Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Magazine
• bylaws: how to begin the process
• shoulder injury and rehab
• 2015 WFTDA championships recap
• the three c’s of feedback
• transitioning from skater to official
• team structure
• plus more, including selecting a merchandise vendor, heart rate monitor review, launching the junior flat track derby association, focus on fresh meat
Sarge John (Jack) Culhane, Cajun Roller Girls
Not long after a new derby league is organized, a term may pop up that is unfamiliar to the leaders of the new team – and that word is bylaws. This can be an intimidating term for those who have never run into it before. But writing your organization’s bylaws can be very easy if you follow a few guidelines to get started.
what to take into account before writing your bylaws
Organizations of all sizes create bylaws as a way to put into print the guidelines that the group is going to follow throughout its existence.
In most cases, the founding group of an organization are the people that come together to form the bylaws. After a leader is chosen or the role is assumed, usually known as the president of the organization, the first order of business should be to organize a meeting to create bylaws. This can be done with a bylaw committee. The starting group should discuss what they wish to accomplish as an organization and write down their goals and the rules they want to follow to assure smooth operation of the organization.
where do I even start?
The organization needs to figure out who the main players are. At a minimum, the offices of President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer should be created. As the organization grows and needs are identified, additional positions can be created as needed, usually in the form of additional officers, such as 2nd Vice President or Board Members. Once the positions are assigned, the group should decide on how often they will meet and what kinds of rules they will follow at meetings. Then your group would start creating your committees to get things done.
I know nothing about bylaws
The first thing to investigate is to find out if anyone in your organization has been involved in a group that has utilized bylaws before. This could be anything from a business, to a PTA organization to a volunteer fire department. Somebody that has been a president of an organization is a good start. Or somebody that has worked in a legal office, for an attorney as an example. If nobody from your group has this type of experience, find somebody from a similar type organization. Most people will be glad to help you if you just ask them. Start with a nearby derby group or consult with your liaison derby team. It would be best to seek a derby group that has similar membership and demographic details.
For example, a small city group would not necessarily look at a Houston Derby’s bylaws to begin, although it might help to see where you might be down the road.
Another possibility is looking at a Parliamentarian site. Parliamentarians are people who study the rules of order of organizations and know the ins and outs of proper conduct, including bylaws. You may hire a professional person to help you construct your bylaws, especially if the word “bylaw” is foreign to everyone in your organization. Parliamentarians can be found at these sites – National Association of Parliamentarians parliamentarians.org or The American Institute of Parliamentarians aipparl.org
If you have no people resources to utilize at this point, or if you need further guidance, your group can consult Roberts Rules of Order (Revised Edition), which is available at most book outlets. There is a section in the book that is dedicated to bylaws.
Your beginning bylaws do not need to be complicated, but should include: Your purpose for existence, your structure of officers such as President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer, mentioned above, and perhaps Board Members to supplement with the discussions and activities your group will encounter. You may also decide to collect dues or participate in fund raisers to raise money for your group. Any of these startup issues can be included in your first set of bylaws. You may also want to include rules in your bylaws at this time to ensure the organization is run fairly.
WFTDA is one organization that requires a league to be run in a democratic way. Bylaws set these guidelines. This encourages equal participation in the organization. These rules ensure that an opinion in the minority view will be allowed. This is mainly to prevent one small group from controlling the whole organization.
The other thing to remember about bylaws is that they can and should be amended from time to time. As an organization grows, situations change and the bylaws may need to be adjusted to facilitate these changes.
Bylaws help define what your organization does and what rules you will follow to keep order and structure at the meetings you will inevitably have to keep your league moving forward. Remember to keep it simple when you first start. Too many restrictions can hinder your organization in the future if bylaws are too strict. The goal of a good set of bylaws is to create a foundation of rules that the team must legally adhere to and yet be flexible enough to guide the organization when “gray” areas pop up. Experience is the key here. Just remember help is easy to find and you and your team will be on the way to succeed.