Bylaws are a concise statement of purpose and organizational structure within which a Friends group functions.
A set of bylaws should include at least the following:
- Name of the organization. (The official name that will be used on your legal documents, including your Articles of Incorporation and your IRS 501(c)3 determination letter.)
- Purpose of the organization. (Your "mission statement" that guides your future decisions on planning, programming, and spending your money.)
- Membership. (Who can join, how to join, voting rights.)
- Governing body. (Board of directors, how they are chosen, and how long they serve.)
- Officers. (How they are chosen, their duties, and their terms of office.)
- Meetings. (How they are scheduled, to whom they are open, and what notice must be given.)
- Fiscal year, financial matters, audit (Including any requirements your state may have for the financial governance of not-for-profits.)
- A procedure for amending the bylaws.
- A dissolution statement. (What happens to the organization's assets if the organization disbands?)
- A statement of the rules of order to be followed in official meetings.
It is well to remember that changes to bylaws will usually need to be reported to the arm of state government that oversees incorporation, usually the Secretary of State's office. For this reason, it is best that such topics as amount of membership dues and scheduling of meetings be written in general rather than specific terms. You don't want to go through a bylaws change every time you establish a new membership category, appoint a committee, or change the board's meeting schedule.
- Friends of Connecticut Libraries have posted several sets of sample bylaws.
- For additional help and resources on bylaws for not-for-profits, see The Foundation Center.
- FOLUSA Members: For more specific information on Articles of Incorporation, by-laws, and not-for-profit status, see Toolkit 4: Incorporating and Tax Exempting Procedures for Friends in the Friends Zone.
- Not yet a FOLUSA member? Find out how your group can join.