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Boring Bylaws?

gavel for calling a meeting to order

One of the best pieces of advice I received as a newly hired executive director was: "Know your bylaws inside and out!"

Ugh. That sounds pretty boring.

I was hired because I am a passionate person who cares deeply about the cause. Why do I need to memorize the bylaws governing my board of directors?

Well, younger version of myself, the answer became very clear to this question over time.

Your bylaws, especially during times of crisis, will either become your best friend...or your worst enemy.

That promising new board member who turns out to be polarizing, willfully ignorant about your mission, or just plain-focused on his or her personal agenda? The solution to that problem is often found in your bylaws.

A longtime board member whom you love but is often a no-show at board or committee meetings? Yep, you guessed it, the answer is in your bylaws.

Don't even know the last time you held elections or what the terms of service are? Yes, indeedy, the answer is definitely in those boring bylaws!

And if you are an organization that doesn't pay attention to your bylaws and its requirements, I promise you it is going to be ALL that much harder to start following them when they are most needed, especially when you are dealing with a financial, public relations or people-problem crisis.

So yes, I know it sounds stupid and boring when I ask to see an organization's bylaws. It sounds even more boring (or overwhelming) when I ask what a group is doing about adding another person to their board of directors when I discover they are out of compliance with their own bylaws.

But I promise you, those bylaws--well-written and reviewed regularly--will serve you well if you just pay them a little bit of attention. (Okay, do more than pay a little bit of attention to them: Go forth and know them inside and out!)

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