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Tracy Fischman executive director
24 reasons to do a taxathon

24 reasons to do a taxathon

Chances are if you’ve run a marathon, someone has said to you, “That’s crazy!” Or if you’re like me, you’ve said that to someone training for their next 26.2-mile race.

It was the immediate reaction that staff at Prepare + Prosper had sitting around the lunch table when someone brought up the idea of doing a tax preparation marathon. But then we all collectively paused, looked at each other, and a voice spoke up saying what we were all thinking, “We could totally do a taxathon!”

On February 3 and 4, Prepare + Prosper, along with its Claim it! campaign, hosted our 2nd annual taxathon where volunteers and staff served 200+ people and returned $700,000+ in refunds in 24 hours. Some may call us crazy for preparing taxes and checking credit reports at 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning, but it’s that sort of challenge we tax and finance geeks embrace!

Read on for 24 reasons (one for every hour!) why a taxathon is worth the hard work that these sorts of marathons—of physical or mental strength—take!

1. Serve more people. Prepare + Prosper holds our taxathon during the busiest weekend of the tax season when we normally have to turn people away. Increased hours help meet the ever-growing demand.

2. Return more money. Serving more people means putting more hard-earned tax refunds directly into the pockets of people and families.

3. Keep taxpayers from paying. When Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or free tax prep sites help community members file taxes, fewer low-income families spend hundreds of dollars in tax preparation fees or pay for unnecessary financial products. It also means higher quality preparation and education along the way, which leads to empowerment.

4. Have more conversations about saving some. Taxpayers who file early in the season are typically getting a refund and are more likely to save a portion.

5. It puts party and preparation in the same sentence. One customer said when entering: “It’s a party in here!”

Celebration with customers, volunteers, and staff at the end of the taxathon.

Celebration with customers, volunteers, and staff at the end of the taxathon.

6. Volunteers have trained for this. Just like with running a race, volunteers go through hours of rigorous training for the tax season. Why not put that to use in a marathon of sorts!

7. Let the passion shine through. Volunteers are uniquely passionate about this work. A taxathon plays on their enthusiasm and energy with a geeky competition.

Volunteer Mark came equipped for the "taxing" stretches of the preparation marathon.

Volunteer Mark came equipped for the "taxing" stretches of the preparation marathon.

8. Bring people together. When you break down our work, it’s people helping others in the community. People who wouldn’t normally interact have conversations and share stories.

9. Build camaraderie. Prepare taxes at 1 a.m. or for eight hours straight and you’ll form quick bonds.

10. Engage supporters. When asked, donors and sponsors--like partner and funder Greater Twin Cities United Way who helped us kick it off and garner media coverage--will step up and support you to make the event a success.

Partners and funders from Greater Twin Cities United Way.

Partners and funders from Greater Twin Cities United Way.

11. Get press for free tax prep. Let’s be honest, our work isn’t the “sexiest” of all nonprofit missions and garnering attention from media can be difficult. The taxathon provides a great hook and fun footage!

12. Help to change the reputation of tax season. Taxathons celebrate tax season for the opportunities it provides and the good work being done.

13. Hear stories. In a more relaxed and fun environment, volunteers, customers, and staff are more willing to share their stories or comments that bring to life why this work is so important.

14. Extra learning for volunteers. Holding a taxathon early on in the season can be an extra training opportunity for new volunteers.

Staff and volunteers working together on a complicated tax return.

Staff and volunteers working together on a complicated tax return.

15. Winning. There’s something about setting team goals and working together to hit them.

16. Volunteers are amazing. We can’t thank volunteers enough for their commitment. For most, an event like this goes a long way to make them feel good and proud of the work they’re do.

17. Help make #taxathon trending on Twitter someday.  

18. Involve your community. Taxathon provides an event that opens the door for community members see your work and celebrate with you at the same time.

Superheros from a local community group stopped by to entertain kids on Saturday morning.

Superheros from a local community group stopped by to entertain kids on Saturday morning.

19. Fun photos to help your outreach partners spread the word.

20. Odd hours work for some. Unique hours prove to be preferable for some. The taxathon was just as hopping at 1 a.m. as it was at 1 p.m.

21. Eat good food. The marathon requires nourishment. Donors and partners donate delicious food and treats that make everything more fun.

22. Taxes coloring sheet. We commissioned a tax-inspired color sheet for kids and hung the completed ones around the preparation area.

23. Make a difference. Plain and simple, doing more of what we do makes a difference in people’s lives.

24. Have good fun. Believe it or not, some people find doing taxes and talking about money fun. Taxathon, with the goals, sense of accomplishment, and celebrations throughout, makes it even more fun.

If you're not at the table, you're on the menu

If you're not at the table, you're on the menu

Setting off sparks

Setting off sparks