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Introducing Russell Philanthropies

Introducing Russell Philanthropies: Updated Mission, New Brand, Building a More Equitable World

March 20, 2024
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By Richard Russell
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7 min

I am excited to share news with you: after months of reflecting intensively on our work — consulting current and former clients, peers, trusted sources of counsel, and leaders in philanthropy — my colleagues and I have clarified our priorities, particularly emphasizing those we think will be most important and effective. We remain the same organization, now refocused and refreshed.

The firm has grown and will continue to evolve, too. To that end, I am thrilled by the most recent addition to our team: Rebecca Bowen has joined as Partner. Most recently, Rebecca was Executive Vice President/Chief Advancement Officer at YMCA of the USA, the leading nonprofit committed to strengthening individuals and communities across the country. Rebecca is an expert in organizational and fundraising strategies, honed through her work with The Y, The Nature Conservancy (where we were colleagues), and a number of zoos and museums.

Looking Inwards

Starting in fall 2023, we embarked on a process to reassess our values and the impact we want to have through our work. Our goal was to stress test and challenge our assumptions, assess opportunities for scaling our impact, and to actively listen to those we love and trust. We surveyed current and former partners, friends of the firm, team members, and other leaders in the field. 

You all know me well and this is not a decision that I would ever take lightly. This process pushed me out of my comfort zone and gave me much-needed time to pause and reflect. In some ways, it’s because of that period of reflection that I know — instinctively — it’s the right call. It means we’re collectively growing. It means I’m growing, too.

We Are Russell Philanthropies

We changed Resilient to Russell because it allows us to speak to the shared philosophy and objectives of the firm — one honed and shaped over decades — and to ensure that everyone who works here is a custodian of that philosophy. It’s also a reinforcement to our team and partners of our commitment to each of you, and the overall societal impact of the firm as we go through a period of evolution.

We chose philanthropies, because philanthropy is not monolithic or singular — it’s many things. The world is becoming more complex and multifaceted, not less so, and our sector will irrevocably change with it. For too long, what constitutes philanthropy has been narrowly defined and shaped by similar groups of people. With the humility and vulnerability it deserves, we’re going to try and change that. That starts by looking inwards. It’s up to each one of us to seek diverse perspectives and to shape these many philanthropies with our collective wisdom and vision. We have an obligation, too, to connect them to the grassroots campaigns that drive lasting equity.

Building A More Equitable World

Our newly articulated mission is to build a more equitable world. We intentionally chose to not restrict our mission statement with qualifiers, such as philanthropy, or campaigns, or civil society. We embrace the boldness and ambition of our mission with clear-headedness and an open heart — and the purpose and fearlessness it demands. We feel it’s expansive and brave, but also reflective of the sense of daring humanity needs to solve the biggest challenges facing us all. And, candidly, after decades of work in philanthropy, I think it’s exciting. That’s important, too!

Our Values

Values are always idle words on a page until we embody and practice them. To make our values come to life, myself and the incredible members of our team will showcase them, embody them, and hold ourselves accountable — through our counsel, our communication, and our practice. 

  1. Be Brave. We embody a spirit of daring that informs how we support our partners. Our energy is finely attuned to the courageous drive of civil society and grassroots campaigners who make a positive impact on the world. We prioritize deep alignment with our partners’ visions and work fearlessly to drive them forward. 
  2. Foster Trust Above All. We are bound together by an unwavering commitment to integrity and creating a lasting impact. We ensure our partners can always count on us — not just for our delivery, but for our moral compass and the intimacy of our counsel. Trust is not a value we strive for; it’s a promise we keep.
  3. Campaign with Tenderness & Tenacity. Every decision and action we take is infused with heartfelt compassion and bold imagination. We believe that success in philanthropy comes from developing a complex spectrum of human capabilities — one that runs from deep empathy and connection, to action and execution. 
  4. Embrace Continuous Learning. We operate at the forefront of philanthropic best practice and excellence, and we pledge to remain students of our sector. We continuously learn from our partners and adapt quickly in the face of systemic change. 
  5. Seek Diverse Perspectives. The uniqueness of every individual’s perspective and lived experience is our most valuable resource. We embrace equity and inclusion in our words, actions, and counsel. We seek to foster a culture — both inside and outside the firm — where all voices are heard, respected, and valued. 

The Common Thread

Our vision statement — the Common Thread — is essentially a platform that we will use to start engaging in the debate about the future of our sector, including speaking publicly, writing more often, and measuring the impact of our work. 

  1. Justice: We seek to partner with those who challenge the systemic economic, social, and political conditions that undermine the true expression of human agency, equality of experience, and justice. 
  2. Culture: We believe culture is an essential building block of our humanity and shared reality. It’s the well from which we derive our inspiration and our compassion. It allows us to construct powerful experiences, meaning, and understanding — together.
  3. Learning: We believe that lifelong access to personal development, growth, and learning are the foundation of human agency and dignity. We also believe that learning is not just about education and human development, it is about justice.
  4. Health & Well-being: We believe that access to compassionate, affordable, and holistic care and well-being services is intrinsic to human dignity. It is also the cornerstone of a compassionate, humane society. 
  5. Conservation: We believe that the love we have for the place we call home must start with a deeper understanding of our role in and impact on the natural world. We believe in the collective human responsibility to protect and conserve the foundations of the natural world — both for ourselves and future generations.

Inspired by this vision, we will seek to be positive custodians of and participants in our sector, and to share resources and content that can help us all learn and uplift our collective impact. 

Next Steps

I’ve been through these processes many, many times before. Sometimes you love everything, sometimes you’re unsure, sometimes you like bits and pieces. Change is always hard and uncomfortable. However, for the Russell Philanthropies team and our key partners, my hope is that the process has felt genuinely participatory and open-hearted.

I will need your support, patience, and kindness, too — I’m personally a little trepidatious. But I’m also profoundly energized. And, let me be super clear on one point: we are ready to serve. From discreet and confidential counsel, to passionate advocacy and amplification, we will continue to take pride in building enduring, mutually trusting relationships with individuals, families, foundations, and not-for-profit organizations. 

Get in touch. We would love to hear from you: hello@russellphilanthropies.com.

Richard

Founder, Russell Philanthropies

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