How to Build a Strong Referral Network
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How to Build a Strong Referral Network

November 23, 2009

A strong network of community-based partners can help to extend your reach as you try to find and enroll people in public benefit programs. But how do you build a solid network that you can count on for quality referrals? We'll share with you how Elder Law of Michigan leveraged existing partnerships and reached out to new organizations, all as part of an effort to create an ever-expanding network that delivers a steady stream of referrals!

Who was the target audience?

Community-based partner organizations that reach seniors with limited incomes.

What did they do?

Elder Law of Michigan (ELM), a Legal Aid agency and a National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment grantee, decided to promote their benefit screening and enrollment services to organizations that routinely come into contact with low-income seniors.

They knew that in order to increase enrollments in benefit programs statewide, they would need to rely on a strong partner network for referrals.

Their referral network-building activities included the following:

  • Mailing a letter of introduction to existing referral agencies as well as to all statewide Area Agencies on Aging, Legal Aid organizations, Community Action Councils, state legislators, and senior centers. This letter served to introduce ELM and their benefit screening and application services. The letter also welcomed referrals and direct calls from clients that needed assistance.
  • Providing an email blurb to any organization that wanted to further promote ELM’s services in their own newsletters and/or flyers. The call to action was simple: “It’s easy to get help! Call the Legal Hotline at (800) 347-5297 to speak with a benefits counselor.”
  • E-mailing newsletters that promoted ELM’s benefit screening and application services to existing referral agencies/potential referral agencies on a monthly basis.
  • Providing flyers about ELM’s services existing to referral agencies/potential referral agencies that these agencies could distribute directly to clients. Such flyers also included the simple call to action described above.

What was the result?

ELM discovered that during the 3 months following the initial introductory mailing, the number of callers that needed assistance and who heard about the program through one of these agencies increased over 500%.

Additionally, the number of new clients contacting ELM for assistance increased sharply. In one month alone, ELM saw over an 80% increase in the number of new clients. ELM attributes their success to the strong letter of introduction that they mailed to a comprehensive list of existing and potential partners, the simple call to action and the supporting activities (such as the monthly newsletters and flyers) that served to strengthen awareness of ELM’s benefit screening and enrollment services.

For more information

Keith Morris
Elder Law of Michigan
3815 West St. Joseph
Suite C200
Lansing, MI 48917
(517) 485-9164


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