4-H club bylaws: A great tool to keep your club on track
Bylaws provide direction and structure, as well as allow for clarity of the expectations of a club or group.
4-H club bylaws are not required or necessary to have a strong club; however, a well-written set of bylaws will provide a club with direction and structure. Bylaws can outline the major functions of the group so members knows the expectations. Generally, bylaws comprise all the rules by which a club is governed. Club bylaws shouldn’t be complex and hard for the members to understand, but instead allow for clarity of the expectations of the group.
Club bylaws need to have a few key parts to be useful and should be created as a document that is not changed often. An annual review is suggested to make minor changes or adaptations, but if they are written correctly in the beginning, very few changes if any will be needed each year. The basic components of bylaws are as follows.
Name. Use the official club name that appears on your EIN paperwork or Club Charter.
Object/Purpose. The purpose drives the work of the club. An entire article by Michigan State University Extension has been developed to creating an organizational purpose statement: “Creating a strong purpose creates a strong committee.”
Clubs should also include in their purpose that this club operates in accordance with the Michigan 4-H Youth Development Club Constitution. All clubs had to sign this constitution to become a recognized club (see your 4-H staff for a copy).
Members and Leaders. Members: This section can include language regarding the qualifications of members, attendance policies, etc. A key question is whether you want to keep your group focused on a particular project area or be open to look into new ideas when they arise. It is required that all 4-H clubs follow MSU Extension’s civil rights policies and assure our programs are open to all; however, they can be project-driven or have age limitations, etc.
Leaders: This section could explain the role of the leaders and contain a list of the various leader positions along with their responsibilities or project groups.
Club Reports and Forms. This section could contain enrollment deadlines, cost of dues (if any), membership fee structure, Code of Conduct, etc.
Officers. This section should outline each office, the duties associated with that office, the process for electing and the timeline of the term.
Meetings. If the club functions using a standard meeting date, such as the first Thursday of the month, it should be noted here.
Committees. This section should outline any standard committees such as fundraising committee, fair committee, education committee, etc.
Authority. This section can outline the governing documents that organizations can refer to when not otherwise outlined in the bylaws. Roberts Rules of Order is the standard protocol for all parliamentary matters. Using the language “current edition” will allow the organization to follow the most updated procedures without needing to change their bylaws every time a new edition is published. The Financial Manual for 4-H Treasurers or Financial Manual for 4-H Volunteers serve as the reference point for all financial questions not addressed in the bylaws.
Restrictions. This section outlines any further restrictions the organization must function within. For example, all funds raised in the name of 4-H must have a policy in place for their disbandment; project-based advisory groups typically turn over property to the county 4-H program.
Amendments of Bylaws. There is no one set way to amend bylaws. Each organization can decide how changes can be made. Always specify the exact requirements for making amendments and make sure the rights of all members continue to be protected.
For a full, printable version of the bylaw template, samples of bylaws and other toolkit items, please visit MSU Extension's Advisory Toolkit.