Update Your Bylaws

Just as the U.S. Constitution is a living, breathing document, so too are your association’s bylaws. A periodic review to ensure the rules that govern your group are up-to-date is essential if the bylaws are to be effective.

Step 1 — Are they current?

If sections of the bylaws were properly amended, have those amendments been incorporated? Remember to note at the top of the bylaws the fact they were amended and the date the approval took place. If any addresses (postal, website or email) or phone numbers have changed or are incorrect, they can be changed without going through the same parliamentary process as changing actual policies in the bylaws. If dues have been raised, the bylaws should reflect the change.

Step 2 — Do they cover all the bases?

It is difficult if not impossible for your bylaws to cover all the potential issues that may crop up. However, a review may reveal that something basic and important has been inadvertently omitted. For example, if your association is the assigning agent for its members, the bylaws should reflect that the association is not an employer and the members are independent contractors, not employees. If such issues as discipline procedures for members who step out of line or basic requirements for membership (e.g. passing test score, meeting attendance, etc.) are not included or are included but not clear, the wording should be adjusted accordingly.

Step 3 — Conduct an in-house review.

If your association does not have a bylaws/constitution committee, form one. As with anything, too many cooks in the kitchen is to be avoided. But involving more than one person to look the document over increases the chances erroneous or ambiguous language will be identified. If possible, include members with varying levels of experience. A newer member often provides a fresh perspective since he or she is still feeling their way.

Step 4 — Get professional help.

If you are lucky enough to have an attorney in your group, ask him or her to review the document. If not, it is still a good idea to hire an attorney for input. Parts of your bylaws may violate local, state or federal law. Having an attorney conduct an examination ensures the association is governed in conjunction and within the requirements of the state association or other governing body.