A week ago today, Lori DeVillez announced plans to Take Back Austin, Texas.
Today, the executive director of Austin Pregnancy Resource Center is setting her organization’s sights on a fundraising goal of $85,000 in 24 hours.
If she’s as successful at today’s fundraising effort as she was at “Taking Back Austin” this past week, DeVillez may have cash flow to spare by the time the weekend comes.
Tweet This: Take Back #Austin to raise $85K in 24 hours, starting tonight. #prolife
The fundraising campaign, which officially kicks off March 5 at 6 p.m. (CST), will run concurrently with Austin’s citywide fundraising event, Amplify Austin, which DeVillez’s organization participated in last year and had planned to participate in again in 2015.
That all changed when friends within the Austin Area Life Affirming Coalition alerted DeVillez to a new set of prohibitions Amplify Austin had apparently aimed at faith-based organizations participating in the event.
Amplify Austin, in its third year of operation, made a series of changes to its partnership agreement from 2014 to 2015. The most notable changes stipulated that its faith-based partners use funds raised by the campaign solely “to support specific social service programs that are non-proselytizing and do not promote religious doctrine or instruction.”
Accompanied by new regulations that would restrict funds from being used for administrative purposes, it didn’t take long for DeVillez to conclude the obvious.
“It’s so strongly against faith-based groups, there’s just no gray area here,” DeVillez, in her 11th year at the organization, said. “There’s no room to maneuver here at all.”
After attempts at reaching the leadership of Amplify Austin—including Executive Director Tom Spencer—for clarification via email and phone calls went unanswered, DeVillez reached out to her board of directors to gain a consensus before moving forward.
Once a conference call got board members on the same page, DeVillez hit “Send” on an email to supporters Thursday, Feb. 26, announcing not only Austin Pregnancy Resource Center’s withdrawal from Amplify Austin, but its new ambition to “Take Back Austin.”
Adorned with the irresistible subject line, “Critical Information About Amplify Austin!” the email reached far beyond its intended audience. Within a day, a reporter from the Austin American-Statesman—a paper with the daily circulation of close to 130,000—was on the phone looking for more information for an article the paper ran on its front page Saturday morning, Feb. 28.
“I wanted the media to get it, but I didn’t know they had already gotten my email,” DeVillez said. “I was driving into the center, on the phone with our lawyer, asking him to put out a press release, and then I get there and there’s a reporter on the phone for me.
“It’s been great exposure. God sent the right reporter."
Tweet This: "It's been great exposure. God sent the right reporter."
The article also announced the refusal of fellow coalition members Agape Pregnancy Resource Center and Vision Luke 4:18 Ministries to capitulate to Amplify Austin’s rule changes. Its publication, along with DeVillez’ near-viral email, reached leaders in the Austin Christian Business Summit, who began contacting other faith-based nonprofits, encouraging them to withdraw.
Heading off the imminent public relations and financial disaster, Amplify Austin’s leadership—whose initial reaction had been to promise concessions verbally but refuse to offer written statements to that effect—came back to faith-based organizations with a Texas-sized hat in hand Monday, March 2.
In the organization’s public statement, Amplify Austin announced it had “decided to rescind this clarification in our policy,” promising to “revisit our policies after this year’s event, and … continue to have meaningful discussions with the affected faith-based organizations.”
DeVillez—whose center was involved in a government-compelled speech case ruled unconstitutional in June of 2014—sees the development as another victory for life-affirming pregnancy help organizations and partnerships.
“That’s the importance of being willing to take a stand, but also, having others to stand with you,” DeVillez said. “I don’t think [Amplify Austin] realized how strong of a network the faith-based have here. That’s why I think it’s so important that we work together.
“Everyone I talk to, I tell them, ‘We have to be unified in this. We’ve got to stand together. We’ve got to work together to win.'”
Lori DeVillez, executive director of Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, is leading two workshops at the 2015 Heartbeat International Annual Conference April 7-10 in St. Louis. Click here for registration information.
For more information about Take Back Austin, click here.