Networking Tips

Chapter Goal Setting for Leadership Teams: One Size Does Not Fit All

Submitted by Sara Minnis, BNI Fast Track, del Fuego Companies

As a Leadership Team, one of the most important functions you will execute throughout your term is setting and tracking goals for your chapter. Pretty much everyone has been exposed to goal setting in their BNI chapter, business and life. For some reason most of us keep setting goals, even though it’s common that we don’t achieve them outright. For most of us, this reduces the impact of goals significantly. So, let’s take a look at the real reasons so many goals go unaccomplished, and then we’ll look in detail at three types of chapters, and the specific types of goals that we have found most effective for each one.

First, let’s review what happens in many chapters as new leadership comes on board, to give us a good starting perspective. Many Leadership Teams set goals because they are “supposed to” — it’s part of their job. And often the “supposed to” goals are simple percentages for improvement. For example, “we want to double our membership” and “triple our revenue”. Now, that type of goal sounds great, and it feels pretty good when you inform the membership. There’s a short burst of camaraderie and excitement in the room. But over time that enthusiasm slowly slides off the table, because there wasn’t a plan to make it happen. Plus, the goal was often set for the members, not with the members. Basically, with no buy-in and only vague ideas about the behaviors which could help them actually reach those goals, members lose momentum as the reality of achievement drifts further and further away.

Let’s set a common framework so we have a shared understanding about goals. In its best form, a goal is a target to aim for, that you can measure, and that fits the particular audience or individual for whom it is created. Goals that work are essentially designed to produce the behaviors needed for success. Goals are intended to be achieved. So, when you set a goal for your chapter and your membership, you have the chance to help them realize a more prosperous future, mold the behaviors needed to get there and build the culture needed to stay there.

How do you decide what goals are best for your group?

Goal Setting Based on the BNI Chapter Lifecycle

Effective goal setting relates meaningfully to the Chapter Lifecycle. Each stage in the Chapter Lifecycle benefits best from different types of goals, because there are different chapter characteristics and dynamics occurring at each stage. Let’s take a quick peek at the Chapter Lifecycle, and then we’ll explore the specifics of goal setting for each type of chapter.

Not sure which stage your chapter is in? Check out our previous SuccessNet article to get started.

BNI Build & Grow: Best Practice Goals Build the Team

You know your chapter is in the Build & Grow stage if it’s up to five or so years old, still very active in all things BNI, continuing to add qualified members regularly, growing individual revenue for members and attracting the right new members with a thriving chapter culture.

In this kind of chapter, goals should help members put best practices into place so that their BNI business team is developed with a solid foundation. Let’s look in detail at some of the possibilities.

  1. Revenue and Referral Goals. These can be set by individual members, and this is a powerful exercise that allows members to see with their real numbers what’s possible in BNI. In Fast Track chapters, these are set at the beginning of the program and then tracked weekly to keep tabs on how members are doing. The goal here is to reduce the close ratio of referral to sale. What reduces that? All the great BNI principles and techniques! Think Target Market, where are you in the VCP Process© with members, Sales Manager Minute/Weekly Presentation, Time Confidence Curve and GAINS Exchange. Seeing their referral close ratio drop as they sharpen these skills is very exciting for members! 
    Suggested Activity: Make sure members have a true Revenue and Referral Goal that includes how much money they want to make and how many referrals it will take to get there. This is their activity meter for success! Then all the members’ goals can be added up to form the overall Chapter Revenue and Referral Goal. This makes the Revenue and Referral Goal a true team building cornerstone for the chapter, and when you track it over time and encourage the behaviors needed to achieve the goal, you’ve got a home run!
  2. Building the Winning Team. This goal is focused on chapter growth and building the team that will help all your members reach their goals. Yes, all entrepreneurs can benefit from BNI. Nevertheless, each chapter will win the most by selecting the right professions or industries to join, which will serve to accelerate referrals. Be choosy and committed to finding the right fit. Every chapter is different in terms of which members (and professions) are the best to add at any given time. Hint: What professions would make your Power Teams stronger or help you to create new Power Teams? 
    Suggested Activity: Be strategic with who you invite and who you ask to join. Ensure that the member professions and your growth goals are achievable. We suggest aiming for a minimum of four to five new members at a time, plus what you would account for in attrition. Steady, organic growth produces long-term results and long-term members.
  3. Create the Culture. In a Build & Grow group, this is a fun way to recognize and encourage the behaviors that help everyone reach their goals, and that serve to establish a thriving chapter culture. Member-by-member, as you celebrate the behaviors you want to see, everyone takes notice of what’s expected… and your culture will flourish. 
    Suggested Activity: Choose a behavior you want to increase. Some examples include: number of one-to-ones with members resulting in referrals, most easily understood Target Market, best inviting member, and most referrals for a Power Team. You can also utilize group competitions that run every six weeks or so, to focus on these areas. Remember, what you celebrate and recognize increases! For most impactful results, choose areas that affect one-to-ones, increased referrals, and increased membership.

BNI Plus (Disneyland): Stretch for Big Goals to Keep the Excitement & Money Growing

You will know your chapter is a BNI Plus chapter if it is five years old or more, has had a fairly stable membership of at least thirty to thirty-five members for a period of time, has mature referral relationships among members, and is successful in terms of traffic lights and TYFCB. Of course, this kind of chapter can also get a little too comfortable, and when that happens you’ll begin to notice smaller increases in revenue (both per member and in the chapter overall), pockets of big producers and others who make very little revenue, and plateaued visitor numbers and member growth.

This chapter feels good to most members, so goals can almost seem like an unnecessary burden to those who are seasoned, successful and content. A great comment from one of our Leadership Teams on the Fast Track describes this challenge: “Complacency is the enemy of success.” Another way to think about it, which is indicative of why different goals are so crucial, is this: “It takes something different to stay at the top of the mountain than it took to get there.”

Let’s look at the type of goals that can help this group stay alive and thrive, not plateau and slip.

  1. Think BIG. This is a group that will benefit from a stretch goal. This is a goal that seems a little bigger than possible. We don’t often recommend stretch goals, because it can be demoralizing when they aren’t achieved, and they are often unrealistic for chapters who aren’t in this stage. But for BNI Plus chapters, stretch goals can really serve to pull the group onward and upward!
    Suggested Activity: On an individual basis, focus on an increase in referral partners and revenue. You can focus on gaining two or three more referrals in each referral relationship, or ask members to start creating a referral relationship with their most “unlikely” referral partner in the chapter. This is a fun one, and demonstrates the true power of BNI.  On a chapter basis, set a total revenue goal that is still based on the total of the member’s Revenue and Referral Goal, plus a bit more. It should have a big feel to it. Many chapters do this the first time they become a million dollar chapter. After that, the Leadership Team needs to decide what other goal feels big, but is achievable. Goals that are too big quickly go by the wayside. So go big, but keep it doable and measurable.
  2. Strategic Growth with the Right New Members. This group can also benefit from goals that build a thriving team culture. This means building the chapter culture that attracts the type of member you want. When you are building this kind of culture, think of goals centered on Power Team development and success. However, don’t get too hyper-focused on Power Teams – members should still be encouraged to develop relationships with the rest of the chapter. When you combine Power Team focus with integrating all of your members into one big Power Team, your chapter gets fundamentally stronger in the long run. 
    Suggested Activity. Think about your Power Teams. What new members and professions would amplify their success? Are there members without Power Teams, and could the chapter help create new ones around them? To balance the Power Team activity, have a competition for which Power Team passes the most referrals outside of their team. Or, which Power Team generates the most money for members not on their team.
  3. Make Attitude-Attitude-Attitude the Cultural Standard. Another aspect of building chapter culture is to stay focused on shaping that winning combination of Attitude at the Leadership Team level, Attitude at the member level, and Attitude in the invited guests. Nothing demonstrates success like happy, energized members making money. Are your current members displaying the BNI traits that help to attract new, dynamic visitors and members on a consistent basis? What kind of visitors are you attracting? Are you being choosy when selecting new members, or are you accepting every application? 
    Suggested Activity: Have an Attitude Meter on a board visible to all members, and rate attitude on a weekly basis. You could also appoint an Attitude Mascot. Reward positive attitudes with fun prizes. Have a good time with this!
  4. Fun Competition Breeds Success. In BNI Plus chapters, frequent initiatives like little competitions and random recognition keep the group on fire. What you want to do is recognize the behaviors you intend to encourage and increase among all members. Also, don’t forget to celebrate members even when they don’t expect it. Random recognition inspires members to make the best BNI behaviors natural and habitual. 
    Suggested Activity: Here are a few ideas you can start with, and the key is to make it meaningful for your chapter and your members. Think about fun little prizes you could present to the winners.
    1. Never Texts During the Meeting
    1. Best Target Market Specification
    1. Always 1st to Greet Visitors
    1. Passionately Passed the Most Referrals
    1. Can Be Counted On for Anything 

BNI Lite: Think Recovery Goals to Get Back on Track

If your chapter has reached this stage, either from a slow decline as a previously big and happy chapter, or from never really getting an effective lift-off in the beginning and continuously struggling to retain members, the good news is that you can build up from here to stable and consistent success. The most important step is to reach alignment throughout the chapter that everyone is committed to do what it takes to grow, and to do it with incredible energy and fun! We have seen many very, very (very!) small chapters take on the challenge to grow and make it. It was the commitment, dedication, and energy for the effort that laid the foundation.

Then, once alignment is in place, the key for these chapters is to establish small, step-by-step goals attached to specific activities for each member. The consistent effort of a small, dedicated group of individuals has the power to build back the team. They often end up with excellent, thriving chapters because they established particularly healthy chapter habits and dynamics in the rebuild. Below are some examples of goals to focus on at this stage.

  1. Yes, You Must Grow. Member growth for the chapter is the most immediate priority for BNI Lite. But the key to make it happen is to ensure it’s doable – you don’t just need a growth goal, you need bite-size chunks attached to specific activities for everyone. When the goals are small enough, they really feel and are possible. You need the opposite of stretch goals at this phase. When the goals are attainable and they are being met, members see the growth happening and become even more motivated to stay the course. Then the energy starts to build on itself and magic happens. Think of your chapter like a little engine – you will start by experiencing short spurts of energy and accomplishment, and eventually you’ll reach a powerful, sustainable hum! 
    Suggested Activity: If the chapter has slipped below twenty members, think of adding members in increments of two or three at a time with sequential stack days. Assign teams to work together on inviting. We have found there is often more accountability and synergy when they do. Goals for member growth could be something like, “Let’s add three new members in the next six weeks.” Remember, depending on conversion rates and chapter dynamics, this can mean actually asking up to twenty-five people to arrive at these three new members. Then take a breather, assimilate the new folks, and do another six week run for another three members. Within three months, you will have added six members! We have seen this strategic approach work many times in our Fast Track Visitor Experience Program.
  2. Keep Morale High. One of the most important areas to focus on in BNI Lite chapters is keeping the morale high, and encouraging members to keep the faith. Setting and reaching small goals helps with this, so that members can have some wins. In addition, many times when chapters have lost members and are feeling small, they forget all the intangibles that belonging to a great business team offers. To keep the fires burning, you can highlight some of those softer outcomes that members are experiencing. It helps everyone to focus on the positive. 
    Suggested Activity: Have each member think about three things that belonging to the chapter has offered them. Tell them to be prepared to share these with the group. Choose two or three members each week to share – you can draw cards from a hat or just call on people. Some examples might include: “I have a group of people that care about me,” “Knowing the challenges that other members face helps me understand this is a normal part of growing a business,” “I’ve had really good advice about my business from members here”, or “Just having this meeting to come to is a big factor in my commitment to my success.” Big Hint: Visitors love to hear these things, which they may not have thought about, but can often be the tipping point in deciding to join your group!
  3. Ask for Support from Others. Consider asking for help in the form of inspiration, tips, and advice from other chapters. Do you know of other chapters in your region who are building and growing or experiencing BNI Disneyland? Talk to your Director and other members in your region. Invite other chapters to become part of your chapter’s success. The fundamental philosophy of BNI is Givers Gain – and this is a great opportunity for bigger, successful chapters to give back and support their region as a whole. Don’t be afraid to ask others to take your chapter under their wing, help you with visitors, and illuminate your chapter’s future and what’s possible in BNI! 
    Suggested Activity: Choose two or three (or more) chapters, and have different members visit them and report back on what they experienced and how you could replicate some of those aspects in your own chapter. You could also request targeted support from other chapters with inviting visitors. Remember to be specific about the type of members and professions that would make your chapter strongest right now. Many times chapters who are large and successful have their chairs filled, but they are great at inviting for you, because they are experiencing BNI Success NOW!

So, there you have it — different goals for different stages in the BNI Chapter Lifecycle. If you’re not sure which stage your chapter is in, click here for a checklist we created to help you decide. We also did a resource call on this topic, and you can click here to listen to the recording.

As we close out this article, we have some final tips for you on chapter goal setting. We’ve learned a few things after working with hundreds of chapters and Leadership Teams over the last ten years:

  • With all goals, the more specific they are, the easier it is to measure progress and adjust the targets as needed;
  • Keep goals front and center each week. We know chapters that create and display Goal Boards always achieve more;
  • If you are not making progress on your goals, make a plan that helps you adjust your goal to an achievable one;
  • When you tie goals to the activities that work to accomplish them, you can always increase or decrease the activity to make progress toward the goal.

Here’s an example of how easy it is to adjust when your goals are tied to activities. Let’s say your goal is to have five visitors at your next meeting. You think that you need to invite twenty visitors to get five to attend, because you guess that one person will attend for every four people you invite. However, you find out that you invite twenty visitors and only two attend. That means your ratio is not what you thought, so you will need to invite ten visitors for one to show up.  Adjust the number of your invites, and meet your goal! Once activity is associated, goals become part of real-world formulas, not “pie in the sky” thinking.

We have one last piece of information for you, and it’s one of our favorite anecdotes about goal setting. Did you know that all planes are consistently straying off course between their destinations? It’s true, due to all kinds of factors like wind and weather. It is the pilot’s job to track the progress toward the target and adjust as necessary to bring the plane back on course. The goal stays the same, but the behavior can always adjust. When you are on the Leadership Team, you are the pilot for your chapter. When you apply smart, targeted goal setting and you expect to track and adjust behavior as you go, you will reach your destination!

Questions about your chapter or how to make the most of your term on the Leadership Team? Feel free to contact Sara Minnis directly at or 512-736-8716.

You can also visit our website at for more information and free resources for all BNI members.



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