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Leveraging social media to keep the community informed

Context

South Texas’s cdcb | come dream. come build (cdcb) operates a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that typically prepares returns for more than 600 families each year. The organization also participates in the CFPB’s Tax-Time Savings Initiative to promote the use of tax returns to build savings and financial stability.

cdcb (formerly Community Development Corporation of Brownsville) provides safe, sanitary affordable housing to residents of South Texas. Since 2009, cdcb has provided affordable housing for over 1,600 families and educated 10,000 additional families with financial and housing counseling. Its financial security program provides access to financial services including free tax return preparation and opportunities to save.

cdcb partners with GetYourRefund, the national program of Code for America that provides organizations that operate VITA sites with tools for preparing returns virtually. cdcb provides its virtual services in both Spanish and English.

Challenge

In a socially distanced world, virtual VITA creates opportunities, but it can also limit tax preparers’ opportunities to talk about the importance of saving refunds. For example, cdcb found that conversations with taxpayers were limited to the very end of the virtual VITA process when they reviewed tax returns together. “And at that point, they want to get off the phone quickly, making it much more challenging than meeting in person,” reflected cdcb’s VITA program manager.

Response

To reach taxpayers at more receptive moments, social media provided a valuable alternative communication channel. Cdcb regularly posted short videos to provide information on the 2021 tax season, including the new process for preparing online returns, economic stimulus payments, and the extension of the filing season in Texas due to winter storms.

Results

Digital marketing strategies expanded the reach of the program, which typically has just one paid staff member and two unpaid volunteers. The staff has a considerable amount of information to convey, but this was especially true in 2021. Social media provided a channel to reach new audiences and to provide timely tax and financial information to cdcb’s followers.

Looking Forward

Social media will continue to serve as an important resource to communicate with those they serve. Posting short videos can remind taxpayers about the opportunity to use their tax return to save some of their refund, reinforcing one of our promising practices for increasing saving at tax time : communicate with taxpayers about saving before they come to the tax site.