BNI International – Business Networking and Referrals

With over 200,000 members in 7,500 plus chapters worldwide, Business Network International (BNI) is the world’s leading referral organization. In 2015 alone, BNI members generated millions of referrals resulting in over $9.3 billion in closed business worldwide. BNI was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner “for the primary purpose of building powerful referral networks”.

Chapter format

The BNI organization works by creating a group of people from various industries and encouraging regular passing of referrals.

  • Each chapter allows one person per occupational classification, and prospective members must be approved via an application process.
  • BNI’s philosophy is “Givers Gain” – 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 have specific rules regarding required attendance in order to cultivate the relationships needed to create a comfort level in referring business.
  • Chapters track the monetary amount of passed business in order to prove the value of the financial and time commitment.


  • Number of chapters: over 7,540 (as of May 2016)
  • Number of members: 200000
  • Total annual value of referrals: 7.7 million referrals, resulting in $9.3 billion (USD) worth of business

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