AWESOME PROJECT: Walk Austin makes it official, 501c3 style

We never get tired of hearing from campaign leaders who appreciate not just the personal crowdsourcing training, tactical support, and signature ioby love we provide, but also the legal backing that we, a fiscal sponsorship service, bring to the table. It can be really challenging and limiting for smaller groups that aren’t 501c3s themselves – gardening clubs, say, or educator collectives, or simply handfuls of neighbors coming together with a vision – to navigate the choppy fundraising seas alone. We’re proud to facilitate that process, so that they can focus on doing what they do: knowing better than anyone else what their own communities need, building that educational beehive, starting that edible community garden, creating that pop-up bike lane, etc.

What you may not know is that we also love to help organizations achieve 501c3-hood themselves. And today’s a pretty neat day, because one of our favorite Texas organizations – the pedestrian advocacy coalition Walk Austin – is just about to wrap up raising the money they need to make it official. Well, to be more exact, they reached their 501c3 fundraising goal so easily last week that they extended their ioby deadline by a few days, so that they could raise cash for some other necessities, like a coalition website (right now they’re only on Facebook).


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Eyes on the prize and walking ahead

At the helm of this push to make it official is Walk Austin board member Katie Deolloz, a former DIV 1 athlete with a background in kinesthesiolopgy and nonprofit management, who now owns a walking company and is a certified walking coach. America Walks recently awarded her one of 23 national 2017 Walking College fellowships, to continue her work as a major pedestrian advocate.

Deolloz is the real deal. A committed minimalist, she likes to call the aesthetic of her family’s home “spartan chic,” and oh, btw, they went car-free years ago. “There were unexpected repercussions for that decision,” she says wryly. “Like the perceptions people have of you – like, are you poor? Are you guys doing okay financially?” Doesn’t phase her, though. She’s used to being seen as a rebel. Jesus walked places, as she points out, and so can she, “no looking back.” What makes her able to take the leap so many environmentalists only ever think about? “I definitely think my personality factors in,” she laughs. “Just ask my husband.”

Instead of driving, Deolloz and her husband and two kids walk, unicycle (daughter), skateboard (son), and bike everywhere. Sometimes, during the hot Texas summers, sure, it’d be nice to hop in an air-conditioned car – but most days, car-free a joy and a fulfilling way of life. It causes them to be more thoughtful about where they go, and at what time of day. We wish you’d been on the phone with us when we interviewed Deolloz earlier this week; you’d be just about ready to give up your car right now, too. She’s got a laugh you can’t not smile at, and you can just hear in her no-nonsense voice that when she’s got a vision, she Gets It Done.

So its not surprising that just months after she joined the Walk Austin board, the 501c3 status she immediately pushed for is already within reach. “I was sitting there going, wait a minute, we’ve got some really great grant opportunities,” Deolloz explains, “because there’s been a real shift in the active transportation world. A lot of the funding had been available for bikes, but now they’re starting to realize we’ve really got to have a ped component. So there’s just more funding opportunities available, and naturally it would behoove our organization to have that legal component squared away. I was like, let’s make this happen. It can be done – let’s do it!” Can you hear the grit in that voice?

“I get really excited when I think about becoming a 501c3,” she adds, “because there’s so much possibility. There are already a number of grant opportunities that we’re aware of. I see it happening very quickly. We’re looking forward to being able to hire staff – creating good jobs for people locally, doing good work. And ultimately really being a voice for a walkable Austin. I can’t wait to take it to the national level. I am STOKED. Walk Austin is going to be known! We are comin for ya! We are WALKING! There’s so much to come.”


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We know an ailing America can start to walk again

Walking is personal for Deolloz on lots of levels. Cardiovascular and metabolic disease run in her family, and she decided long ago to take the reins and choose a healthy, active path for herself and her children.

“Both my parents have type two diabetes,” she explains, “which is completely preventable. And I look around at our society, and the one thing that people can do every day is walk. That’s the most accessible form of physical movement. But in order to do that, people need to have a safe environment in which to move. So I kind of operate at that intersection of physical fitness and built environment.” Imagine an Austin that’s connected by a seamless network of gorgeous, green, safe walking trails and sidewalks. Imagine an Austin in which walking is the safer and more pleasant option, no matter where you’re headed.



What you can do to help

  1. Do you have a skillset or background that could be useful to Walk Austin? “We are currently looking for board members,” says Deolloz. “We’re really interested in people who want to advocate for a safe, connected, walkable Austin, with whatever skills they have to contribute.”
  2. Walk Austin will also be, in coming months, looking into possible partnerships with neighborhood groups (is that you?) and working to help residents in all corners of Austin locate the resources they need to advocate for safe, walkable routes on their own turf. The group wants to see locals starting conversations with council members, reimagining their blocks, stepping out of their cars to take a peek at what could be. “We want to help train our neighbors to be advocates for walkability as well,” says Deolloz.
  3. Check in with Walk Austin’s Facebook page periodically, and keep an eye out for a series of intentional group walks that Deolloz will be leading in the fall. Bring your best active transport ideas with you, to share.
  4. To embarrassed to ask what the heck a 501c3 is, anyway? No shame. We got you.
  5. Donate to the campaign, here.
  6. Walk out your front door. Don’t get in your car. Turn right or left, and then keep going. Walk Austin (… Denver, Memphis, NYC, Pittsburgh, etc.).


Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Have a great idea, but feel like you need a blueprint to get you started? Or a recipe to follow? We’ve got you covered. Check out some of our very best recipes for change, here.