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Guidelines for Developing Bylaws

 Bylaws are the governing document of your organization.  They are written to provide direction and continuity and are beneficial during leadership transitions.  By putting on paper how your organization is going to operate you are able to keep things running smoothly, provide answers to tough questions (like what to do about a difficult officer), and eliminate any confusion as to how the organization should be run in order to reach its goals.  They should be reviewed with new leaders, updated and kept on file with the Center for Leadership.


These instructions will assist you in creating bylaws for your student organization. Read the instructions, consider your choices and then construct a set of bylaws that fit your organization.  There is also a template available using the Quidditch club as an example.  All bolded information must be included.  Italicized information may be customized to your organization.


Note:  All bylaws must be in outline format.


Article I - Name

Indicate the name of your proposed student organization. This must include ElonUniversity in some manner.


Article II - Purpose

This is the most important section of the bylaws. Student organizers should work with their advisor to develop a brief statement of purpose that reflects the mission and the philosophy of the organization.  The purpose should include, but not be limited to the following:


A.    a discussion of the goals and ideals of members and of how the organization will contribute to campus life and the members' personal lives,

B.     how the organization will promote the academic mission of the university,

C.     how the organization will cooperate and interact with other organizations on and off campus.



Article III - Membership

Explain how one may join (Eligibility) and how, at any given point in time, you will know who the members are (Good Standing). Be sure to specify any special requirements or skills necessary for participation, such as a GPA, etc. Examples:

  1. Any full-time Elon student who has expressed an interest in the activities of the club and has paid club dues on time.  
  2. Any full-time Elon student who has attended 3 meetings and/or events.
  3. Any full-time Elon student who has read the organization's manual and/or met any additional membership requirements deemed by the organization.
  4. Part-time students, such as seniors in their last semester, must be approved for eligibility by the Director of Organization Development.
  5. To be an active member, students must be in good academic standing.  Students who do not meet the Elon University definition of good academic standing may not participate in any of the club’s activities or meetings until they return to good standing.


Article IV - Governance

Section I – Officers

Titles and duties of each officer: List the title of each officer and his/her duties, including all the responsibilities that must be performed for the club to operate smoothly.  The positions of President, Vice President, and Secretary/Treasurer are the standard positions, but you may choose positions of Directors, Coordinators, Liaisons (to other groups), Coaches, etc. Use titles that fit your particular group. Be clear about responsibilities for each position. 

  1. There must be a President and a Treasurer.
  2. Certain clusters have specific guidelines for officers:
    1. Sports –
    2. Religious –
    3. Greek – delegate to IFC, Panhellenic, NPHC
    4. Service –
    5. Etc.
  3. Using the terminology “other duties as assigned” should be included in each description of duties.



Section II - Officer Elections

Define how officers are nominated and the procedure by which they will be voted into office.


  1. Nominating Method: A group can nominate officers from the floor during a meeting, submit nominations privately to officers for a ballot or make other arrangements. You will need to indicate if voting will occur at the same meeting when nominations are made or at another meeting.
  2. Voting Procedure: This section must include two provisions (1) Quorum: indicate what percentage of members must be present at the meeting for a vote to be valid.  (2) How aVote Carries: specify what percentage of those present must vote for a person for that person to be elected as an officer. You may decide that a plurality (the largest percentage of votes) is sufficient to elect an officer, or you may specify a particular percentage (e.g. majority, which is one-half plus one; two-thirds, three-fourths, etc.).
  3. You will also need to indicate who will count the votes.  The following language is recommended:  The counting and handling of the ballots will be the responsibility of the President and the Advisor.  If the President is running for office, this responsibility will fall to the next ranking officer who is not on the ballot.


Section III - Terms of Office: Define when officers will be elected and will take office. The Student Life Committee recommends, but does not require, the following timetable, with terms of office from April 1 to March 31.


February: Elect new officers who participate in the Leadership Development Institute held by the Center for Leadership.


March: New officers shadow old officers and prepare next year's budget request to SGA.


April: New officers assume office and present budget requests to SGA, appoint members to committees for next year, plan for new membership recruitment in the fall (SGA Organization Fair in September), set goals with other officers, etc. Note: Unless specified otherwise, a member may be elected to an office more than one year. If necessary, you may place limitations on service in your bylaws.



Section IV:  Vacancies in Officer Positions

Define how vacancies will be filled in case an officer resigns or is removed from office. The Vice President usually assumes the President's position for the remainder of the term unless the bylaws specify that a new President will be elected within a specified time period. Include provisions for how each officer will be replaced.



Section 2 - Removal of Members and Officers

Removal of Members: A member may not be removed arbitrarily. Specific reasons for initiating removal proceedings must be specified in the bylaws.  Common reasons include a significant amount of unexcused absences from meetings/activities, violation of rules explained in the Student Handbook or failure to abide by the policies of the club/organization, and conduct unbecoming the organization.


Reasons for Removing Officers: Officers are expected to fulfill all responsibilities of their offices and those of standard membership. Be sure to list the responsibilities of each officer in Section IA: "Titles and duties of each officer,” and indicate in this section that failure to fulfill the responsibilities of his or her office are grounds for removal. 



Procedure for Removing Members and Officers: Minimum due process must be followed: The accused person must be provided written charges and an opportunity to defend him/herself before the officer or committee authorized to take action in the organization. The bylaws must specify this authority; it can be a judicial committee, the officers, or the entire membership, and procedures can be different for disciplining members or officers.

The percentage of members required in attendance to vote on removing a member or officer AND the percentage of those present who must vote to remove the member or officer for the action to be effective must be specified in the bylaws (quorum and how a vote carries).


The accused member/officer must be notified in writing of their status after the decision is made whether or not to remove the member or officer from the club or organization. NOTE: This section may be retitled "Discipline/Expulsion Procedures," and the bylaws may specify a range of sanctions up to and including expulsion. For example, the bylaws may fine a member up to a specified amount (state the manner in which the amount of a fine is decided), put a member on probation for a specified amount of time, restrict the member from participating in specified activities for a specified amount of time, suspend the member from the organization for a given period of time, etc. These sanctions need to be defined in the bylaws or some companion document voted upon by the organization and cannot be determined randomly.


Article V - Meetings



  1. How often the organization will meet (monthly, bi-weekly, etc.),
  2. How meeting times will be determined (vote at start of year, etc),
  3. How and by whom members will be notified if the time of the regular meetings needs to be changed or if there needs to be a special meeting,
  4. What the attendance rules are for meetings and other organization events (fund-raisers, social events, etc.) and who is to be contacted if a member cannot participate for a good reason,
  5. How many required meetings of the officers you may desire and how many officers must be present for the meeting to be official,
  6. What constitutes a QUORUM: what percentage or number of the organization's members must be present for the organization to conduct business. (For example, you could establish 50% of the members or a minimum of 10 members as quorum. Unless a quorum is defined differently for special events, such as elections or disciplinary proceedings, the quorum given here applies whenever the organization is making decisions. If the number or percentage of members defined to constitute a quorum is not met, the organization cannot conduct official business that affects the other members.)
  7. How a VOTE CARRIES: what percentage of members present at a meeting must vote for an action to carry and be in effect for the organization. (The percentage of members present for a vote to carry may vary from issue to issue only if specified in the bylaws. For example, the percentage of positive votes to elect officers is usually higher than the general percentage required to conduct business.)


Article VI - Committees


Some organizations may find it necessary to operate with committees, usually referred to as “standing committees,” while others may decide to implement a committee for a specific task, usually referred to as “ad-hoc.” 


Define the composition and responsibilities of committees whose mission is to implement the goals and objectives of the club and to provide opportunities for involvement and ownership by the members. Typical committees may include a social committee, fundraising committee, budget committee, recruitment committee, scheduling committee, judicial committee, etc.


The names of the committees and who appoints the committees and the chair of the committees should be specified in the bylaws. Often, the section in the bylaws detailing the duties of the officers will indicate which committees the officers appoint and if the organization must approve the membership and/or chair of the committees.


Ad-hoc Committees: It is often helpful to authorize the President of the organization to appoint committees to address a specific issue. In these situations, the committee should report on its work and progress to the organization as a whole.


Article VII - Finances


Funds may be generated from any or all of the following:


Section 1 – Dues

If dues are to be collected from members, there must be a stated process and time for determining the amount of the dues.

  1. Specify how the amount dues will be decided.  Choose one of the following: (1) refer to Article V; (2) choose a specific quorum and how the vote will carry for dues; (3) a minimum of 3 officers on the executive committee and the advisor.
  2. Do NOT provide a specific dollar amount in the bylaws.
  3. The first of the academic year, after a group has ended its recruitment process and has the bulk of members for the year, is a good time to set dues. It is a good idea to set goals and determine activities of the organization for the year and decide how the activities will be financed.



Section 2 – Student Government Association

Funds may be generated from Student Government Association allocations (in April of each year for the following academic year), from membership dues and from fund-raisers. 


If your organization falls under the Academic or Honorary cluster, a request for funds goes through the Student Organization Advisory Board member.  A letter will be sent to your advisor prior to allocation explaining the details of the process.


Section 3 – Fundraising

Fundraisers must be approved in advance by the Division of Student Life and all raised funds must be deposited into the organization’s on-campus account.  The organization should get approval from the Student Development Office before soliciting businesses in the community or other external constituents, such as parents, alumni, etc. Student organizations are asked to make sure the organization's fund-raising efforts don't jeopardize university fund-raising efforts of which the student organization may be unaware.  Please note that there are certain guidelines for club sports in which donations may not exceed $3,000, and the organization may not receive more than $6,000 in private donations in a fiscal year.  See your Student Organization Advisory Board (SOAB) member for further clarification.


If the organization must pay fees to an outside affiliation, such as national or professional organizations, the bylaws or another formal document must reflect this obligation.


It is suggested that bylaws include a provision for membership participation in fundraising efforts.



Article VIII - Advisor


Section 1: Selection

Every student organization is required to have a full-time faculty or staff person willing to serve as an advisor before the Student Life Committee will recognize a group as an official student organization.   Provisions for selection of an Advisor must be included in your bylaws.


Section 2:  Duties

To reserve rooms, vans, etc., the advisor must sign appropriate forms. The advisor is also required to attend or find a person approved by the university to attend out-of-town events in which the student organization participates.  The advisor's role is not to run the organization, but to give advice to members and officers and to facilitate an experience rich in opportunities for intellectual, cultural and personal growth. Club Sports please see your Student Organization Advisory Board member for further guidelines.


Article IX - Amendments


Include a mechanism to propose and pass changes to the organization's bylaws. The membership must vote on any changes. Members should have appropriate time to consider changes before a vote is taken on their approval. Unless otherwise stipulated, a quorum is sufficient to pass any changes.


Article X - Parliamentary Authority


Each organization should select, from the many books about parliamentary procedure, one to use as a model for administrative business. The manual will serve as a guide and reference as situations warrant. The two most popular parliamentary procedure systems are Robert's Rule of Order and Sturgis.