Financial Outreach Initiative & Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

The Financial Outreach Initiative began during the 2002-2003 academic year. The project mission is to organize, implement, and sustain a multi-university project concerned with various forms of asset development for low-income communities in the Philadelphia region.

During the 2010 tax-filing season, students from Swarthmore College and Widener University, along with many community volunteers and agency staff, provided free tax services to 1800 filers who collectively received over $2.5 million in refunds. The target audience for this effort is low-income filers eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This credit has been touted to be the most effective way of lifting a family above the federally defined poverty line. In order to accomplish this, we created a special working group, Delaware County Asset Development or “DelCoAD” to oversee this project as well as discuss ongoing issues with regard to asset development in the county.

Organizations participating in DelCoAD are:

See photos from the 2011 VITA Kick-Off in Delaware County.

The Community Action Development Commission of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (CADCOM) has also developed a free tax prep program and has since connected with Bryn Mawr College for support .

In future years, we hope to expand the VITA sites to offer other public benefit enrollments such as food stamps and health insurance. In addition, we hope to expand to other areas of asset development, such as Individual Development Accounts, financial education, savers clubs, microenterprise development, and micro-loan funds.

While the Financial Outreach Initiative has been conceived of as a community outreach program primarily, it is also serving well as a means toward recruiting business students to work in community settings. Thus, the partnership between the colleges and the community organizations has been mutually-beneficial.

If you would like more information about this program, please contact Georgia Julius at 610-543-5022 or