Bylaws are vital to managing your chapter. They spell out how every leadership role plays a part in advancing the mission and values of your chapter and how your chapter will serve its members. In short, the bylaws are your guidebook; it is your answer to every question that you or your leadership might face.
Questions your bylaws should be able to answer:
- How many board members should we have and how long can they serve on the board?
- What do we do if a board member is misrepresenting our chapter/not doing work/suddenly quits?
- How do we hold elections?
- How do we build committees? Who is in charge of them?
- How can our chapter best serve our social media community?
- What kind of meetings do we have? Who do we want to attend?
What’s in the Bylaws?
The first task of the chapter board of directors is to build a set of bylaws that will be approved by Social Media Club. Chapter bylaws should contain the following sections:
- Chapter’s name, mission statement, and official location
- Board of directors
- Conflict of Interest
- Amending Bylaws
And don’t worry; you don’t need to have robust bylaws from the start. The bylaws are a living document, intended to be changed (and those changes approved by the membership) at minimum every 2 years. Chapter bylaws should have all sections above filled out to the best of the board’s knowledge.
Sections of the Bylaws
Chapter Name, Mission Statement, and Official Location
This section contains the official name of the chapter, the location of the chapter (ie a primary mailing address) and the chapter’s mission statement.
This section lists the types of members, members’ voting rights, and the procedures for disciplining and/or removing members. If you have no members yet, state that here and be sure to come back to this section when your chapter takes off.
This section describes how voting takes place in your chapter. Here you talk about when elections are held, which board of director or committee runs and oversees elections, how people are nominated for elections, and how and when election results are shared.
Board of Directors
This section expounds upon the board of directors and includes: the number of directors or a maximum or minimum amount of directors, how vacancies are filled, specific the qualifications for serving as a director, the duties of directors, the length of a director’s term, how many terms they can serve, and the position titles they might fill.
This section outlines the formation, appointments, and duties of committee and their members. Some common chapter committees are: membership committee, nominating committee, and events committee. If you have no committees, state that here.
This section outlines how officers are selected, as well as the duties, powers, and responsibilities of each officer if not already discussed in the Board of Directors section. Officers are members of the Board who perform specific functions on the Board (i.e., the President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer). Typically the officers have special voting powers and extra responsibilities.
This section outlines regular meetings the chapter has. Detail the time, location, topic/focus, and frequency. If your chapter hasn’t met yet, fill this section out with what you would like your meeting topics and frequency to be. Once your chapter has taken off, you can come back to edit this section with any changes you might have.
Conflicts of Interest
Every business must have a Conflict of Interest Provision in their bylaws. This protects that chapter from IRS penalties which may occur if the IRS finds the organization is providing unfair benefits to directors, members, or others. Example: a director should not be allowed to vote on a matter in which the director may have a direct financial interest. If a conflict may occur, the director should disclose this conflict immediately in order to be removed from voting. For example bylaws to use or imitate, contact the SMC secretary for a copy of SMC’s conflict of interest bylaws clause.
This section outlines how bylaws can be amended. It will outline who can recommend amendments and how these amendments will be voted upon. Bylaws should be revised regularly to remain current and accurately represent the chapter and its membership.
Need Help Writing Your Bylaws?
Phew! I bet that sounds like a lot. But you don’t have to start from scratch—the internet is full of resources and sample bylaws documents. I recommend taking the best pieces you find and making them fit your chapter. You can also reach out to our larger chapters, such as San Francisco, Hawaii, and Kansas City, and ask to see how they built and structured their bylaws.
Still have questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll work with you and your chapter to help build your bylaws.