Time to spring clean your Constitution & Bylaws

Posted On: Tuesday, 19 March 2024
Time to spring clean your Constitution & Bylaws

It’s March, which means spring cleaning season is upon us — that fabulous time each year when closets get organized, junk drawers get de-junked, and homes get refreshed. Once your home is sparkling, why not keep the momentum going and spring clean your governing documents? After all, an annual review of your Constitution & Bylaws is a best practice, so let’s set a date and make a pact to clean our documents every spring. Here are some things to consider during this year’s cleaning:

1. The ALA’s eligibility includes spouses, so make sure your wording has been updated. If the section is referencing general membership, consider swapping out “she” and replacing with the neutral term “member(s).” If the section refers to the duties of a specific office — for example, the unit president — consider changing “she” to “the president.” Instead of saying “she shall preside over unit meetings,” change the text to “the unit president shall preside over all unit meetings.”

2. Consider adding a Code of Conduct and procedures regarding the discipline of a member. Having a section outlining the Code of Conduct in your governing documents can help clearly define positive behavior welcomed by all unit members. This can be a great tool to share with new members and can decrease the potential for future conflicts. Clearly written procedures on disciplining a member can outline consequences for behavior deemed disrespectful to fellow members. When crafting your section on member discipline, don’t forget to cite the principles of fundamental fairness which include notice and an opportunity to be heard.

3. Shouda, woulda, coulda — it all amounts to nothing. “Should” has no place in your governing documents. If the word “should” is anywhere in your governing documents, you better grab your cleaning caddy and bleach it right out of your C&B. Remember: Your governing documents state the fundamentals of your unit. These rules and procedures should be as clear as possible, and the word “should” leaves far too much room for interpretation. Consider swapping “should” for “may” or “must/shall.”  

4. One thing that continues to be true is that old saying: “If you stay ready, you won’t have to get ready.” That simply means spring cleaning can be greatly lessened by staying on top of your closets and your governing documents. Take the time after each board meeting to update any changes voted on by your board. Assign segments of your C&B to be reviewed by members of your unit. Have them check for accuracy, clarity, and specificity. If there is room for interpretation, consider rewriting the section with clearer, stronger language.

Organizational governing documents are so important because they state the fundamental purpose, structure, and limits of an organization, as well as containing the procedures the organization must follow to conduct business effectively and efficiently. Up to date, well-written, clear, and concise governing documents help to clarify authorities, outline responsibilities, and can ultimately serve to solve issues before they become problems. Your governing documents matter, so this spring while you work to get your house in order, consider doing the same for your governing documents. 

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.