A Surprising Business Referral Source – Nonprofit Organizations by Dr. Ivan Misner

When it comes to effective business networking, we sometimes have to go beyond the obvious and look for new and different connections. Which leads to this question: Can a director of a nonprofit organization be one of your best referral sources? The answer is YES, they certainly can.

In a typical nonprofit, the board of directors is made up of many of the most influential people in the community. The people that you meet in and around a nonprofit organization also tend to have a service mindset.


The executive director of a large nonprofit typically has a huge network with many movers and shakers among their contacts in the business and philanthropic world. Remember – nonprofits need referrals, too. They depend on donations, and their donors, which are often large corporations, usually have a significant amount of business to give out. Among other services, nonprofit groups are some of the biggest purchasers of training, coaching, and consulting in the world, because they recruit a lot of nonprofessional volunteers to do their work.

Build Relationships Before Asking for Referrals

Remember, networking is about farming, not about hunting; you want to cultivate business relationships with the board of directors and members of the organization. You must build a solid foundation by giving and helping, by showing that you genuinely care about the cause and the community that the nonprofit serves.

This will assure that you avoid “premature solicitation” – asking for a sale or referral from someone who doesn’t even know who you are, or someone with whom there is no relationship. Investing your time to build solid relationships is essential for networking success in any organization.

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As you build those relationships, you can also invite key members of the nonprofit organization to visit your business networking group, whether the meetings are in-person or online. Nonprofits can be very effective and very successful in established networking groups such as BNI®.

Yes, a director of a nonprofit organization can be a good and surprising referral source for a business. Getting involved with, and even serving on a nonprofit’s board of directors not only lets you contribute to your community and make deposits into your social capital account, it can also bring you opportunities to form high-value friendships and business relationships that can result in high-value referrals for you and your company.

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