State EITC Policy Development Fund
Evaluation Outcomes and Lessons Learned

The EITC Policy Development Fund (EITC PDF) is one of three funds administered by GIST and the EITC Funders Network in partnership with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and the Hatcher Group to help improve efforts to protect current and create new state EITCs. 

The PDF was established in 2015 to provide multi-year support to state-based policy groups laying the groundwork to develop or improve state EITCs. Awards are made in the early Fall at $75,000 a year for two years.  Awardees may be eligible to apply for additional support at the end of their two-year contracts if funds are available. 

The PDF is intended to support the development and execution of EITC state policy work. While generous, these funds are not intended to comprise the entirety of a campaign or effort. It is anticipated that these funds will be part of a larger effort. The PDF includes several program components:

  • Southern Geographic Focus:To help maximize learning and shared experiences, the PDF decided to focus on selecting participants from southern states. The South was chosen because of the tremendous need to raise awareness of the value of state EITCs in this deep-poverty region, to encourage peer learning through shared experiences, and the desire to work collaboratively with the vibrant community of local and regional southern funders.
  • Technical Assistance:Participating state groups will have technical assistance available to them from CBPP and the Hatcher Group. Participants will be required to work with these firms to discuss strategy, coalition building, communications, etc.
  • Peer Network:By selecting a southern regional strategy, the PDF hopes to support the exchange of strategies and learnings among southern-focused peer organizations (including, but not limited to those awarded PDF funds).

Evaluation Outcomes

In 2016, the fund hired the Center for Evaluation Innovation and Innovation Network to conduct a retrospective evaluation of the first two-year cycle (2015-2017) of the Policy Development Fund (PDF). The evaluation began in Summer 2016 and concluded in March 2018. The evaluation sought to address three key questions:

  • Are the PDF processes and resources structured as effectively as possible?
  • Is the technical assistance provided to states sufficient and on the mark?
  • What is our value added with the PDF work?

Key evaluation findings are outlined below, based on background research, a survey, interviews, and an in-person meeting of the three *inaugural PDF awardees (Georgia, Mississippi, and West Virginia). 

  • Georgia:The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute(GBPI) launched a communications and engagement campaign to raise awareness of the value of developing a refundable state EITC. This award helped GBPI develop outreach and communications materials, build new partnerships, organize meetings to coordinate partner organizations, publish EITC research, develop a campaign website to engage the broader public, and identify allies to write letters, tell stories, and energize the public.
  • Mississippi:The Mississippi Economic Policy Center(MEPC) worked to grow their strategic communications around establishing a state EITC. MEPC used this award to develop a website devoted to information on a state EITC, produce factsheets for legislators about the benefit of a state EITC to their district, partner with nonprofits and advocacy organizations to develop a message that reaches multiple stakeholder groups, and launch a social media campaign highlighting EITC benefits.
  • West Virginia:The West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy(CBP), West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, and West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families came together to raise awareness of a state EITC. This award helped CBP convene a state-wide tax coalition to articulate a vision for tax reform ahead of the legislative season and hold policy workshops, a policy symposium, and in-district community meetings. CBP also led a public information campaign with the assistance of potential EITC beneficiaries, religious organizations, the banking and finance industry, local businesses, and West Virginia Head Start.

Data was collected about awardees’ experiences with the PDF process and technical assistance; the groundwork they built to support their EITC campaigns; insights about the internal and external factors affecting success; and whether there are any ways that the PDF can improve its support to these states.

Framework and process outcomes: PDF awardees greatly appreciate the availability and flexibility of the award funds, as well as the support of the technical assistance team.  All PDF awardees believe PDF funds expanded their capacity and allowed them to advance their EITC work in ways that were otherwise inaccessible to them.  The PDF may benefit from some further thinking around:

  • What capacities are being focused on by PDF awardees;

  • The different types of support needed for capacity building versus campaign efforts;

  • Partnering with grassroots organizing or community mobilizing organizations; and

  • Additional messaging support and clarification of available technical assistance.


Multiple “capacity” outcomes:
The capacity outcomes that awardees reported achieving with PDF funds included:

  • Increased human resources;
  • Increased advocacy know-how and skill;
  • Expanded and more productive relationships with partner organizations; and
  • Increased influence with the legislature.

The PDF may want to reflect on whether any one of these types of capacity might be worth emphasizing or deepening, given the Southern conservative context, and if there are other capacity types that should be bolstered in service to a future EITC campaign.

Simultaneous capacity building and campaign efforts: Capacity building has been the focus of PDF awardees, but campaign activities have been a welcome “bonus” tackled by two of the three awardees. While not the original intention of the PDF, this structure can have lasting benefits for awardees if they are able to take the lessons learned from their campaigns and transform that into organizational wisdom that allows them to refine and adjust both capacity building aims and campaign tactics. Supports that are needed for capacity and campaign building efforts may differ. Thinking through the different types of support needed and then making adjustments would be a useful exercise by the PDF to make sure a full suite of supports is offered to awardees. 

Partnering for community mobilization work: Grassroots organizing is often under-utilized in policy work, in part because grassroots organizations and policy shops do not share the same skill sets, incentives, or often even worldviews, and grassroots efforts can take years before progress can be detected.  PDF awardees described community mobilization as being critical to their efforts, especially in these deeply conservative states, to help sway important legislators, or even elect more receptive representatives to office. In PDF states, some investment in community mobilization via a grassroots partner could bolster EITC efforts. Several specific suggestions were offered. 

  • There is some natural alignment between the PDF awardees and VITA sites. It may be useful to look beyond VITA sites and determine whether there are other grassroots mobilizing organizations in-state that share the same goals as awardees and could be effective partners to them.
  • A possible co-funding structure, pairing the current PDF awardee with a grassroots organizing partner might help overcome the aversion that many policy shops and grassroots organizations have with partnering with each other. This relationship would necessarily be long-term, as grassroots mobilization takes a long time. The payoff would be worth it if the political cover developed from a grassroots network would force open windows of opportunity in which an EITC policy could become law.

Messaging support: Messaging EITC to conservative lawmakers is something awardees continue to struggle with.  Additional support is needed for building relationships with diverse constituents in support of an EITC and tailoring messaging to better match the needs in Southern, conservative states. There is also room to continue to support awardees around error rate, as well as messaging for long-term capacity and campaign-building efforts.

Technical assistance: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and The Hatcher Group provide valuable services to awardees that they would not otherwise be able to access or absorb.  Strong, pre-existing relationships with the TA providers facilitated technical assistance efforts, but, as in a lot of initiatives, awardees did not access as much TA as was available.  This could be due to lack of understanding of the range of TA available and/or how to apply what they knew was available to their capacity building work.  Additional clarification on the full breadth of support available to them by national partners may be useful.

* To date, $900,000 has been awarded to five state networks in policy development funds.  Georgia and West Virginia received one-year renewal contracts and two new PDF awards were made to Arkansas and Virginia in 2017. 

Click here for more information on the EITC Policy Development Fund.