By-laws: The back bone of an organization-Part 2

What information does an organization need when establishing by-laws.

By-laws are the highest governing document that a 4-H club, board or committee should develop in order to outline the function of their group.  The by-laws define who the group is and how the group functions. Generally by-laws comprise all the rules by which a club, board or committee is governed and are usually considered the back bone of an organization.  If individuals are looking at what an organization is about, they should be able to read the groups by-laws and have a clear understand of the organizations functions.  By-laws can be made up of many articles determined by the organization.  In By-Laws:  The back bone of an organization- Part 1, Articles I through V were outlined.  This article will outline Articles VI through X. 

Article VI- Executive Board- Often comprised of the officers of the organization, but sometimes also involve otherwise elected members.  This section should specify the composition, specific powers of the board and meeting times if separate from that of the general membership. For example, some executive boards are granted the authority to approve expenses up to a certain amount without needing to get approval from the entire membership; this type of power should be spelled out here.

Article VII- Committees- Be sure to note in this section if officers, often the President, serve as ex-officio members on any committees.   Michigan State University Extension staff should also be listed as ex-officio members of all committees. 

Article VIII- Authority- This section can outline the governing documents that organizations can refer to when not otherwise outlined in the by-laws.  Roberts Rules of Order is the standard protocol for all parliamentary matters.  Using the language “current edition” will allow the organization to follow the most updated procedures without needing to change their bylaws every time a new edition is published.   The Michigan 4-H Treasurer’s Record Book and MSU Extension financial guidelines serve as the reference point for all financial questions not addressed in the by-laws. 

Article IX- Restrictions- This section outlines any further restrictions that the organization must function within.  For example, all funds raised in the name of 4-H must have a policy in place for their disbandment; project based advisory groups typically turn over property to the county 4-H council.  County 4-H councils typically turn over property to the county MSU Extension office. Sample language follows:

Upon dissolution of this organization, all remaining funds and property will be turned over to the county MSU Extension office.

Because MSU Extension 4-H Staff are ultimately responsible for the decisions made by advisory groups, MSU Extension staff must maintain an ability to veto decisions in conflict with MSU Extension or 4-H policies.  It is understood that this veto authority is used with discretion. Sample language includes:

Any decision passed in conflict with the policies or practices of the county 4-H program or MSU Extension may be vetoed by the MSU Extension 4-H staff.   

  1. Veto Authority

Article X- Amendments of By-laws- There is no one set way to amend by-laws.  Each organization can decide for itself how the changes can be made.   Always specify the exact requirements for making amendments and make sure that the rights of all members continue to be protected. 

By-Laws:  The back bone of an organization-Part 1 and 2 will give a 4-H club, advisory groups, boards and committees a complete set of articles to comprise a solid set of by-laws.  For further assistance in establishing by-laws for your 4-H club, advisory council or committees, contact the MSU Extension Leadership Civic Engagement work team.

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