How can we have a virtual Michigan 4-H club meeting when the bylaws say you cannot?

Host a virtual Michigan 4-H meeting even when you have bylaws prohibiting this.

Youth in a 4-H club meeting
Photo by National 4-H Council

Bylaws are an important tool for many Michigan 4-H clubs to help run fair, effective and efficient meetings. Following a set of bylaws gives the membership a sense of expectations and holds individuals and the club to a level of accountability. Most club bylaws are written to regulate meetings that are done face to face, and that is what would normally be encouraged. Under special circumstances, a virtual Michigan 4-H club meeting might be necessary. If the club bylaws are written in a way that prevents this, it might be necessary to suspend the rule in the bylaws for a set amount of time in order to keep the club in compliance.

Although voting to change your bylaws would be more in line with Roberts Rules of Order, it may be too complicated to do so under certain circumstances such as during a stay at home order. Suspending bylaws is not in compliance with Roberts Rules of Order, nor is suspending a rule within the bylaws virtually if they say you cannot meet that way. However, since Michigan 4-H uses these rules as guidelines, it is suggested to detour from the normal rules and suspend the rule that prevents meeting virtually so that the important 4-H work can continue. Although 4-H meetings and groups always have a great amount of value, in times like these there may be more value and need than before to continue with youth development.

The Michigan State University Extension 4-H leadership and civic engagement team recommends the following: To suspend the rule preventing virtual meetings, it takes a two-thirds vote of the full membership if vote is taken via email or two-thirds vote of the membership participating in a virtual meeting as long as the membership was given proper notification of this vote taking place. For a virtual meeting vote, a group must have the appropriate number of members present, which can be found in their bylaws under quorum, in order to have a vote. Youth can be notified via email, Facebook, texting or phone call and the leader needs to be sure everyone received the notice of the meeting to suspend.

To suspend a rule through a virtual setting, follow the script below on how to suspend:

President – “At this time in order to conduct official business, I would entertain a motion to suspend the rule that states we have face to face meetings.”

Member 1 – “I move to suspend this rule until (enter an appropriate end date here) in order to have a virtual meeting during this time that we are on a stay at home order.”

President – “Is there a second?”

Member 2 – “I second that motion.”

President – “Is there any discussion regarding suspending the rule in order to have a virtual meeting?” (Pause for discussion).

President – “Seeing no further discussion, we will proceed to vote via roll call. The secretary will call individuals names. If you are in favor of suspending the rule, you will signify by saying yes. If you are opposed to suspending the rule, vote no.”

Secretary - Based on attendance, call each member individually and record their vote.

President - Announce if the motion passed or not. Since it was a roll call, vote remember to announce how many were in favor and how many were against.

If it is easier to suspend the rule through email, then follow this script for the email:

Due to the special circumstances our nation is under, I am recommending we suspend the rule that prevents our club from meeting virtually for the next three months. Club meetings are an important part of our 4-H youth development and many families would benefit from meeting, which many may feel is more important than following the rule in our bylaws to not meet virtually. You will have an opportunity to vote on this action and share your thoughts or concerns.

If a lot of club members do not have access to a virtual meeting such as Zoom, this process is not recommended. Instead, work through email or phone conferences so that youth are not left out.

Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development has many resources to help officers be successful. For further materials, check out the 4-H Advisory Group Support Toolkit, the So You Are an Officer in Your 4-H Club Series, or contact the leadership civic engagement team at MSUE.DL.4HLeadership@msu.edu.

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