Bylaws Revision Process
VOTING NOW OPEN!
Thank you for your engagement during this important process.
The Bylaws provide the formal structure of the congregation and allow for maintaining and changing that structure. Bylaws hold the highest level of authority of congregational guiding documents; they are considered a legal binding document. Bylaws do not need to include every matter of policy. Because bylaws are generally amended only through congregational meetings, nimble congregations will create policies, operating guidelines and procedures that stand apart from the bylaws to govern day-to-day matters. These can be amended more easily as needs evolve and change.
In early 2020, the Board launched a subcommittee to review and revise our bylaws. That team, led by Board Members Rachel Murphy and Elizabeth Pirie spent months researching and revising with guidance from our Unitarian Universalist Association and other sources. Our aim was to create bylaws that fit our current practices, reflected up-to-date changes in communication, technology and gathering, and offered us maximum flexibility. We looked for ways to become more nimble by shifting some of the operational management into policies and procedures. There are several things that are important to codify for smooth congregational operations. Some things, though important, don’t require the force of law, and therefore do not need to be in the bylaws.
Characteristics of Effective Bylaws:
● be brief and clearly stated;
● cover only the bare bones of the organizational structure;
● be reasonably easy to amend;
● comply with the laws to which the organization is subject;
● be readily accessible to all members.
Purpose and history of this Bylaws revision
1. Simplify – We wanted our bylaws to be simpler and more flexible—to cut down on legal jargon, and to make them easily understood by everyone. With each element, our first question was “Does this need to be in the bylaws (and carry the force of law) or would it be better served elsewhere in our policies and procedures?” Nonprofit bylaws are the legally binding rules by which the organization is governed. They should provide the enforceable outline of operations in line with our mission, vision, and values. Specifics should be reserved for Board policies or staff procedures, which can be more easily updated as our context changes.
2. Modernize – The existing bylaws were written with face-to-face meeting and synchronous decision making requirements. As technology has progressed, particularly with Covid-19, these requirements have become obsolete.
3. Reflect current practice – Some of the bylaws no longer accurately reflected our current practices and values. For example, the current bylaws state a specific number of outside fiscal audits, to which we have not always adhered due to cost and lack of perceived need. We also wanted our bylaws to reflect our values of inclusivity and justice so that as many people as possible could participate in congregational operations and decision making.
Once a conceptual framework and an initial draft were created, the committee brought 13 topics to the Board for discussion between January and April, 2021. These discussions were then used to frame an interim draft in July 2021. This draft was placed online, and discussions about the interim draft were then offered to the entire congregation on 10/3/21, 11/14/21, 2/20/22, and 3/13/22. We had good participation for these informational sessions and received many helpful comments and concerns. All of these comments and concerns were reviewed carefully by the bylaws subcommittee and brought to the full board and Rev. Sara for further discussion as needed. As you will see, many changes were made as a result of these comments.
We thank the Board and the Board Members who took time and care to guide us through this important process. Voting is now open.