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  • Writer's pictureRachel M. Reis

The Extraordinary Branding of Team Rubicon: Living Values as a Grey Shirt

In today's post, we'll be talking about Team Rubicon's exceptional branding. In particular - the values associated with being a Grey shirt.

A rescue team working on a house

Who is Team Rubicon?

In times of disaster and crisis, ordinary individuals often emerge as heroes, providing much-needed aid and relief to those affected. Team Rubicon is a shining example of such heroism, an organization that leverages the skills and experiences of military veterans and first responders to make a significant impact in disaster-stricken regions worldwide.

The Genesis & Mission of Team Rubicon

The seeds of Team Rubicon were sown in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. As part of the initial disaster response, two Marines, Jake Wood and William McNulty, led a team of volunteers to provide medical aid and assistance to the affected communities. Witnessing the dire conditions and realizing the immense potential of veterans and first responders to make a difference, they decided to establish Team Rubicon. The organization's name is derived from the concept of combining the "Rubicon" – a historic river in Italy representing a point of no return – with the military term "crossing the Rubicon," signifying a decisive action taken despite potential risks.

Thus began its current twofold mission: to provide disaster relief to affected communities and to help bridge the gap between military service and civilian life for veterans. The organization aims to empower veterans and first responders by offering them a sense of purpose and continued service after their official duties have ended.

The Volunteer Experience

At the heart of Team Rubicon's success lies its dedicated volunteers. Veterans and first responders join the organization, eager to utilize their specialized training in emergency medicine, logistics, communications, and more. Team Rubicon provides them with additional training in disaster response and management, ensuring that they are well-prepared to handle the complexities of disaster-stricken environments.

The volunteers undergo rigorous exercises and simulations, which not only sharpen their skills but also foster a strong sense of camaraderie. This sense of purpose and the opportunity to serve others once again contribute significantly to their personal growth and transition back into civilian life.

Diving Deeper into the volunteer experience: Being a Grey Shirt

A "grey shirt" is a term used to refer to a volunteer who holds a leadership position within the organization during a disaster response mission. Grey shirts are experienced volunteers who have undergone additional training and have demonstrated their commitment and capabilities in disaster response operations.

The name "grey shirt" comes from the distinctive grey-colored shirts that these leaders wear during deployments. These shirts help identify them as experienced team members, and they serve as a visible symbol of authority and expertise to both fellow volunteers and the affected communities they are assisting.

Grey shirts play a crucial role in coordinating and managing disaster response efforts. They lead teams of volunteers, oversee various aspects of the mission, and ensure that operations run smoothly and efficiently. Their responsibilities may include managing logistics, supervising medical teams, coordinating communication, liaising with local authorities, and making critical decisions during rapidly evolving situations.

Becoming a grey shirt in Team Rubicon is a significant achievement, and it signifies a higher level of expertise and commitment to serving communities in times of need. These leaders exemplify the organization's values and play a vital role in fulfilling Team Rubicon's mission to provide effective and impactful disaster relief while empowering veterans and first responders in their continued service.

That Begs the Question - What are Team Rubicon's Values?

Being a grey shirt means nothing without the foundation that was set in the branding of their values. Team Rubicon is a tremendous example of values come to life, and when an organization not only writes about its values but lives them.

A snippet from Team Rubicon's values statement
Taken From

Their section on "Mission First, Greyshirts Always" reads as follows.

Anyone joing Team Rubicon must understand that our mission to provide disaster response comes first. But it is our volunter members (who wear our signature 'grey shirts' on response operations) who make that mission possible. Our leaders serve our members, and in doing so enable our members to serve their communities.

When I read this, I think - humility. Taking the posture of coming second so that people can relearn and activate their autonomy and power. As mentioned above, a grey shirt is likely a veteran or a first responder. If you join the staff at Team Rubicon, you take the backseat and keep the ship running so others can lead.

How beautiful is that?

As a practice, I strongly recommend visiting their Careers page on their website which has their values statement, and just ask yourself - what does this make me think? Do I know this organization, without ever having heard of it? If I were to describe this brand, how would I describe it as a person?


Values, when formed with thoughtfulness and applied strategically, can form a meaningful brand that impacts fundraising results. Team Rubicon was formed in 2011 - it already outpaces fundraising for many long-standing organizations. Granted, their organization has a national appeal. In addition to that, people know what they're donating to. They understand that even if the core leaders of the organization change, the values will stay the same.


If you want to work on building a brand that lasts like Team Rubicon has, Fundraising Resources Pro would like to recommend our following template.


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