How to Write a Super Set of Nonprofit Bylaws: Part 3

Welcome to the final installment of our three-part series on writing your super set of nonprofit bylaws! There has been a lot to cover over the last three weeks, and we appreciate you joining this journey to gain more knowledge for your nonprofit team. Let’s begin with a short recap. In week one, we tackled the fundamentals of nonprofit bylaws and gave you a rundown of what’s essential for your guidelines. We talked about the importance of having bylaws in place before submitting your tax-exempt status. And finally we also discussed how to start drafting your bylaws and the systems that need to be in place.

Last week, we went a little deeper into the details. We closely examined the significant sections these documents need to contain. And we also discussed special sections and how to balance specificity in your bylaws with the knowledge that your organization may grow and shift. We gave examples of critical nonprofit organizations using language and proper terminology to lay out the processes and procedures for their governing entities. Finally, we provided tips to keep in mind when writing. That is something we’ll continue this week as we wrap up our series.

Now, Our Final Discussion:

This week, we’re talking all about finalizing and implementing your bylaws. Remember that writing up these guidelines may take several drafts and require input from a diverse group of stakeholders. And it’s essential to get it right. That’s why we’ll tackle three main aspects of these final steps. Firstly, we’ll discuss reviewing and revision as a process. This step will require feedback from various stakeholders and legal consultation to ensure compliance. Then, we’ll tackle adoption and implementation, including steps on the formal processes required to make these the laws of the land for your organization. We’ll also give you some strategies to help you implement and enforce them across your organization. And finally, we’ll look at what that ongoing review and amendment process looks like, which should be included in the guidelines.

So, with all that said, let’s jump right in!

Review and Revision: Final Steps in Your Draft

So, you’re at the final stages of drafting your bylaws. You’ve gathered all your relevant info. Gathered your stakeholders into a committee, and they’ve drafted out cohesive bylaws meant to govern your organization. The bylaws include who your officers and board members will be and their roles and responsibilities. All of your conflict of interest policies and clauses dictating fiscal policies and emergency provisions are in place. Your statement of purpose clearly defines what your organization stands for and your mission is. You know the rules and qualifications for membership, and you even have a clearly defined section on how to dissolve the governing board.

Is your job done as a committee? Not quite. Now, you need to make sure not only is all your information included and everything is clearly defined, but you need to ensure legal compliance and that your team has addressed every requirement correctly and in line with that stated mission. That means it’s time for feedback, editing, and potential revisions. It’s also essential to have legal consultation during this step to ensure compliance for your organization’s members and regarding state and federal laws. This step also helps ensure consistent language and clears up any ambiguity.

Here’s the Breakdown:
  1. Seek legal help: Reach out to a lawyer or legal consultant who is an expert. This could be someone already in your network or on your board. All your bylaws must comply with federal and state laws, which is critical. A legal review can also help avoid conflicts with legal standards and regulations and prevent conflicting clauses.
  2. Gather stakeholder feedback: This can mean many different things to different people. It is advisable to receive feedback from your board, team members, and members of the community you are serving. The goal of these bylaws is to ensure that your organization runs as smoothly as possible, so consulting a diverse group of these stakeholders is essential.
  3. Revise in accordance with your feedback: After receiving various feedback from relevant parties, your committee now needs to take a second look at your drafted nonprofit bylaws. Is everything in order? Do you need to make small or widespread changes to the guidelines? This might require making language more accessible or using more specific terms, but don’t fear the revision process. This is a great time to rework anything unclear, so be open to feedback here. Quick tip: You can gain your feedback in lots of ways, but surveys, going out into the community, and having relevant meetings could mean a lot in these final stages.

Adopting and Implementation For Your Organization

So you’ve done all the work, and your draft has moved into completed status. Now your team needs to focus on adopting and implementing these guidelines across your organization. This will take some time, but let’s go through the rundown of what this will look like:

  1. Gain final approval: Remember, this is a team effort so that the decision-makers will need final approval. This involves the committee presenting these bylaws to the board for final approval.
  2. Record the decision: Whatever the board’s decision has to be formally entered into the meeting notes as a legal record (all meeting minutes must be taken).
  3. Signatures and dates: Relevant board members must sign the bylaws, and the date of adoption must be entered into the legal record.

Some Quick Strategies for Easier Adoption and Implementation:

A great set of bylaws is only as good as the implementation of those guiding rules throughout your nonprofit. You need the spread the knowledge throughout, make sure everyone understands the bylaws, and make them a part of daily best practices.

  • Spread the Word: Communicate the new bylaws to stakeholders and ensure that they understand all implications
  • Train: It may be good to hold official training sessions to educate staff and board members on these new bylaws.
  • Follow Through: Take steps to integrate all of these guidelines into the operations of your nonprofit organization.

The Amendment Process: How To Make Changes to Nonprofit Bylaws

Now that your bylaws have been formally adopted and implemented, there is a final step. Last week, we discussed that part of creating nonprofit bylaws is leaving room for growth. As your organization grows and changes, you may need to amend your guidelines. How you will go about this should be included in your bylaws themselves. Here’s how you leave room for ongoing reviews and potential amendments:

  1. Conduct regular reviews of your bylaws: Your board should periodically review them, likely annually, to ensure they are still wholly relevant.
  2. Form and maintain a review committee: Lots of things in your nonprofit governance will require committees, and this is an important one. A review committee should oversee any reviews and report necessary amendments and revisions.
  3. Continue to engage with stakeholders: You should continue engaging with staff, board members, and beneficiaries and seek feedback as time passes.
  4. Stay ahead of legalities: Ensure that your team is ahead of any state or federal law changes that may affect your bylaws.

Final Thoughts:

We’ve enjoyed writing this series for our amazing readers, and we hope this helps you on your nonprofit journey! Let us know if you have any questions or feedback on this series, and any topics you’re looking for us to cover!

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