Writing & Updating Operational Documents

Writing & Updating Operational Documents

The constitution of an organization contains the fundamental principles that govern its operation. All but the most informal groups should have their basic structure and methods of operation in writing. The bylaws establish the specific rules of guidance by which the group is to function.

Constitution

By definition, an organization is a "body of persons organized for some specific purpose, as a club, union, or society." The process of writing a constitution will serve to clarify your purpose, provide blocks for building an effective group, and delineate your basic structure.

It also gives both members and potential members a better understanding of what the organization is all about and how it functions. If you bear in mind the value of having a written document that clearly describes the basic framework of your organization, the drafting of the constitution will be a much easier and more rewarding experience.

A constitution articulates the purpose of your organization and spells out the procedures for its orderly functioning. Once you have developed the constitution it needs to be reviewed often. The needs of your group will change over time, and it is important that the constitution is kept up-to-date to reflect the current state of affairs.

Make sure each member has access to a copy of the constitution. This will help unify and educate your members by informing them about the opportunities that exist for participation and the procedures that they should follow to be an active, contributing member. A thorough study of the constitution and bylaws should be a part of officer training and transition.

What Should Be Covered in a Constitution

The following is an outline of the standard information to be included in a constitution. The objective is to draft a document that covers these topics in a clear, simple, and concise manner.

  • The name of the organization
  • Affiliation with other groups (local, state, national, etc.)
  • Purpose, aims, functions of the organization
  • Membership requirements and limitations
  • Officers (titles, term of office, how and when elected)
  • Advisor (term of service, how selected)
  • Meetings (frequency, special meetings and who calls them)
  • Quorum (number of members required to transact business)
  • Referendum and Recall (procedures and handling)
  • Amendments (means of proposal, notice required, voting)
  • Ratification (requirements for adopting this constitution)

Bylaws

While the constitution covers the fundamental principles, it does not prescribe specific procedures for operating your organization. Bylaws set forth in detail the procedures to conduct business by a specific chapter.

Bylaws help articulate the purpose of your organization and spell out the procedures for its orderly functioning. Once you have developed bylaws, they need to be reviewed often. The needs of your group will change over time, and it is important that the constitution and bylaws are kept up to date to reflect the current state of affairs.

Make sure each member has a copy of these. This will help unify and educate your members by informing them about the opportunities that exist for participation and the procedures that they should follow to be an active, contributing member. A thorough study of the bylaws should be a part of officer training and transition.

What Should Be Included in the Bylaws

Bylaws must not contradict provisions in the constitution. They generally contain specific information on the following topics:

  • Membership (selection requirements, resignations, expulsion, rights and duties)
  • Dues (amount and collection procedures, any special fees when payable)
  • Duties of Officers (powers, responsibilities, special job descriptions, procedures for filling unexpired terms of office, removal from office)
  • Executive Board (structure, composition, powers)
  • Committees (standing, special, how formed, chairperson, meetings, duties, powers)
  • Order of Business (standard agenda for conducting meetings)
  • Parliamentary Authority (provisions for rules of order, generally Robert's Rules of Order)
  • Amendment Procedures (means of proposal, notice required, voting requirements)
  • Other specific policies and procedures unique to your organization necessary for its operation

Operational Documents Requirements & Resources

As your operational documents are updated, your group should submit updated copies to the Office of Student Involvement office (electronic format is preferred). It is requested that this is done at least one per academic year.