Building the Framework, Part 2: Creating the Group Bylaws and Constitution

Developing group governance
By this point of the group creation process, you should have decided upon your:
  • Vision - What you want to achieve
  • Mission - How you plan to achieve it
  • Method of decisionmaking
  The next step is to create formal documents that will act as instructions for how the group will operate going forward. These documents are known as the constitution and bylaws.
What is a group's constitution?
A group's constitution is a document that expresses the aims and rules of the organization, and helps explain the overall purpose of the group. While it provides the general framework of how the group should operate, it does not go into the finer details. Since the overall mission or structure of an organization typically doesn't change over time, this document may not be revised that often, if at all.
What are bylaws?

The bylaws are a legal document that outlines the rules that an organization imposes upon itself regarding how it will function. This document provides instructions regarding the decision-making process for actions that can affect the group, and can include the following:

  • The roles and responsibilities of certain leadership roles
  • How leaders can propose and vote upon action items
  • The election/selection process for leaders
  • Process for creating subcommittees
  • Membership process and requirements (code of behavior, dues, etc)
  • Disciplinary policy

Since specific procedures may change over time in order to meet the needs of the members and organization, provisions are made so that the governing body of the group can amend the bylaws. How are the Constitution and Bylaws structured?

Both the Constitution and Bylaws are broken up into categories known as Articles. These are identified by an upper-case, Roman-numerical sequence (Article I, Article II, etc.)

Each Article can have sub-categories known as Sections. These are identified by a numerical sequence (Section 1, Section 2, etc.). The sub-category for sections is identified by capital letters (A, B, C), and the sub-category for that is identified by lower-case Roman-numerical (i, ii, iii, etc.)

In some instances, you can create the Constitution and Bylaws as separate documents. Other times, you may prefer to keep them in a single document.


An example

Here is a sample template to use for creating a combined constitution and bylaws for your polyamory group. If you plan on creating your organization as a non-profit, please review your state regulations to find out if they have a required bylaw format, and consider consulting an attorney.

-------------------------- Constitution and Bylaws for [Organization Name Here]

Adopted: [Date of Adoption Here] (Optional- Revised: [Date of Revision Here]) ARTICLE I: Name, Purpose

Section 1: The name of the organization shall be [Organization Name Here]

Section 2: [Insert Mission Statement Here - Aren't you glad I nudged you to write that part awhile ago? ;) ]


Article II: Membership

Section 1: Terms for Membership

A. What is the definition of a member of the group? (Yes, I know it seems obvious)

B. What conditions need to be met for someone to be considered for membership? Do you have an age requirement? Will membership be exclusive to those that meet certain requirements?

C. What is the process for determining if an eligible candidate can be a member of the group? Will their application be reviewed by a Membership Committee? Do they need to go through an interview process?


Section 2: Dues (if your group charges dues)

A. How much are membership dues?

B. How frequently are membership dues charged?

C. When do membership dues need to be paid? Is it on the anniversary date of membership, or are the dues of all members collected at the same time of the year?

D. Can members opt for a "hardship waiver"? What is the process of doing that

E. What are the consequences for not paying dues?


Section 3: Resignation - What is the process for a person to voluntarily leave the organization?


Article III: Group Leadership (Board of Directors/ Council of Elders, etc)

Section 1: What is the role of the governing body?

Section 2: How many people will be on the governing body?

Section 3: Does the governing body receive any sort of compensation, above and beyond covering group expenses?

Section 4: Election Procedures - outline the process of electing the governing body here

Section 5: Term - if there's a limit on the # of terms a governing member can have in office, indicate this here

Section 6: Meetings - how often does the governing body meet

Section 7: Quorum - What is required for a quorum?

Section 8: Roles and Responsibilities (aka Officers and Duties)

A. The Chair is responsible for [blah]

B. The Secretary is responsible for [blah]

C. The Treasurer is responsible for [blah]

D. [Insert title here] is responsible for [blah], etc.


Section 9: Vacancies - How will vacancies be filled?

Section 10: Resignation, Termination, and Absences

A. What is the process for a governing member to quit their position

B. What sort of activities can cause a governing member to be considered for termination? What is the process of such?

C. If a governing member is excessively absent for meetings, can they be removed? What is considered "excessively absent"?


Section 10: What sort of decisions can the leadership body make on behalf of the group?


Article IV: Amendments

Section 1: What is required to amend the bylaws?


I hope this helps. Please let me know if there's any revisions you'd recommend for this guideline :)

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