Nonprofit Bylaws

Blogs / By Mike Crum

Wake Up! Nonprofit Bylaws Are Vital to Board & Nonprofit Performance

Nonprofit bylaws are not typically a scintillating topic of conversation.

Most Nonprofit executives, staff, and board members I’ve met have never even seen, much less read their Nonprofit’s bylaws. Bylaws are often only thought of as document the Nonprofit submitted when forming the Nonprofit.

This is a big mistake! Your Nonprofit’s bylaws have a huge impact on the organization, performance, and outcomes of your Nonprofit’s board of directors.

Savvy prospective board members will ask to see the bylaws prior to joining your Nonprofit’s board. They know the bylaws are the main governing document for the Nonprofit that provides an operating manual of sorts. In particular, bylaws outline the rules that govern your Nonprofit’s board of directors.

If you’re drafting your bylaws to launch your Nonprofit, or exploring whether or not to update your bylaws, you should consider checking out the Sample Bylaws document Affnetz developed for US Nonprofits. You can see the key sections and topics you need to cover, as well as highlighted areas that you should consider carefully when drafting or updating your bylaws.

What I mean by “areas that you should consider carefully” is that when drafting or updating your bylaws, you want to ensure your bylaws are solid, but you also want to provide room for growth. For example, at start-up you might not want to require the board have a minimum of 12 board members. Thus, perhaps you state a range of 6 to 18, which allows plenty of room for growth.

Another key area to consider is term limits. I think term limits are essential to securing incredible board members and maintaining a high performing board of directors. Two, three-year terms are pretty standard, along with a mandatory one year off period for board members cycling off the board after their term/s. Staggering your board member’s terms of service also allows you to fill board vacancies on a rolling basis so only a portion of board members need to be replaced in any given year.

In addition to our sample Nonprofit bylaws, Nolo provides a good set of sample bylaws, as well as an overview of what / not to include in your bylaws. You’ll also want to create a Whistleblower Policy and Document Destruction Policy. The Nonprofit Times provides a great article and resources on developing a Whistle Blower policy, and the National Council on Nonprofits has a very informative post on developing a Document Destruction policy. .

I’m happy to talk with you more about bylaws. Let me know if you have any questions or feedback regarding Affnetz’s sample Nonprofit bylaws.


Mike Crum

Subject Matter Expert

Mike is a recognized expert, thought leader, advisor and speaker in the Nonprofit world. Over the past four decades, Mike served as an Executive Director, COO, see more

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