Priscilla: Hello everybody and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast. I’m Priscilla Rice and I’m coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, CA. I’m joined on the phone today by the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello, Ivan, how are you doing today?
Ivan: I am fantastic, Priscilla. And I’m really pleased to say that my beautiful bride of 30 years is my guest today, Elisabeth Misner. Elisabeth is the Co-Founder of the BNI Foundation and she travels with me all over the world speaking to audiences in BNI and other audiences about Cause Networking and the BNI Foundation’s Business Voices program. A lot of people don’t know this about Elisabeth, but first of all, she was a BNI member and joined BNI in 1986. It was the best referral I ever got. We’ve been married, as I mentioned, for 30 years but in the early days of BNI she was really active in the organization in terms of helping to create our manuals and at one point she ran the largest BNI region for the organization. She was our first Director of Marketing. So she knows the history of this organization well and better than anyone else other than possibly me. It’s really great to have her on. We started the BNI Foundation together 21 years ago. Elisabeth, welcome to the BNI Podcast!
Elisabeth: Yes, thank you so much, Ivan. Hi, Priscilla!
Priscilla: Hi, Beth! How are you?
Elisabeth: I’m excellent. Thank you.
Ivan : So, Elisabeth, most people know Cause Marketing is, but talk about Cause Marketing and Cause Networking. What’s the difference?
Elisabeth: Cause Marketing is a strategy that companies use to market themselves and create their brand awareness by their own social activism by adopting a particular cause and becoming known in the community, whatever their community is- whether it’s locally or internationally or online by focusing on serving in that area. It’s very well known and most companies have some type of Cause Marketing that they are involved with and they let you know about it. For example, if you stand in front of a refrigerator of bottled water, you’re going to find several bottled waters that are involved in Cause Marketing and they are going to be advertising that on the labels of their products. I mean you and I (Ivan) have traveled the world and we’ve seen billboards with companies saying “we value education” or “we like to buy books” or whatever their cause is. So it’s really a way to say, “We are here and we care about more than just the bottom dollar. We are interested in people and the planet and we want to make a difference in the community.” I think that the way our world is going that it is expected that almost every company has some type of Cause Marketing as part of their social consciousness and social awareness.
Ivan: And we saw that is 1998 when we created the BNI Foundation which focuses on children and education. I love how you do a spin on Cause Marketing to call it Cause Networking because we are the world’s largest networking organization.
Elisabeth: That’s right! So with the terminology of Cause Networking, we are looking to bring awareness to a slightly different approach to social justice and social activism by working together and doing what we do best at BNI. We are after all, all of us the members, the directors, and of course everyone involved with BNI, we are the world‘s best networkers. So, when it comes to doing some type of Cause Networking, we are looking at what are the needs in the community and how can we network with our own circle of contacts to help those needs be met and we’re giving the example of our own movement in the BNI Foundation which we call Business Voices. With our Cause Networking strategies, we are going to local schools as BNI chapters and BNI members in these Business Voices Teams and we are saying to the school, “How can we help you?” And the school will come back and say, “Well, our website looks horrible, we need a new website. We’ve got these banners hanging on the school that have been their for 20 years that need to be freshened up. We need yard work done, we need to have a campus beatification project done.” And as BNI we are going back out to our chapter and to our community to say, “Here are the needs. Let’s network among ourselves and get together and have a group of people come in and address these needs.” So, Cause Networking is we are finding what the needs are and then working in our network to help make those things happen for the charities.
Ivan: BNI is not a service club but years ago we recognized- there was a great book called “Conscious Capitalism” and another book called “We First” and we recognized even before those books came out, the importance of contributing back into the communities from which we draw. We saw chapters doing things like this. What we are talking about here is doing those kinds of things under the umbrella of Business Voices so that we have one voice that gets heard more effectively globally. Would you agree with that assessment?
Elisabeth: Absolutely. So in this way we are able to unite with the entire global membership of BNI and creat a heightened brand awareness for BNI in a local community. When you have enough Business Voices projects going on in a community and in some BNI regions there is one project a month. The people in your community know about BNI, they are interested and curious about what this referral organization that’s also plug here in the community helping schools, helping student, and helping teachers. They are naturally going to be curious an drawn to our business networking above all other competitors we may have out there because we are doing what we call “givers gain”, that is our philosophy in BNI and we are doing it out in our community, too. It’s powerful.
Ivan: So, I am a business guy. How does this improve retention and increase membership?
Elisabeth: Excellent question. We are a referral organization that predominately works through building and growing relationships. So when you are involved in projects relating to charities outside of the regular chapter meeting from whatever time it stars or the 90 minutes you are meeting runs, you are growing closer with each other. You are bonding at a very high level because when you are involved in projects that tug at the heart the way our Business Voices projects do, you really develop a close type with fellow members. So when it is time to renew your membership, you are going to be renewing your membership because, as you go deeper in those relationships, you are also going to be getting better referrals and able to give better referrals. Your loyalty to the brand, to the chapter, and to the members of your chapter escalates and also the amount of business that you are going to be able to do in your own BNI chapter and cross-chapter, if you are in a region that is doing cross-chapter Business Voices projects, that is only going to go up.
We have seen Business Voices teams that are so strong that people are joining BNI because they are hearing about it in the community and saying, “Hey, what’s this? I want to be a part of what you guys are doing because you are special. This is really special.” And so the rest is win-win-win all the way around.
Ivan: It is. I want to do a shout out to BNI Italy because they have done amazing things with Business Voices throughout the country and it’s very impressive.
So some of the long term benefits would be getting members engaged in the BNI Foundation through Business Voices and that gets them engaged in the local community, that increases retention, and that actually increases membership.
Elisabeth:And there’s a price benefit because the children we are making these impacts on, are being exposed to BNI and as they grow older and begin to have their own businesses, they are going to be looking for BNI. So, we are in truth having a powerful impact on our future members.
Ivan: You know, that’s a really good point. I’ve already seen multi-generational engagement in BNI. A parent who had a child is in BNI, and that child has a child, and that child who their grandchildren is now involved in the organization. That’s a legitimate point, not many people think about that.
Elisabeth: I think we are going to see BNI members who are investing in mentoring and bringing young people into internships then that’s going to parlay into that young child or young man/woman becoming a member of BNI as well.
Ivan: Very true. So how do people get involved in Business Voices or active in the BNI Foundation?
Elisabeth: The best way is to go to BNIFoundation.org and you will see several tabs on the top of the website. You can read about Business Voices and there’s a “Take Action” button and you can click on to start a Business Voices initiative. It’ll give you step-by-step on how to plug in and how to participate. And we do want you to connect with us so we can provide coaching and we can provide mentoring, we are planning to pair up Business Voices teams so you’ll have a sister team that you can be working with and help you get it started every step of the way.
Ivan: Can you just spend a moment talking about the difference between Business Voices and the BNI Foundation? Because Business Voices in a initiative of the BNI Foundation. I want to make sure we clarify for those listening.
Elisabeth: That’s right. Business Voices is our flagship program. We do a grant program as well that we call “the givers gain grant program.” And then we do Business Voices program. That’s where the rubber hits the road. We are putting together teams in the name of the BNI Foundation and under the umbrella of the BNI Foundation to do the BNI Foundation’s work of improving tomorrow’s business by education today by putting these groups together, going out to the schools, other organizations and saying, ‘How can we help you?” It’s really our program. There are other organization like the Susan G Komen Foundation that have a program that is very well known called “Race For The Cure” in the United States, that’s really similar to what we are doing with Business Voices as our program within the BNI Foundation. So, the BNI Foundation is the actual Non-prophet entity and then Business Voices is what we do.
Ivan: Well, Elisabeth, the (BNI) Foundation wouldn’t be what it is without your input. You have really built an amazing foundation that has impacted children all around the world. I really appreciate you and I appreciate what you’ve done- and of course you’ve made a huge difference in BNI itself. I love having you as an active part in the organization. Thanks for being on BNI Podcast today. For anyone that wants anymore information, go to BNIFoundation.org. You can read about the Foundation and click on “Contact Us.” I believe that you are going to see more and more in BNI about our Foundation, our charitable arm. I believe that giving back to the local communities is good for business and that’s what we are trying to do with this. Elisabeth, thank you so much!
Elisabeth: Thank you!
Priscilla: Okay, that’s great. Thank you, Elisabeth, that was wonderful!
I think that is it for this week. I just want to mention that this podcast has a new sponsor. Go check out the great content available at www.IvansInnerCircle.com where Ivan has assembled a wide array of topics and you are invited to participate! Thank you so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice and we look forward to having you join us again next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.