Heading off a financial siege at the Alamo

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Editorial Board

It’s time maybe the last time, and this time with the admirable input of an Austin ad agency for another shot at finding a way to keep Texas’ most hallowed shrine an admission-free attraction under the sometimes questionable oversight of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

The Alamo needs your help.

“Bowie defended it with a knife. Now all you need is a ballpoint pen,” says one of the fundraising slogans crafted by Austin’s Door Number 3 advertising agency as part of its pro bono efforts on behalf of the Austin-based DRT’s new, and probably long overdue, campaign to raise the money needed to maintain the Alamo.

The San Antonio mission is owned by the state but run since 1905 by the DRT, which receives no government funding for its efforts and charges no admission. Unfortunately, the Daughters long have resisted the kind of modern marketing and fundraising it takes to collect the money it needs for the Alamo. For too long, the nonprofit group has depended heavily on sales from the Alamo gift shop.

The campaign, which comes on the heels of the latest internal strife at DRT, asks Alamo supporters to sign up as “Allies of the Alamo.” As such, they will get benefits — including gift-shop discounts — in return for yearly membership fees of $30 for students, $40 for individuals and $70 for families. For more deep-pocketed Alamo lovers, there are “Defender Society” memberships at levels up to $5,000.

The Allies program, announced this week at an Alamo event attended by Texas first lady Anita Perry, is in addition to other DRT efforts to seek grants and establish an endowment to help preserve the Alamo and other historic sites.

The DRT’s stewardship of the Alamo has not been a smooth ride. In 2009, two DRT members were expelled for criticizing the group and launching an independent effort to raise money to help cover the costs of running the Alamo. Also, David Stewart, who had been the Alamo director, resigned, along with two staff members, during disputes about how to market the mission.

As Austinites, you should be proud of Door Number 3 and its willingness to pitch in to help the Alamo craft a modern marketing program. For too long, the DRT’s efforts have been too conservative in an era of high-pressure competition for entertainment dollars and donations.

The ad agency’s campaign includes a new logo to go with the effort to get folks to sign up as Allies of the Alamo.

“Support our troops. Even the ones from 1836,” says one slogan.

“Real courage is fighting 2,000 men while wearing a hat with a tail,” says another.

Clever. We hope it works, and we hope many Texans will sign up for the effort.

And if it doesn’t work, we believe it’s time for state lawmakers to look for other ways — perhaps not including the DRT — to maintain the Alamo as a vital, living landmark honoring those who fought and died there, as well as the spirit they left behind.

FYI, it was 174 years ago Tuesday that Mexican Gen. Antonio L?pez de Santa Anna’s army arrived near San Antonio, and the Alamo defenders prepared for the siege. Here’s hoping that the Alamo’s financial future — with or without the DRT — is more certain by next year’s 175th anniversary.

One more FYI, this one involving our favorite piece of Alamo-related trivia: Santa Anna, in exile in Staten Island, N.Y., played a major role in the development of chewing gum. Look it up.