Tax Credit Outreach Campaigns connect eligible workers to the EITC, the CTC, free tax help, and other tax benefits. While the most successful campaigns involve a diverse partnership of groups, one organization can engage outreach efforts that make a significant difference for lower-income workers.
Campaigns often start with the most basic activity: distributing information. They evolve over time to include broad community involvement that bring together the resources to sustain outreach on an ongoing basis. Throughout the life of a campaign, organizations can find ways to become involved based on how tax credit outreach fits within their specific mission or depending on the special skills or resources they can contribute. The important thing is that all partners see that they play a role in making the campaign as effective as it can be.
BUILD YOUR OUTREACH CAMPAIGN
1. Get the word out.
Distributing materials is the foundation of any tax credit outreach effort. New campaigns can have an important impact even if they don’t take on additional activities. Include information about the tax credits and Volunteer Income tax Assistance (VITA) in school or congregation newsletters; in employee pay envelopes, and consumer mailings, such as utility bills and shopper’s circulars that are mailed to community residents.
Arrange to display posters in employee break rooms, in store windows, on public transportation, in libraries, in offices where people apply for public benefits, and other places where eligible workers are likely to see them.
2. Enlist partners.
Partners are the backbone of a vibrant and successful outreach campaign. They bring valuable contacts, skills, and resources (staff, time, funding) to the table. Outreach partners may include community organizations, nonprofit human services organizations, schools, local government, employers, Goodwill Industries, child care agencies, civic and service organizations, Community Action Agencies, public benefit programs, labor unions, utility companies, community development corporations, faith-based organizations, banks, United Ways, food banks, and shelters.
Organize a meeting to find out what potential partners may be doing already to promote the EITC and the CTC. If outreach work is not underway, bring organizations together to establish an outreach coalition. Tax credit outreach coalitions promote the tax credits and provide free tax help. These coalitions often include a focus on asset-building and financial education as well. Train potential partners about the EITC and CTC and why it is important for them to inform their employees, customers, clients, members, and others about these tax benefits. Encourage partner organizations to incorporate outreach activities into their own work, and challenge them to work together to build the capacity of the campaign.
3. Conduct outreach events.
Take advantage of places where eligible people may gather — such as tenant meetings in housing developments, PTA meetings, community sporting events, civic or cultural events, community health or job fairs, or other activities — to distribute information about the tax credits and VITA. Organize free tax filing opportunities at community events, publicizing them in advance so tax filers know what documents to bring with them. Your IRS Territory Manager may be able to help identify trained volunteers to help prepare tax returns at events.
4. Increase and improve VITA sites.
Few communities have enough VITA sites or sites that are in locations that are most convenient for eligible workers. Community action agencies, schools, recreation centers, libraries, housing developments, public assistance offices, or other places that have good connections with eligible workers are ideal locations for VITA sites. Work with your IRS Territory Manager to establish new VITA sites.
Help improve services at existing VITA sites by enlisting local businesses to donate computers to enable the site to offer electronic filing, which gets filers their refunds more quickly. Recruit bilingual volunteers or provide interpreters in communities where tax filers speak languages other than English. Work to ensure that VITA sites are accessible to people with disabilities. Enlist volunteers to provide childcare while parents are getting their taxes filed.
5. Keep the public eye on the campaign.
Always keep the main message front and center: the tax credits help workers care for their families and achieve financial security. Send news about the tax credits and your campaign activities to newspapers and radio and television stations. Remember to include non-English language media. For ads and public service announcements, consider weekly or small community newspapers and circulators, radio and TV stations, bus shelters, buses, and trains. In some movie theaters, slides with local ads are projected on the screen before the film. Ask the manager if a tax credit ad can be included.
Think about partners with the resources and connections to get coverage for the campaign. The support of elected officials and other high-profile community leaders can draw attention to the campaign. Public agencies, community colleges, or utility companies may have regular space in the local paper or a routine timeslot on local radio or cable TV. Learn more about earning media coverage.
6. Sustain outreach efforts.
Make outreach activities an integral part of how organizations in the community operate. For example, businesses can institutionalize outreach by including tax credit information in the orientation for new employees. A community college can institutionalize tax credit outreach into its operations by sponsoring its own VITA site and initiating a system for informing its employees and students about the credits and where to get free tax filing help on campus.