Submitted by Daniel Messmer, AFA Academy of LowCountry, BNI Okatie Referral Givers, BNI South Carolina and NE Georiga
I joined BNI at the end of July last year in 2016. Our Chapter chartered in September as a Hall of Fame Chapter. I had doubts about BNI when I joined, as I didn’t see how BNI would work for a nonprofit or as a business person. In fact, I wasn’t very engaging of a speaker, as I was nervous and didn’t think I was on the same level as many of these business people in the room. However, one thing I learned from Ron Kirby, our Chapter Area Director and now my mentor, was that BNI will give us the tools to succeed, but it was up to us to build relationships.
Well it wasn’t until October 2016 after Hurricane Matthew wrecked havoc on our area that my life turned around. Three days after the hurricane I got involved with Samaritan’s Purse. I stayed behind as I was trained in Community Emergency Response Training (CERT Certified) and wanted to be here for our community. While doing this, I started opening up about what I was doing and started realizing I was networking without even realizing it. I was giving referrals while helping. That’s when I realize how BNI was going to help me.
Since Matthew, I have done over 400 One-to-Ones, passed over 100 referrals and completed over 200 Continuing Education Units. I took the responsibility of Visitor Host role in September, but after the hurricane decided to be more involved, and since then my chapter has embraced me. Now the new Leadership Team has entrusted me to be the Education Coordinator – me, the guy who a year ago felt he had nothing to offer in BNI.
What set me apart from many others is we have 21 chapters, soon to be 22, in this area, and I have been to 17 of them. My One-to-Ones are directed at those who I wanted to learn from, those who could help grow and evolve. I chose Director Consultants, Ambassadors, Leadership, business people and veteran BNI Members.
Why, you may ask? Well easy who better to learn from. Who better to help me understand or give me some pointers. Now people come to me which is a great feeling. I visit other chapters and now several want to tag along with me. I’m trying to explain to everyone that if your seat is open in another chapter then use that opportunity to grow your business. Also to learn how other chapters operate and possibly take that info back toward our own chapter.
Strangely AFA, my nonprofit, is still a work in progress as I’m trying to open our academy, but money has been slow. Members support my fundraisers by donating, sponsoring, participating or volunteering. Many know I work for free until we open so now members are diligently trying to help me make this a reality. Problem is families here don’t have private insurance, as they rely on Medicaid which doesn’t pay much. Our tuition is $36,000 per individual, which most insurance pays 100 percent. My goal is serve my community here in the Hilton Head area and in the Savannah area, as for me Givers Gain is about giving back.
One in 68 are born with Autism and there is no cure, but with therapies we can help give these kids the resources they need. I know this well, as I’m a father of two on the Spectrum. Fortunately for me someone did this for my kids so it’s my turn to give back.
On that note, please give back to your community as that is what Givers Gain is all about. Having a nonprofit in your chapter will bring your chapter closer together like mine and several of the others we have here. Nonprofits have to be engaged in the chapter, as we rely on all of you to help us grow. The difference is you all are very much apart of this.
I would I join BNI again if I had to do it all over. BNI has helped me in so many with the tools to succeed, the confidence and most of all the relationships and friendships I have made.
Thank you for everything BNI has done for me and I hope I can do you proud by making AFA Academy of the LowCountry a reality, so together all of us can help these families and their kids for a better tomorrow. This to me is the true meaning of Givers Gain.
I’m so proud to be a member of BNI.