2009 PR News CSR Award: Community Affairs


Entergy Corporation for Entergy’s Earned Income Tax Credit


The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the nation’s largest poverty reduction program, and never has this been more critical than in today’s economic crisis. However, between 15% and 25% of households that are entitled to the EITC are known not to claim it, which means that between 3.5 million and 7 million households deserving credit don’t receive it.
Enter Entergy Corp. The company sought to help reduce these statistics by making sure that its low-income customers knew about the EITC program, knew where to get more information and knew how to find out if they qualified.

ACCOUNTING 101

“At the heart of the issue were two things,” says Patty Riddlebarger, director of corporate responsibility for Entergy Corp. “First, a simple lack of awareness on the part of the targeted audience, and, second, funding to increase capacity of the agencies that help low-income individuals and families file to receive EITC.”

The specific measures taken to accomplish this included:

  • Placing a message about the EITC program on Entergy’s Interactive Voice Recording system;
  • Linking to the Internal Revenue Service Web site;
  • Sending an e-mail blast to low-income advocates and faith-based contacts. “We communicated through our network of 9,000 low-income advocates who represent churches, nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations that work with low-income clients,” Riddlebarger says. “In some cases, we also funded grants to help nonprofits purchase paid advertising to get the word out.”
  • Providing free IRS “EITC Kits” to case managers to assist them in completing and filing EITC forms; and,
  • Serving on the coalition to plan a Super Tax Day in Baton Rouge, La., to reach a large customer base in one concerted effort.


“We leveraged existing communications tools and channels to get the word out,” Riddlebarger says. “One of the most effective tools we used was ‘predictive dialing technology,’ in which low-income households received an automated phone message about EITC and information about how to contact a local nonprofit agency that could process their tax return and file for the credit.”

PAYDAY
Entergy’s aggressive campaign to spread the word about EITC had netted hugely positive results: In the 2007 filing season, an estimated 3.3 million low-income taxpayers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas received $7.4 billion through EITC. As for the specific driver behind the success, Riddlebarger is humble.

“There really was no magic bullet in this campaign, but a key is identifying a project that is a good fit for your company,” she says. “The fight against poverty is our major corporate cause. With EITC, low-income families can receive refunds of up to $3,000, which can make a big difference to those who are struggling to put food on the table—or pay their electric bill.”




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