Do you have a good example of short bylaws? Ours seem so lengthy.
That question came up in our Board Academy Governance session. The key to good bylaws is to cover all the bases carefully and stop there.
Your bylaws need to provide clear rules for how to operate your nonprofit. For example, your bylaws need to specify how many directors you have, how and when they are elected, and the length of their terms. Similarly, your bylaws need to specify what officers you have, their terms, how and when they are elected, and what they are required to do.
That said, your bylaws shouldn’t attempt to “micromanage” your organization. For example, your bylaws might state that your board president “will preside over meetings of the board and execute other duties as assigned by the board of directors.” If you want the president to do more than preside at meetings, write a job description for the president, formally adopt it, and record that in the minutes.
Another example relates to committees. If you have an executive committee, your bylaws should certainly say so and specify what that committee is authorized to do. As for other committees, include in the bylaws how they may be formed and constituted. Every committee needs a specific, written charge but it can be adopted by the board; it does not have to be in your bylaws.
Here are some resources to explore.
- Nonprofit Bylaws Made Easy: Tips and Best Practices – Donorbox – clear, straightforward explanation
- Sample Nonprofit Bylaws | Nolo – also clear. Reminds us, “When your bylaws do not address an issue that is addressed by state law, your nonprofit must follow the laws of your state.”
- The 15 Most Common Nonprofit Bylaw Pitfalls: How to Avoid the Traps – this what “not to do” article also provides guidance in what to do.
- BYLAWS OF A California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation – a useful sample