A Thriving Outreach Campaign or Two
Confronted with a brand-new need for outreach, Carter Elliott and the Atlanta Prosperity Campaign launched a brand-new campaign to handle it.
Just as the Atlanta Prosperity Campaign (APC) was preparing to celebrate the end of its first season providing free tax preparation assistance in 2008, Campaign Manager Carter Elliott learned about the need for outreach efforts to help eligible seniors and veterans with disabilities claim their Economic Stimulus Payments (ESP). Carter didn’t want to wear down his existing volunteer tax preparers. But he was determined to help eligible residents receive their ESP.
The Opportunity Fulfilled
“Since the IRS didn’t require volunteers completing tax returns only for stimulus payments to be certified, we recruited 50 new volunteers to continue ESP outreach through October 15, 2008. We were very successful in recruiting college students and accountants. Because this was a short-term project and the volunteers did not need to be certified to prepare the simple ESP returns, it was easy to find volunteers. I was able to provide just a script for the volunteers and asked them to participate in a short training session,” recalls Carter, a participant in the Center’s 2005 Tax Credit Outreach Train-the-Trainer Seminar. With this team of new volunteers, APC — a project of the Atlanta Community Food Bank — conducted 25 ESP tax preparation events during the summer of 2008 and collaborated with the IRS, AARP, and Georgia Rural Legal Services to conduct a three-day tax return blitz across the state in mid-September. In total, APC filed 1,100 tax returns for stimulus payments, primarily for seniors and veterans with disabilities. To reach this population, the APC arranged visits to senior complexes and community centers. This is in addition to the 8,317 tax returns completed at 44 free tax preparation sites, including 4 mobile sites during the regular tax season.
In 2009, APC expanded the number of its VITA sites to 56 including 10 mobile sites and added asset-building opportunities to help tax filers maximize their refunds. APC worked with four financial institutions to help residents open bank accounts; screened residents for eligibility for public benefits at VITA sites using online programs such as “EarnBenefits”; and partnered with a credit union to pilot a low-cost refund anticipation loan service at two VITA sites. This service provided an alternative to the high-interest loans marketed by paid tax preparers to receive a tax refund quickly.
Click here to see Carter’s 10 Key Elements for Successful Tax Credit Outreach. Then let us know what you think!
Carter Elliott is the Campaign Manager for the Atlanta Prosperity Campaign, a project of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. He is a 2005 Tax Credit Outreach Train-the-Trainer participant.
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Which of Carter Elliott’s key elements are part of your current approach? What would you add to the list?