Life Lessons: Brian Rusch

Philanthropists and industry insiders share their experience and advice on intelligent giving

Brian Rusch is executive director of the Human Thread Foundation, an international nonprofit that drives awareness about human dignity and human trafficking through interactive exhibitions, educational programming, and global campaigns. Here, he shares his thoughts on nonprofit collaboration, on approaching risk, and on the importance of engaging with youth.

If we want nonprofits to run like for-profit businesses, we need to give them the resources to do so. We have no issue with investing in for-profit companies with slim or no margins, but we expect NGOs to save the world, and also spend just 10 per cent of their resources on operations.

Learn when to say ‘no’.  Learning when to say no allows you to really focus your resources – both human and capital – on achieving your mission.

Do what you can to make a difference. You might not be able to change the world, but you might be able to change the world for one person.

Develop strong partnerships. Look at competitors as potential partners. Joining with others strengthens your mission and moves you closer to your collective success.

If you haven’t failed, you aren’t being ambitious enough. Failure is a key part of success. All successful people fail over and over again. When you fail, pick yourself up, look at what went wrong, and learn from it. 

Make space in your organisation for intergenerational dialogue. The young people of today are the best hope we have for transforming cultures of war and violence into cultures of peace and prosperity. If we give young people interactive and stimulating opportunities in our organisations, we are more likely to see them foster the principles of non-violence, equality, compassion and integrity in their societies.