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Sarge, Cajun Roller Girls
Sometime after there was a decision to form your group of women into a roller derby league; after the first loose meetings to decide when and where to practice and who is going to be involved in the league and in what way, there comes a need for organization.
The group usually looks for a leader first. It may be the person who decided to form the group or someone who just seems to take charge. Then come the questions... Will the leader be called the president? What day will we have our monthly meeting? Will we have committees? How do we decide who will be the coach? What procedures will we use to keep our meetings flowing without disruptions? Without organization, the league would not be able to function properly. When these questions arise, groups as large as corporations down to small church groups refer to their bylaws.
What are bylaws?
Bylaws are a list of rules that govern an organization. They are created by and voted on by the members of the organization to suit the particular needs of that organization. There is really no one way to create bylaws, as they are as different as the organizations that need them. But in general, the bylaws are organized by articles and sections.
A common guide that gives a good recommendation for creating bylaws is called Robert’s Rules of Order. If you are unfamiliar with how to run an organization, this is a good place to start. It may also be advisable to seek the experience of someone in the legal field or someone who has actually been the president of another organization for a while to help you set up your particular set of bylaws.
When creating bylaws it may also be a good thing to know that bylaws can be a “two way sword,” meaning there are benefits as well as repercussions when creating bylaws. Bylaws are considered a legal document, which means you have to adhere to what you create. There are times when it is good to carve your rules in stone, but you may back yourself into a corner that is difficult to get out of as things arise that were not thought out ahead well enough. A little forethought is prudent at this time, although it is not necessary to try to think of every possible situation that may arise.
Later, after the group has been operating for a while, questions may come up, such as... What happens when someone who heads a committee fails to show up four months in a row? This is a time when you need to know that you can amend your bylaws. As organizations change, bylaws need to change to fit the needs of the group.
Are bylaws really necessary for my team? We are just a small group.
For many States, there is a requirement that non-profit organizations have bylaws. The IRS does not require bylaws but they do make this recommendation:
“Bylaws are an organization’s internal operating rules. Federal tax law does not require specific language in the bylaws of most organizations. State law may require nonprofit corporations to have bylaws, however, and nonprofit organizations generally find it advisable to have internal operating rules.”
In addition, when your league moves from Apprentice status to Full WFTDA status, there is a requirement that you must create bylaws for your league.
Under the Full WFTDA league requirements it states: Leagues applying to the WFTDA Apprentice Program need to meet the following WFTDA membership requirements: your league must be “Governed by democratic principles and practices.” Further, there is a requirement that you must have League bylaws – please draw attention to the section of the bylaws that cover governance by democratic principles and practices, as well as your overall management structure.
Meetings without rules frequently spin out of control as members try to talk over each other and out of order. In order to keep these problems from happening, your bylaws should state what type of parliamentary procedure the organization will use. Robert’s Rules of Order is one method in use, but there are others. RRoO is sometimes considered cumbersome for a small group to use; however, these rules are intended to make sure everyone has a fair chance to say what they want to say.
Because WFTDA requires a league to operate under democratic principles, bylaws are of the utmost importance. One way to ensure this is by using parliamentary procedure, which is a system of rules that a group may agree to use in order to promote orderly discussion about common concerns and make decisions about what the group should do. It assumes that everyone in a group has equal importance and is entitled to vote.
Bylaws also define the structure of the organization, without them there would be total disorder. Bylaws list things, such as the rights that members have, how much power the governing board has, whether the board has power to make decisions or will major decisions have to be made by a vote of the members. What power will the board have in an emergency when it is not feasible to call for a vote from all the membership? What will be the balance of power? Under democratic principles, there implies a balance between those who run the organization and those who are members of the league. Sometimes this means the person who started a league may have to give up some of the decision making power and cede to the interests of the league. Things also change over time... What worked when you were an apprentice league may not necessarily continue into your full league status.
Therefore, defining the structure of the organization in the bylaws usually includes the following headings under Articles and sections in this order:
Name of the Organization
Object or purpose
Depending on the size of your league, you may want to add articles to further define the organization.
Next you will create sections under the articles to further define the criteria that will make your league successful.
1. Name of the Organization
Should agree with all legal documents.
2. Object or Purpose
Example: Section 1; create your derby purpose and list it here.
Section 1: Will the organization have classes of members? Active, Inactive, Honorary?
Section 2: Eligibility for membership.
Section 3: Dues or Fees. How much? When are they due? What if they are not paid?
Section 4: Requirements. Some organizations have an attendance requirement, etc.
Section 5: Disciplinary procedures. May not be necessary, but what happens if you need it... (Be cognizant of the “double edged sword” principle here.)
Section 6: Resignation procedures.
Section 1: Name the officers in order of ranking. Additional sections should name their duties. Examples: President, Vice-President(s), Secretary, Treasurer, Board Members.Can also include Parliamentarian, Historian
Section 2: Nominations and Elections. When will elections be held? What will be the nomination procedure? Will there be a ballot vote? Will there be absentee voting? (There are a lot of questions that can arise... so be careful listing these.)
Section 3: Terms of Office. Duties of each office and how long will each position serve? Other items such as Removal from Office and Vacancies need to be addressed here.
Section 1: Meeting day. When will it be? Will there need to be notification of meetings? Will a quorum be required? Special meetings, emergencies?
6. Executive Board
Sections: Board composition, Board meetings, Removal from office and vacancies. Can the board remove someone or should it be a membership vote?
Create committees and assignments – Membership, Fundraising, Bout Production, Publicity, Recruitment, Referees, League Liaison, WFTDA Liaison, etc.
8. Parliamentary Authority
If you choose to use Robert’s Rules of Order... list it here. RRoO is the most commonly used Parliamentary Authority, although there are others. By adopting these rules, the particulars of an orderly meeting are set up. This is where the rules for when a person “Having the floor” and “making motions and adopting motions” are set. The president or presiding officer enforces these rules and keeps the meetings orderly.
Also be aware that the current up-to-date and official version of Robert’s Rules of Order is Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, Eleventh Edition.
9. Amending Bylaws
As your organization grows, it will become necessary to change some of the bylaws that were created earlier. The way to do this is by adopting amendments. It is wise to make a note about the date an item was amended. It is also a good idea to make a footnote in the document as to the last time the bylaws were revised to ensure you are using the most up-to-date version of your bylaws.
These are the basics of bylaws. When beginning your league, remember to keep your bylaws as simple as possible. With the growth of the league, the need for organization will become apparent and sometimes painfully obvious. Proper use of your bylaws will help ensure the success of your league for years to come if given a little care from the beginning.