Looking for a way to start or boost your impact work around financial stability? How about directing people to an easy, free online tax filing web site that can be packaged with your local EITC, VITA or other tax preparation work? United Way Worldwide has social media and marketing tools to help you promote it in a way that adds visibility and buzz, too.
MyFreeTaxes.com is the opportunity to do all of that. It doesn't take much to kick off 2013 with customizable online messaging (Twitter, Facebook, e-mail blasts in English and Spanish) and how-to's that build your social media capacity and advance your corporate and individual engagement strategies. You can leverage 2-1-1 as well.
Led by United Way, powered by Walmart Foundation — in cooperation with Goodwill Industries International, and National Disability Institute — the MyFreeTaxes partnership's online and in-person tax preparation and filing services have helped 4.5 million families claim nearly $6 billion in tax credits and state and federal refunds since 2009. The tax filing software is provided by H&R Block. MyFreeTaxes partners with more than 100 nonprofit and community organizations to connect you to free, local tax assistance programs.
Now in its fifth year, the MyFreeTaxes partnership is a national effort to expand access to and use of free tax preparation services for anyone earning less than $57,000. The partnership combines traditional volunteer-assisted tax preparation with an innovative, online self-preparation and filing tool that empowers users to prepare and file their own taxes for free. It can also link filers to other critical asset-building products and services such as savings and banking products and public benefits.
United Ways can sign up for a custom URL at http://bit.ly/2012URL. Resources to help United Ways publicize and use MyFreeTaxes are available at www.myfreetaxes.com. Need more information? Contact UWW's Stephanie Chin at Stephanie.Chin@unitedway.org.
What United Ways do well – our value proposition – is that we recruit people with passion, expertise and resources, from across the community, to get things done. Put another way, what we do well is galvanize, or mobilize, our community around the pressing issues of improving education, financial stability and health.
So how do we do that? Mobilization Jumpstart is the first step; aligning to the United Way business model is the foundational work. Part of United Way’s job is to help equip you for that journey. Since 2010, part of that has entailed mobilization groups, a learning cohort of United Ways – of all sizes, from all regions of the country – who are committed to help define that journey for you. These 40 “early adopters” have learned a lot about what it takes to bring individuals and institutions – fellow nonprofits, community members, businesses, the media, the public sector and more – together around collective goals in education, income and health. Here are some useful tools created along the way that you can adapt to your work, including a soup-to-nuts toolkit on education, income and health community conversations.
Over the next year, expect more tools gleaned from their learnings. Click here for the first,Turning Outward and Listening in the Community: A First Step to Engage and Align with the Community around a Cause. The takeaway: the path to community change requires strong leadership commitment to both community impact and turning outward. That commitment must be turned into action, with community conversations and strategy development informed by the public’s thoughts and aspirations.
This fall, three of those issue-focused mobilization groups came together at United Way’s Mary M. Gates Learning Center. They shared ideas with each other and outside experts on mobilizing their communities around income, health and early grade reading. Here are some highlights we thought might be of interest to you:
Outside speakers brought new perspectives to United Way’s opportunity to help drive change that improves access to health care and executes prevention strategies to keep people healthy – including shining a spotlight on leadership challenges that transcend the health issue.
Keynoters spoke of the role of leaders to change mindsets and take on new responsibilities. Tyler Norris, Vice President of Total Health at Kaiser-Permanente, noted that total health across the life span will require leaders to disrupt current defaults: from one that prioritizes individual responsibility to one of shared responsibility for healthier communities. Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence RI and Dr. Tracy Gaudet of the Office of Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation at the Veterans’ Health Administration cautioned that a major responsibility of leaders is to protect the vision across time, to remind everyone what is possible, to model the community we want to become, and to foster hope that we can make lasting change together.
True collaboration is difficult, because it means giving up power. United Ways have a particular role to play as trans-partisan, trans-issue, trans-jurisdiction and trans-sector leaders. Want to hear more?
- Click here to access Tyler Norris’ remarks: Total health – Rethinking Quality… and the Role of Community Leadership.
- Click here to access Dr. Tracy Gaudet, Director, Office of Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation--Veterans Health Administration; and Providence, Rhode Island’s Mayor Angel Taveras’ comments: Leading Changing – Leveraging the Moment for Sustainable Transformation.
Early Grade Reading
Looking for tools to help you mobilize around early grade reading? Check out United Way’s new online toolkit here, informed by the mobilization group working in that area. Here are some interesting lessons learned that can be applied to any impact work:
- Click here to hear United Way of Greater Houston’s CEO Anna Babin reflect on the challenges and learnings of really listening to the community.
- Click here to learn about how the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County engaged with the mayor to stoke community partnerships for success.
An ongoing challenge is crafting a clear, compelling message that helps enlist and enroll people into the cause. It’s especially tough in financial stability work, against the backdrop of a tough economy. But Meg Bostrom, a strategic communications consultant who’s guided United Way Worldwide’s message development and has worked on the ground with several United Ways in the Income Mobilization Group, has some practical advice.
Her No. 1 caution: focus on shared responsibility. Highlighting one individual’s story (even if it’s a problem accompanied by your solution) undercuts collective action. Public opinion research shows that people may feel sympathy, but want to help that one person – instead of supporting a deeper, wider community change effort. Click here for her PowerPoint presentation (slides 38 and 39 have good language from United Way of Lane County, OR) and here for the updated messaging handbook she helped create that offers critical “how to’s” for messaging about impact work.
Click here to read Stacey Stewart’s Huffington Post Impact op-ed about the long-lasting effects of disaster and how, “long-term recovery takes the concerted effort and continued investment of the government, the community and the nonprofit sector.”
Click here to download.
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