Networking Tips

A Practical Litmus Test for Givers Gain®

Submitted By: Chris Ray, BNI® Cherry City Professionals Salem, OR

The philosophy of Givers Gain® is one that is central to BNI, and a Core Principle that all members agree to uphold.  To many members, however, this principle is little more than an ambiguous idea.  They know it has something to do with “not being selfish” and “giving referrals,” but they struggle to articulate precisely what it means and to know whether or not they are truly embodying the philosophy in their own lives.

What does Givers Gain® mean?

In the book Givers Gain- The BNI Story, Ivan Misner writes that “the central guiding philosophy of BNI has always been the concept of giving benefit to others” (p. 84).  In his 2013 article, “Givers Gain’ Is a Standard, Not a Sword,” he expounds on what Givers Gain® really means:

Givers Gain® is a philosophy based on the law of reciprocity.  In the context of networking groups, people who adopt this philosophy dedicate themselves to giving business to their fellow networkers rather than making their foremost concern getting business for themselves.  In doing so, other people naturally become eager to repay their kindness by sending them business in return.[1]

As BNI members, we commit to uphold the values and traditions of BNI, including Givers Gain®.  But how do we know if we are being successful?  How do we know if we are practicing what we preach, and actually executing on Givers Gain® in our networking activities?  This article contends that there is a litmus test for Givers Gain® already in place that can give us a real measurement of how committed we are to the Givers Gain® philosophy.  This litmus test is commonly referred to as The Power of One and is reflected in the Member Traffic Lights report.

Measuring Commitment to Givers Gain®

The Power of One concept, and the metrics on the Member Traffic Lights Report, call for:

  • 1 Meeting per member per week
  • 1 Referral per member per week
  • 1 One-to-One per member per week
  • 1 Visitor per member per month
  • 1 Chapter Education Unit (CEU) per member per week

As will be explained below, the metrics on the Traffic Lights report are direct indicators on a member’s commitment to the Givers Gain® philosophy.  To the extent that members embrace Givers Gain®, their score on the Member Traffic Lights report will improve, chapters will become more successful, and their Thank You For Closed Business will increase.

Attendance (1 meeting per week)

When a member attends a meeting, they are not only fulfilling the covenant they made when they joined BNI, but they are giving something to their fellow members – their time.  If the Givers Gain® philosophy is one of dedication to giving business to fellow networkers, then attendance at the weekly meeting is critical to success.  It is here that members get to know one another and gain credibility through clearly articulating what makes a good referral for their business.  The member’s time, then, is given to their referral partners so that he/she may learn more about how to give them business.  As members embrace this, they gain from their fellow members’ commitment to the same principle.

If a member is not in good standing concerning attendance, this may indicate a lack of understanding of, or commitment to, the Givers Gain® philosophy.

Referrals (1 referral per week)

When a member gives a quality referral to another member, they are fulfilling the core purpose of BNI and of the Givers Gain® philosophy.  In giving a referral, the member not only gives business, but also gives their trust to the member gaining the referral.  The giving member is trusting the gaining member to treat the referral with respect and to follow through on their commitments.  The referral, then, represents the giving both of business and trust, and represents a willingness to work on behalf of a fellow member to further their success.  As members give quality referrals, they demonstrate their commitment, and they also gain credibility in the eyes of their fellow members, making it easier to gain them referrals.

If a member does not give an average of a referral per week, this may indicate a lack of understanding of, or commitment to, the Givers Gain® philosophy.

One-to-ones (1 One-to-one per week)

When a member has a One-to-one with another member, they are giving their time and expertise for the purpose of growing their partner’s business.  This investment into the referral relationship is a critical piece of helping to contribute to their networking partner’s success.  While the weekly presentations are an important method of learning about a referral partner’s business, they alone are insufficient to build a relationship.  The primary venue for building the deep relationships necessary for success is the one-to-one.  As members give one another their attention, and give one another their time, they make a valuable investment, gaining familiarity, credibility, and relationships that are critical to success.

If a member does not participate in a one-to-one each week, this may indicate a lack of understanding of, or commitment to, the Givers Gain® philosophy.

Visitors (1 visitor per month)

When a member brings a visitor, they are giving to their fellow members, and they are giving to the visitor.  On average, a visitor brings about $1000 of business to a chapter.  If this visitor joins, then the benefit to the chapter is far greater.  By bringing a visitor, then, the member is giving business to their fellow members, giving them a wider audience for their message, and giving them a potential referral partner.  The inviting member then gains credibility with the other members of their chapter because they are actively working to grow their partners’ networks.  Additionally, the member who brings a visitor gives the visitor an opportunity to expand their network, and gains credibility with the visitor and their networking partners.  The growing of a chapter through visitors, the business visitors bring, and the increased visibility having visitors offers to one’s fellow members is an important piece of a chapter’s success.

If a member does not bring a visitor a month, this may indicate a lack of understanding of, or commitment to, the Givers Gain® philosophy.

CEUs (1 CEU per week)

If one has made a commitment to be a networking partner, it stands to reason that they would want to be the best networker they could be.  When a member educates themselves on being a better networker, or better BNI member, they give their time and energy for the sake of those they network with.  As a member learns to network more effectively, they gain credibility in all their networks, and they can leverage that credibility to give more and better referrals, encourage others to be part of BNI, and build goodwill in the professional communities they are a part of.

If a member does not educate themselves with at least one CEU per week, this may indicate a lack of understanding of, or commitment to, the Givers Gain® philosophy.


BNI members commit to the Givers Gain® philosophy, whereby they work to give business to their fellow networkers, trusting in the principle of reciprocity for the growth of their own business.  By measuring members’ giving of their time through meeting attendance and one-to-ones, their trust through referrals, their commitment to chapter growth through inviting visitors, and their commitment to personal growth through CEUs, the Traffic Lights report serves as a litmus test for whether a member is committed to the Givers Gain® philosophy.

Chris Ray is Business Development Officer for Willamette Community Bank, and Mentor Coordinator for the Cherry City Professionals BNI chapter in Salem, Oregon. He has a diverse business background, including banking, consumer electronics and sale training. Chris is a Board Member for The Salvation Army of Marion and Polk Counties, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education in Christian Leadership from Liberty University.

Chris Ray

BNI Cherry City Professionals
Salem, OR





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