Organizational term limits

Benefits and drawbacks to term limits for volunteer roles.

Michigan 4-H advisory groups as well as many community organizations are expected to utilize bylaws to provide structure for how their groups function. When structuring officer or membership roles and responsibilities, the topic of term limits often arises. Many groups must grapple with the question, “How long is too long to serve as a member or officer of this group?” Term limits define the number of consecutive years or terms an individual can serve in a leadership role.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development doesn’t require 4-H advisory groups to implement term limits, but rather consider the benefits and drawbacks as they apply to their organization. When an organization uses term limits, it requires volunteers to turn over at a set time. Term limits can unnecessarily force a good youth or volunteer out of a role in which they excel.

On the positive side, term limits assure the organization has a healthy leadership base. By requiring a dedicated volunteer to take a year off, it also encourages other capable individuals to step into leadership roles. This encourages more people to understand the role and associated responsibilities, which better prepares an organization in times of unexpected turnover. Term limits may also bring forward new voices to a group, which can offer new perspectives and new energy to organizational challenges.

A healthy organization should be able to function with or without term limits in place. If organizations take recruitment of new members seriously and encourage individuals to be nominated for leadership roles, organizations can rely on the outcome of votes to determine the best course for their leadership.

Staff members at Michigan State University Extension are available to help your 4-H advisory group write or review bylaws. View resources on our 4-H Advisory Group Support webpage, or contact us for more information at

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