Why referrals are important

Most organizations do not offer all the access to benefits services so having a strong referral network and knowing who you can refer clients to for specific supports is key to supporting them throughout their journey.

If a client requires a specific service that you do not provide you can still help by referring them to an organization that does. Having a list of agencies on-hand can help make this easier.

A great place to get started is to contact the organizations listed in the Help section of the Benefits Wayfinder or by visiting or calling

  • Create a referral database of local agencies for staff (e.g., excel spreadsheet) with a contact name, email address and list of services provided for easy reference. Make sure to keep it updated.
  • Create a list for both access to benefit services as well as for other supportive services, including mental health providers, food banks and financial services
  • Where possible, create referral sources and resources in different languages to serve those that are not proficient in English.

Note: As you create your list of referral agencies you may discover where there are gaps in services. For example, there may not be local support for safe document storage. If you are looking to expand your organizations supports for benefit access, you might consider this area for development.

Once you identify the organizations that provide the services you don’t, reach out to them to get connected. There are lots of ways to foster relationships:

  • Host an in-person or online meeting to introduce staff and share information on programs and services; if possible, tour each other’s facilities to get familiar with what is offered
  • Create a Community of Practice to share ideas and resources. Some organizations host monthly meetings or post things online using programs such as BaseCamp
  • Invite other agencies to a workshop to learn more about the Benefits Wayfinder and how it can help support clients seeking access to benefits
  • Connect with other types of programs and services such as health providers, food banks and settlement services, for while you are helping someone identify benefits or file their taxes, you may discover there are other supports that might benefit them.

How do you know when to make a referral? Here are some helpful guidelines.

  • You may want to refer the person to another staff member within your organization who has specific expertise on a particular topic.
  • If another organization has more expertise (i.e., identification attestation) it might be best to refer the community member, so they get the best service possible.
  • If a situation is too complicated, such as an appeal, it may require a referral
  • The community member may require broader supports, such as mental health, immigration, food support, or social assistance.
  • Referrals to banks or credit unions that you know are welcoming can help clients feel more comfortable, and ensure staff understand their specific needs. It might be best to accompany clients to their appointments, if possible, to ensure they are treated well and to help them through the process.
  • If tax situation is more complicated than what a CVITP can handle, a referral to legal aid or a private preparer may be required.

How can you make a successful referral? Read the tips below from our Benefit Navigation Champions.

  • Where possible refer to non-profit service organizations, not private organizations.
  • Build relationships with front line staff from other organizations to share expertise, build trust and ensure the other person will respond when a referral is made.
  • Create a warm hand-off when making referrals. Avoid referral systems and platforms. You can call a referral source while the client is with you or introduce them over Zoom to establish trust.
  • Make sure to ‘close the loop’ wherever possible – follow up with the client and the person you referred them to. Make sure they connected, and that the referral was helpful.
  • Establish connections at banks or credit unions to help support clients who need to open an account. Ensure the person is familiar with the issues your clients face. This will help make clients more comfortable if they are hesitant or unsure about using financial services.