From the Founder

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Politics and Religion in BNI

By: Ivan Misner, Ph.D
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    From the Founder

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    Ivan Misner, Ph.D

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BNI has a long history of staying out of politics and religion.  Here’s why:

Before I did my graduate work in Organizational Behavior, I received a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science!  Yes, Political Science (go figure).  I was very interested in politics and am still interested in the topic – I just do NOT discuss it in BNI.  Why?  Because it gets our eyes off the ball; it takes us away from BNI’s mission. 

Our mission is “to help members increase their business through a structured, positive, and professional ‘referral marketing’ program that enables them to develop long-term meaningful relationships with quality professionals.”  (Givers Gain® The BNI Story, Chapter 10.)

One of the reasons BNI is the largest, most successful business networking organization in the world is that we have been adamant about staying on mission.  Anything that takes us away from our mission is a distraction and there is no bigger set of distractions to a referral organization than religion and politics.

I’ve been a registered voter since I was 18 years old (and have voted in every major U.S. election since then).  I have been active in a church most of my life.  Neither of these points are appropriate for me to impose on BNI members by discussing my opinions or political/religious affiliations.  I have, throughout my life, been very involved in many local, state, and national political campaigns.   I also have well established religious beliefs.  However, unless you know me really well – you don’t know what my political or religious views are.  Why? Because it is not appropriate for me to espouse those views in BNI even though I am the Founder.

I understand that there are political and sometimes religious issues that we may be considerably wound up about—I certainly have some.  However, BNI is not the place to air these discussions because they are almost always ‘divisive.’  It takes our eyes off of what the purpose of the organization is, namely – referrals based on professional relationships.   This is one of the reasons we don’t have outside speakers in BNI.  They generally want to sell a product or service OR they want to promote some political or civic position.  If they want to sell something they should join a chapter.  If they want to promote a political or religious position, they need to speak somewhere else—BNI is not the right venue.

BNI operates in countries where almost every religion in the world is practiced.  We are in countries that represent virtually every political system in the world.  We couldn’t do that effectively if we weren’t focused on one thing, and one thing only – helping business people get more business through referrals.

We are proud of our emerging legacy of bringing people together.  People who, in their country, may have contentious political and religious positions – yet in BNI, they focus on the mission of relationships and referrals. 

This doesn’t mean that members are apolitical.  I am sure that many have strong political and religious beliefs.  It just doesn’t belong in a meeting.

If you want to stay on mission – stay off the topics of religion and politics at BNI meetings.  But, really, shouldn’t we all know that already?