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Business Network International (BNI) is an American franchised networking organization with around 200,000 members in 7,500 local chapters worldwide. Members meet regularly to discuss business and support each other’s businesses by sharing referrals. It claims to be the world’s leading ‘referral organization’.In 2015, the organization says its members generated referrals resulting in over $9.3 billion in closed business worldwide. BNI was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner.3
Local BNI chapters arrange regular meetings for people from various industries and encourage the passing of referrals. It appears most effective for locally based, mainstream businesses, operating mostly off the Internet.
- Each chapter allows one person per occupational classification, and prospective members must be approved.
- Members are expected to focus on giving referrals to other members to build relationships and receive referrals in return.
- BNI draws a distinction between a “referral” and a “lead.” A lead is contact information for a prospect for a member’s business, while a referral occurs only when the prospect has already expressed interest in the business in question, and is ready to be contacted by the referred BNI member.
- Chapters enforce rules such as requiring attendance at (most) meetings.
- Chapters track the monetary amount of passed business in order to prove the value of the financial and time commitment.
- Members pay a one-off joining fee, an annual membership fee, and a weekly meeting fee to cover room hire and refreshments.
- Number of chapters: 7,540 (as of May 2016)
- Number of members: 200,000
- Total annual value of referrals: 7.7 million referrals, resulting in US$9.3 billion worth of business