Best business networking groups in Fife – Reviewed

We are on a mission to navigate the minefield that are networking groups across Scotland. We want to help you find the right networking group for you without spending hours looking it up or wasting precious time trying them out when you can be working on your business. That isn’t to say you can’t go and try them out, it’s completely down to you how you get a feel for things and choose the right one for you.

We’re going to start with my homeland which is good ol’ Fife. We’ve got your back Fifers!

Now, this review has to be absolutely fair and we have rules and criteria. I do all my research on my computer and only use Google to find the groups. We’ll be taking a deeper look into their websites as well as their social media. We’ll provide all the links to these and all the information is freely available to you. We don’t include paid ads in these reviews, this is to give you the most honest and accurate information and the best way is through organic search results. 

Business Gateway will not be included in this review as their main focus is workshops. Of course, you can network at a workshop, and chances are you’ll find a lot in common with the businesses that attend these workshops. Business Gateway also provides a list of local networking groups that you can check out here.

As a final note, I haven’t personally attended these networking groups. I’m doing this research based on you, “the buyer”, looking for the right service based on online research.

Guidelines for reviewing Fife business networking

The criteria I asked our own community – small to medium-sized businesses with a range of years and experience of networking – what the top 3 factors they would take into consideration when looking for a networking group. Here are the most popular that we will use as criteria for reviewing each group:

  1. Consistency of meeting
  2. The structure of the meetings
  3. How much it costs
  4. The type of businesses that attend
  5. The benefits

I’ve gone for 5 factors to give you a more accurate and well-rounded review of each business networking group in the Fife area.

We’re not including – I won’t be including CMA in these reviews as that wouldn’t make the review fair. 

My own personal opinion – These reviews will be based upon my own personal opinion based on the research I have completed. 

Let’s get to it 🙂

What are the best networking groups in Fife?

In no particular order, we’ll be reviewing:

BNI (Carnegie)

You might already be familiar with BNI (Business Networking International). They have groups (or what they call chapters) all over the UK with the Fife group situating itself in Dunfermline. 

This group isn’t a turn-up and enjoy the vibes and the free biscuits kind of event. It is a referral group. So you’ll be pitching your business so that others can refer you to others and you’ll need to refer them to people you know too.

First of all, you’re going to need a membership with them.

I went hunting for the price of the membership because these things are good to know. If you’re like me, I don’t like going chasing people for the price of something. But I’m doing it right now for you to save you the hassle in the future. 

Now, I had a look at the Dunfermline section on their website and there was no pricing there. So I figured it would be on their main website. 

I’m sorry to disappoint but no pricing there either, but they sure as hell laid out all the rules of your membership for you. Good to know. 

But I’m not giving up, I dug a little deeper and came across the BNI South Cheshire’s website. it looks like these guys have set up their website separate from the main BNI website. Good move if they want to be found locally and have more control over their content.

Hurrah! We have some pricing. BNI South Cheshire says it will cost around £600 a year to join, but as I read on it costs £435 a year to join. This must be paid upfront.

It’s not very clear what pricing option it is. Is it around £600 or is it £435? Good if you aren’t too fussed about the extra couple hundred quid but if money’s tight, and that £165 matters, you are best checking with them.

Thank you BNI Cheshire!

You have to submit an application to apply and also attend an interview (bit much?). The interview is to determine whether you are good standing in your profession. I know that seems like a lot, but the places are strict in each group. They only allow one person per professional speciality in each group. So if you get in, you’ll be representin’.

What’s the structure?

The group meets every Tuesday at 6:45 am at Canmore Golf Club in Dunfermline. Sorry ladies and gents, if you are on the school run you might struggle to attend. But if you want to turn up when you can… remember the rules I mentioned earlier. They are strict with attendance.

“There are no leaves of absence except medical circumstances” You might need to forge a doctors note in that case.

You are only allowed 3 absences in 6 months then they will review you. Though you are allowed to send someone in your place to not get marked off. 

You can check out the full policy here: BNI Policies 

C’mon, my kid’s school isn’t even as strict as this.

I get it though, attendance is important to the success of the meeting. You don’t want to go through all the effort for one person to turn up. If the meetings were that valuable, would you need all the rules to make sure people turn up? I’m pretty sure people can make up their own mind and take care of themselves.

It looks like BNI’s structure is the same for every meeting. Some free networking, official introductions, pitching, presentations, the official passing of the official business cards, a lot of chat about reports… ooooh there are even prizes! Got to be rewarded for all your hard work. So this one is very structured if you like that scene.

So what’s the benefits of a potentially £600 a year membership with BNI? 

There are 23 members in this group in Dunfermline, Fife from a wide range of industries so this is good if you want to tap into different industries and open the doors for opportunity.

Essentially, you’ve got another 23 members doing some selling for you. Can’t complain about that. I’m thinking, “How much will these people really find out about me? How will they know if they refer someone to me they will be right for me?” You do get rewarded for referrals but it’s not the other guys dealing with the referrals, it’s you. You have to qualify these leads for your business. That takes time. But you do have an opportunity here to expand your network, even if those people aren’t the right fit for you.

There’s a decent amount of cash being made within the group and BNI state that businesses on average grow 20% in the first year of membership. Going by their figures and your price, you have a chance of making an ROI on your annual membership with BNI. But there is no guarantee.

How much cash BNI Carnegie passed in the last year

Here’s the list of benefits BNI state you get for your membership:

BNI benefits

And if you want a list of some pros and cons you can check them out here: BNI is Not a Scam (Their title not mine…)

Let’s move on…

Fife Networking Group

Fife Networking group is similar to BNI – also a referral group. They only allow one trade in the group and there is a range of trades in there with a whopping 36 members.

Fife Networking Group Trades

They’ve at least explained the one trade rule thing. It’s to avoid competition when referring. But wait… doesn’t competition drive innovation? Doesn’t competition make us be better businesses? Anyway, they’re doing better than BNI right now in terms of total members. Which might come partly down to their price…

To join you will need a membership, and it’s cheaper than BNI – at £120 a year or you can pay £20 a month. For a similar structure to BNI I’d say that is pretty decent. Try before you buy? Yes, you can attend a couple of meetings for free before you decide if you want to commit.

The group meets at 7:30 am – 9:30 am every Thursday at Cluny Clays. Great venue! Again, that rules you out if you’ve got the little angels to take to school (and when I say angels…that’s every other time apart from getting them out the door in the morning!) You do get some brekkie and a cuppa. Can’t go wrong with that!

Brace yourself, we’ve got more rules.

Attendance is strict and they expect you to turn up weekly. They will review the attendance every six months but there’s no telling what happens if you miss a few. Most likely the boot, or at least a telling off.

Structure? Yes. There is an agenda with “strict expectations” though I couldn’t find an example of what an agenda might look like for them. C’mon guys, I’d like to at least know what kind of things you have done in the past. Maybe your social media will give me a clue…

BOOM! Pinned post on Facebook.

Get this on your website people! Don’t make me go looking.

So what are the benefits of joining the Fife Networking group?

Focused on business growth? Yup. Because referrals equates to some form of sales, though not always guaranteed. What’re their figures? 1,237 referrals passed. A decent number, but no idea how many of them have resulted in a sale.

If we divide the number of referrals by the number of members, that’s 34 referrals on average. Not bad. And if you can bag a sale that’s more than the cost of the membership then you’re laughing. You might want to factor the cost of the amount of time you might spend in all these groups too, by the way.

You’re going to be building local relationships in the group aswell, and that might benefit you down the line. 

So that’s Fife Networking Group. Who’s next?

St Andrews Business Club

St Andrews Business Club has been running longer than my Mum’s has been alive and with a whopping 63 members from a range of different industries.

They host two types of events, only held between September and June which you can attend at a cost. Let’s look at these…

1. Informal Breakfast Events

Here we’ve got networking and workshops. I’m a personal fan of workshops and it’s great that these guys are providing some training for businesses. Great value there. They claim their networking is “high-quality” – I couldn’t distinguish between normal networking and high-quality networking. It would be helpful if they could tell us what the difference is and what makes them special.

These start at 7:30 am but I couldn’t find a finishing time. If they go by what we’ve looked at so far, you’ll be looking at a couple of hours max for this event so you can get on with your working day.

2. Evening Events

These events are more focused on presentations and workshops with a chance to network. Great if you want to learn something along the way. These start at 5:30 pm, but it’s not clear if the evening events are held as regular as the breakfast events.

Both the breakfast and evening events are held at The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews. Another cracking venue!

Members get their ticket for £15 and Non-Members £20.

You can check out their list of events they have held in the past to get a feel for them here. You’ll even spot oor Chris in there.

Yes, the membership comes at a cost. £50 for an individual and £165 for a corporate annual membership. So it’s cheaper than BNI and Fife Networking Group and you get the workshops too. But what’s the difference between having the membership and attending the events as you please? You still have to pay for the events (with a £5 discount).

Not to worry they have laid it out here for you:

That’s all cool and dandy but you want to be on your way to making some sales right?

There’s nothing solid to suggest how being in the club has helped grow someone’s business. They’ve got smashing testimonials that favor the workshops and speaker presentations, so if anything you’ll take something that you will be able to implement in your business. As well as build up some local connections. 

The good thing here is you can be flexible. You don’t have to be tied into membership but can still benefit from attending the events. 

Not a bad run St Andrews Business Club but you need to sort your blog out. I read on your website that you’re looking to improve your SEO and also continue growing the club. If you were listening to Chris’s workshop, he gave you the answer. Heck, you could even be writing this blog for the lovely people that are reading this right now to help them 😉

Right, who have we got now?

Fife Chamber of Commerce

Chances are you’ve probably heard of Fife Chamber of Commerce and if you have been involved with them before they’ve already asked you to join their membership…multiple times.

Their main networking event is called Fife Social and it’s an informal networking group so no structure, purely social purposes. Let’s crack open the wine, shall we?

Fife Social takes place in different venues across Fife, which is decent if one turns up near you and you don’t want to travel far. Fife is a decent sized region after all. 

Their events take place in St Andrews, Kirkcaldy, and Glenrothes and take place between 4:30 pm – 7 pm. They host once a month and dates vary.

In their list of reasons to attend – reason no.1 – It’s free! Hurrah! But wait… reason no.2: Non-members are welcome to one or two sessions to try out. So what one is it Fife Chamber? Is it free or do we need to pay?

You are going to need a membership with them to keep attending. So what’s the cost?

It depends how big your business is so I’ll leave the list here for you to check out:

So far the second most expensive on this review. Their group is big though. There is over 100 members in the chamber across a wide range of industries though there’s no telling who will be at these events and they don’t say whether you get access to an attendee list beforehand. All the work is on you to turn up, find out who is there and have some goals in place of what you aim to achieve attending the event.

There is no strict attendance for this one, it’s a turn up when and if you please. The benefits? They state “develop people skills and relationships” – so it’s a bit of a stab in the dark. That is all I could find.

So right now you’re probably thinking, that’s what I get for 160 quid?!

Hold your horses, I know it’s a networking group blog but I’d be pretty silly if I didn’t tell you whats fully involved in their membership, so what’s the crack?

They have the Fife Learn programme which includes workshops and Masterclasses for you to attend. Contributors have included: Michelin; GSK; Insights; Amazon; Schuh; Journeycall.  Fair play getting the big lads in. They also say that regular attendance to masterclasses can result in a CPD qualification for you. That’s cracking.

What else? They can help you raise your brand awareness by featuring you on their website and in their content. They say that this has additional SEO benefits and can help your Google Rankings if you link to them. Do you really want to be linking to them all the time? If anything, they will be the ones benefitting more from that than you. Sorry sweetheart. Not a benefit.

You can also get some banging discounts for AA and Healthcare.

Business networking in Fife – what’s the best group for you?

So there you have it, the top 4 networking groups in Fife. For the amount of money you’ll pay in these groups it’s hard to tell if you’ll really benefit and grow your business. It’s a ‘turn-up and I might get lucky’. They all need to do a better job clarifying that for you. Their blogs are supposed to do this but all of their blogs are pretty shoddy. In fact, some don’t have one at all. There’s an opportunity there…

Based on what I’ve found, if I was going to be spending money with someone I’d be inclined to go with a group that offers additional learning opportunities. That’s a value add for sure. Workshops are a great opportunity to gain value whilst a chance to network. That way your guaranteed to leave with something positive, even if the networking wasn’t what you’d hope.

I’m not a fan of referral groups. Chances are I would end up in the naughty corner because I chose to write a blog instead, or couldn’t get a baby sitter. I’d much rather a person approached us because they found us online and found our content that helped them or heard from us through a member who felt like we had genuinely helped them. Saves a shit load of time and money. Did you not find this blog through Google after all?

What’s the verdict? For consistency, flexibility, price, and opportunities to learn and network, I think St Andrews Business Club is your guy. They’ve done a decent job of laying it all out for you and you don’t need to be tied into their membership to attend. Whether your an early bird or a night owl, there are options there for you. And suitable when you’re already squeezed for time working hard on your business. You don’t need to worry about getting the belt for not turning up.

Before you get roped into a membership, please try them out first and weigh up the options. Price, time commitment, the cost of YOUR time… yes your time and ROI.

Don’t make me come save you from the naughty corner 😉



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About Nicola Crawford

Marketing PA at the Content Marketing Academy.
In business, I believe in people first.
Mum to two crazy kids, Alaina and Morgan.
Green belt in Shotokan Karate.
Always learning, always growing.