Jump to content
Beavah

Unit Bylaws

Recommended Posts

Yah, lots of folks pretty "down" about unit committee bylaws, eh?

 

It's true I've seen lots of bad ones. It's also true what FScouter said - bylaws don't solve problems after the fact. Yeh should always avoid the temptation to legislate after dealin' with an "issue." Makes for bad legislation.

 

At the same time, there are all kinds of things about unit operations where bylaws are helpful. Bylaws are particularly useful at preventing problems if they're well written, because they are impersonal. They offer guidance that isn't all caught up in da personality disputes of the moment. They also are a form of communication - communication about procedures, but also about values and vision. Unit meltdowns are almost always all about adults who don't share vision/values and aren't communicatin'.

 

Here are some areas where havin' something written down and practiced I think has some merit, and isn't covered in any of the BSA literature, or only in a cursory way.

 

Who sits on the committee?

How are they selected/vetted/approved?

How does the committee make decisions?

How are committee jobs chosen/assigned?

How does the CO/COR/IH interact and what are the reporting requirements of the unit to the CO?

How are unit leaders and assistant unit leaders selected/vetted/approved?

 

How are fees handled?

How are scout accounts handled?

How is fundraising revenue handled/divided?

What are the accounting controls and oversight of the treasury?

How are donations handled?

How are expenditures handled for events?

How are expenditures handled/approved for capital purchases?

 

What are the training requirements for positions?

What is the term of office for positions? Term limits?

 

What are the procedures for handling complaints?

What are the procedures for handling "hard cases" like a decision to remove a scout for disciplinary reasons. Best to have those in place before they're needed.

What are the procedures for recommending removal of a leader, committee member or parent?

 

How does the committee protect its process from disruptive members/parents? Rules of order, whatever... something that allows yeh to move on over objections.

 

Let's hear some others.

 

Of course, there are also good reasons why a PLC may want to have bylaws or its own set of regulations, and IIRC Venturing Crews are supposed to develop bylaws at the youth level.

 

Key is all things in moderation, eh? Use bylaws and local rules for what they're good for, but don't go over the top!

 

Beavah

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bylaws for a Troop should not include anything the BSA has already defined. Bylaws should be used to define meeting times, when dues are due, when permission slips are turned in, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most of the bylaws I have concerns about aren't focused on committee operations, but on details of troop program operations that should rightfully be left up to the Scouts or the judgment of the SM. That includes such things as definitions of what's a full uniform, detailing how youth leaders are elected/selected, requiring attendance percentages for advancement, etc. Really micromanagement stuff, however well-intentioned at the outset.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bylaws for a Troop should not include anything the BSA has already defined.

 

Why not?

 

Da BSA says that shootin' sports are OK, but a Quaker unit may choose to prohibit their unit from doin' that sort of stuff.

 

The BSA program materials say that the troop treasurer handles the money and should be a committee member, but we've got a small religious school where the school bookkeeper handles the scout accounts.

 

Troop Committee Guide says there should be an adult Outings Chair, but I know a lot of units that don't use the position because they feel runnin' outings is a youth/PLC job and they don't want anyone on the committee micromanagin'.

 

There are all kinds of ways and places where it's perfectly appropriate for a unit to do somethin' different than what's in the BSA program materials. Puttin' such things in a bylaws or committee rules document helps communicate those things to new folks and lessen disputes.

 

And a good set of bylaws can even specify da scope of authority of a committee or position so as to prevent the sort of micromanagin' shortridge is talking about.

 

Beavah

(This message has been edited by Beavah)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Beevah is absolutely right in advising that you draft bylaws before any issues arise. Once you start drafting while an issue is sitting out there, everyone will focus on drafting rules that they think will fix the problem, or exact punishment on whom they perceive to be the enemy. Just as legislation drafted to remedy one event or problem, becomes poor law, so it will be with your set of bylaws.

 

As an attorney who helps create partnerships, small corporations and non-profit groups, I always implore the individuals to draft bylaws prior to beginning any work. Once work begins, issues and fears begin to arise and it becomes impossible to draft a good set of procedures and goals.

 

When you write, focus on procedures. How is the group to run? The list of points, posted above, is a very good place to start. What is the chain of command? Who runs the group? I suggest that you always put in the following clause:

 

"The rules contained in Roberts Rules of Order, newly revised, shall govern the proceedings of the Troop Committee in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with these by-laws"

 

This is important for two reasons: 1) you may miss something in your draft. If you do, get a copy of Robert's Rules and it will tell you how to proceed; 2) If there is anything, in drafting your bylaws, which cannot be resolved or you find too charged to discuss, let Robert's Rules decide (I find this particularly helpful in determining how to discipline wayward members).

 

The Bylaws are intended to be a skeleton, stating who the officers are, how they are chosen, and how they are going to get things done together.

Bylaws should not get too specific on micro issues...the detail of how things are done beyond basic procedure.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The challenge I see with Bylaws is that they take on a life of their own and become like Kudzu. Once in place, you can't kill the dang things and they just keep growing. Then they present a tempting opening through which well-meaning, but overly-involved adults can tinker with the boys' program. When bylaws begin to rival the Scout Handbook in length and nobody reads (or follows) them except overzealous committee members, they become real problems.

 

Boys do not join scouting to be weighed down by a ton of extra adult bylaws. They join for fun and adventure. If your bylaws get in the way of that, they've defeated the purpose.

 

Just my thoughts on what I've seen happen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would suggest that anyone considering bylaws to first attempt to read Robert's Rules of Order. That should stop any notion that bylaws serve any purpose.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Two years ago when our committee began the process of developing by-laws I thought great, some aspects of unit can be defined. Especially adult behavior. Instead it turned into a document to handcuff the scoutmaster and push all decisions to the committee chair. The committee asked me to review by-laws. I did then never got back to them. I let this particular dumb document die in review. A few months later we got a new CC. The new CC was not interested in running all program and financial decisions through him. The by-laws are dead; for now anyway.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"I would suggest that anyone considering bylaws to first attempt to read Robert's Rules of Order. That should stop any notion that bylaws serve any purpose."

 

Ha ha ha. Probably the most ridiculous thing I've read on this thread.

 

As a parliamentarian, I've read Robert's Rules. Every organization I am a member of has bylaws. They are a must for all organizations, as is clear from RONR. They clearly define a great deal about an org. Without it, you really don't have an organization.

 

Scout troops don't have bylaws not because they are bad, but because they are a subset of the BSA, and BSA policy pretty much covers everything that would be in a unit's bylaws.

 

Other information about a unit would be better in a set of 'standing rules' or 'policies' then in bylaws.

 

 

 

 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Parent Guide, YES. Standing rules and policies, YES. BSA pubs, YES.

Bylaws, NO! Parliamentary procedure, NO! Roberts Rules, NO! There simply is no value in a Pack or Troop.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

By laws are a necessity. We hate to "Have to have them" but we need them.

I think Beavah did a pretty good job of covering some necessary ones too.

Bylaws help make and uphold descisions on what fundraiser puts money in a scouts pass book and what fundraiser doesn't.

 

Those same bylaws help remove/replace an adult who is registered and in an authoritive position, who pays their recharter, but does nothing else.

 

It also gives you solid ground on why you removed a scout from your pack/troop who does nothing but cause havoc and trouble. And I mean the scout who could set the building on fire in front of everybody..and their parents would sit right there and say their son was being framed! You know...The "My baby is an angel and the rest of the world is the problem!" kinda parents.

That's what bylaws are good for, needed for.

 

And even though there is an established chain of command pertaining to CO,COR, Committee, leaders and council ...sometimes copying that same chain of command in the bylaws also tends to stregnthen the chain of command. Beats me as to why it's needed, but have seen it work time and time again in fire/ ems/rescue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Beavah says:

 

Troop Committee Guide says there should be an adult Outings Chair, but I know a lot of units that don't use the position because they feel runnin' outings is a youth/PLC job and they don't want anyone on the committee micromanagin'.

 

Really? So the PLC can decide that there's going to be a monthly camping trip on the other side of the country, with no consideration of cost, or how long it's going to take to get there, and there's no ability for the committee (or a designated member) to step in and tell the PLC to come up with a better idea?

 

Does the SPL sign the tour permit? (That form that has places for both the "unit committee member" and "tour leader" to sign, and both of those people must be adults.)

 

Does the SPL make the reservation with the camp? (Which, in legal terms, involves making a contract, which you have to be an adult (at least 18 in most states) to do.)

 

I hope not, in all these cases. You need one or more adults to be the final gatekeeper for trip planning, to sign the tour permit, and to make a binding reservation with a campsite, outfitter or whoever. Regardless of that person'(s) title(s) in any particular unit, they are fulfilling the role of Outings Chair (or whatever it's called) in the committee guidebook.

 

I also have to take issue with this:

 

Here are some areas where havin' something written down and practiced I think has some merit, and isn't covered in any of the BSA literature, or only in a cursory way.

 

Without going through each of the items on your list, I would say that about half of them are sufficiently handled in the BSA literature. I suppose that in theory there is nothing wrong with having local bylaws that restate the national policies and guidelines, but what often happens in real life that there will be a strong temptation to "tweak" these on the unit level, to the point where you have unit bylaws that are now contrary to what national has specified.

 

The one group of topics that you have listed where I think the BSA leaves room for local "policies and practices" are in the financial area. Spelling out in writing how "Scout accounts", fees for outings, etc. work, is not a bad idea. "Our" troop does not do so, but there have been times when I wished we did. (I have not pushed it, because I have been involved in bylaws-writing processes in other organizations, and I am concerned that it would open up so many cans of worms simultaneously that I'd probably be sorry I did it.)

 

But I definitely would NOT call the document "bylaws" in a Scout troop. I agree with FScouter on that, and I think "Parents' Guide" or something that would probably be best. In fact, when I was a Cub Scout leader, we did create such a thing (2 or 3 pages if I recall correctly) and I think we called it a "Parent's Handbook." If I had to guess, I would say that after I left it probably didn't survive for another two years, if that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll give you a great example of why by-laws are needed.Years ago, I used to be a volunteer fireman. Matter of fact, it was originally my career choice (until marrage and kids makes you change your mind), I had taken many college coturses and was certified as a levelII firefighter in NC I was a ceretified EMT and Water Rescue level II I had my Emergency Vehicle Operactions Certification (EVOC) and CEVO. So anyways, just saying this wasn't some back woods bunch of rednecks......well, some were, but not enough to matter! LOL!

 

WEll, to show you an example of a group of well intentioned, but mislead people, let me tell you how the depart,ment was set up. WE hada board of directores. They basically ran the financial and jegal side of the dept. The board president (or chair) was the chief of the FD/Rescue The board members were made up of the offocers of the dept. That consosied of one each from the fie and rescue side : Asst chief, capt, Lt, and member at large.

 

The member at large was about the closest thing to being right,

It seems that the people in charge were always the people in charge. Wether at fire or writting checks or deciding procedure.

 

Now, the officers were choses each year by popular vote (sooo not a good idea) . Luckily for us, at least al the officers were actually highly trained and most had careers in their respective position on the FD/rescue sq.

 

Department policy was that a person had to attend at least 2 meetings a year, one of them bing the Dec meeting (when voting was held) in order to vote for an officer or to hold a position.

 

That means I could show up in Nov..decide who I thought was cool, vote for themn in Dec and not be seen again until next Nov. Now, if I was that person, it would mean I really had no idea of what was going on. Maybe I voted for Bubba because he was my friend?

Maybe I got voted in because everybody thought I was cool. Guess what, I was in until I either quit or until next year when the vote was held.

 

So what does this have to do with scouting right?

 

Whos is your CC? Who is your troop/pack trainer?

Who is your treasurer?

Who is your advancement committee?

Who is in charge of everything else?

 

What if the stop showing up? How do you get them to either come back or replace them.

 

What if your troop/pack registrar doesn't want to give up the books/records because his/her position is a one or two year term? How would you get those books back? Call the cops?

 

Write up a set of bylaws and let a lawyer go over them.

 

By laws are not made to nit pick this person or that person.They are not made to remove people, they are made to protect the organazation from people who do not do what they are supposed to, and hurt the pack/troop in the process!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Scout units have no need for Roberts Rules. If you look at the Cub Scout leader book or the Troop Committee Guidebook, you will see the structure of a unit committee meeting. No where are the words motion, second, quorum or vote mentioned. Why? Because that's not how BSA unit committees work.

 

Each committee member has a job, assigned by the committee chair (who is selected by the Chartered Organization). The committee chair is vested with the authority by the CO to run the unit according to the policies of the BSA and the CO. The Committee Chair delegates responsibilities to the committee members according to the positions they hold. The body of the meeting consists of the committee, under the direction of the chair, reporting on what they have accomplished on their responsibilities the previous month. The committee then takes up new business, again based on their responsibilities and completes that part of the planning for the month which falls within their responsibilities. (Of course, not taking program functions from the Boy scouts or Cubmaster, depending on the unit. There is little or nothing which would require a vote.

 

Does a unit need **policies** regarding dues, Scout Accounts, parent recruitment? Yep. Calling them bylaws is a BIG mistake IMO. Why? Because it gives parents (and to some extent Scouts) the idea that these policies are indeed "laws". In other words - there is not a mechanism to enforce them. Other than the goodwill of the participants - there really isn't. There's no way for a parent to "appeal" to the council office, DE, or Unit Commissioner, if they don't like the way a unit is operating (unless we're talking about abuse or blatant violation of BSA policy)

 

The following are all covered by various BSA publications - including them in "bylaws" or even unit policies is superfluous:

Who sits on the committee?

How are they selected/vetted/approved?

How does the committee make decisions?

How are committee jobs chosen/assigned?

How does the CO/COR/IH interact and what are the reporting requirements of the unit to the CO?

How are unit leaders and assistant unit leaders selected/vetted/approved?

What are the training requirements for positions?

What is the term of office for positions? Term limits?

What are the procedures for handling "hard cases" like a decision to remove a scout for disciplinary reasons. What are the procedures for recommending removal of a leader, committee member or parent?

 

I serve on three different unit committees (and in one case have done so for 20 years). In all that time, I have never seen a need for anything beyond simple policies that cover dues & fundraising, parent participation and a few other things. Our pack policies are one page - and even some of those are redundant w/ BSA publications - we put them in since parents don't typically read the Guide to Safe Scouting.

 

I can count on one hand the number of times we have "voted" and even then, those votes were really affirmations of previously planned substantial budget expenditures or adoptions of the policy document itself, which had been extensively discussed and was a consensus document.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Parent Guide, YES. Standing rules and policies, YES. BSA pubs, YES.

Bylaws, NO! Parliamentary procedure, NO! Roberts Rules, NO! There simply is no value in a Pack or Troop.

 

What's the difference between a Parent Guide & Standing Rules ns Policies and Bylaws?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×