, he arrived with more than just manpower. His team mobilized a network of supporters who solicited $150,000 in donations in a matter of three or four weeks, without even being incorporated. This is when he realized they had potential to make an even bigger impact and the vision of Team Rubicon came to life.

The success and impact Team Rubicon experienced in Haiti was unexpected, but it wound up being the driving force behind their mission and helped them redefine what a disaster response organization looks like. By pairing the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders, medical professionals, and technology solutions, Team Rubicon aims to provide the greatest service and impact possible. Military veterans feel compelled to join Team Rubicon’s efforts because they gain back three things they lose after leaving the military — Purpose, community, and identity.


How Team Rubicon Does More With Less

When Team Rubicon embarked on their first disaster relief trip to Haiti, they operated under the mindset of doing more with less. They were a small group of military veterans looking to make a difference yet they raised an extraordinary amount of money with the help of their community. Although they did not realize it at the time, this culture existed from the very start and is still representative of who Team Rubicon is today. With a fast and nimble approach, Team Rubicon is able to be proactive when disasters happen and bring aid quickly—by not only drawing on the skills of military veterans but also with the help of technology.

If we raise $500K in donations for a disaster, how can we generate $3M in disaster relief impact?”

Jake Wood

President & Co-Founder

With the right technology infrastructure, Team Rubicon is able to pivot and operate quickly in response to disaster by providing donors the right tools. Team Rubicon uses Classy as their online fundraising platform, which has empowered supporters to raise money in an easy way for the cause. Classy operates as a central engineer, allowing Team Rubicon to fundraise money on short notice in times of disaster and empower their supporters to not only give online but also create peer-to-peer fundraising pages to activate their personal network.

One example of reaching donors with the right tools took place during Team Rubicon’s response operation in Tenzing, Nepal. Within the first 48 hours they raised $81,000 online. All together, they were able to raise a little over $650,000 and more than half of that came online through Classy. They did this by sending targeted asks—segmenting by volunteers, donors, and fundraisers. By having the right technology to review data and segment donor profiles, they were able to tailor their communications for specific groups of donors, based on the donor’s previous fundraising experience with Team Rubicon. Most importantly, Team Rubicon was able to focus on their mission rather than fundraising and could then deploy 65 volunteers, dedicate thousands of hours, treat 315 patients, and provide housing and shelter for people.

How to Grow a Community of Supporters, With Minimal Effort

Team Rubicon has acquired a community of 35,000 volunteers with no deliberate or active recruiting effort. Instead their volunteer-base has grown out of their commitment to a strong communication strategy, authentic storytelling, and thanking their donors.

To start, Team Rubicon mobilizes donors through as many different communication channels as possible: email, social media, text messaging, and earned media. By effectively connecting with their supporters in so many places, their ultimate goal is to be the organization in front of people’s consciousness when disasters take place.


A meaningful “thank you” also encourages their donors to give. During Hurricane Sandy, two Team Rubicon staff members sat in a room and called everyone who had donated to thank them, or sent personalized thank you notes in the mail to show their appreciation. This simple action activated their community and has been the driving force between growing from a $500K organization to a $11M organization.

You call somebody who donates $5, you write them a handwritten thank you card, and use the Classy platform to manage and keep track. You don’t need to do anything fancy; people are seven times more likely to give again in the same operational period because they were personally thanked.”

Matt Scott

Senior Development Officer

Team Rubicon’s success with their Hurricane Sandy thank you efforts can be largely attributed to their software. Classy has helped contribute to Team Rubicon’s community growth by providing them with a central database that houses information needed to:

  • Reach donors who have previously donated online
  • Segment fundraisers who are most active
  • Determine their average donation amount
  • Actively manage their recurring revenue program

Because of this, through their dedication and appreciation for their supporters, Team Rubicon has been able to grow from 330 volunteers in 2010 to over 30,000 volunteers in 2015. This increase in manpower has helped Team Rubicon provide relief for more than 100 operations in the past six years.

How Team Rubicon’s Volunteer Base, Operations, Membership, and Budget Continue to Surge

The impact Team Rubicon has created ultimately ties back to their vision. They’ve been an agile disaster relief organization and have effectively tackled the challenges they’ve needed to address to accomplish their mission.

Their volunteer base has grown 100 times larger, they’ve been able to take on as many as 38 operations in a single year, and their membership also steadily rises each year. Because of this continual surge, Team Rubicon increased its budget to $11M this past year.

$11 Million
Annual Revenue
$7.8 Million
Operation Costs*
Total Operations

They succeed by:

  • Recommitting to a very singularly focused mission.
  • Narrowly defining their role within disaster response.
  • Adhering to a very clearly defined vision which has helped them continually grow their impact.
  • Finding activities within disaster response where they can add the most value, legitimately pursue greatness, and feel very competent in those activities.

Team Rubicon achieved this impact by realizing early on that investing in the right technology was the key for growing and expanding every aspect of their business.

By partnering with Classy, Team Rubicon now has a portal for all of their donor experiences: from the first time a donor makes a donation to how often a donor gives. If their donor experiences were poor, complicated, or onerous, donors would leave and find another worthy cause to give their money where there is less friction in the transaction. Instead, Classy has been able to provide Team Rubicon’s customers with a seamless transaction process and have also added new features as they’ve scaled over the years.

*Operation Costs is pulled from Team Rubicon’s 2014 Annual Report.

Classy is still a platform that makes sense for us when we’re 100 times bigger than when we first implemented it.”

Jake Wood

President & Co-Founder