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Beavah

Unit Bylaws

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As ever I'm at sixes and sevens with this one.

Most of the lists of whateveryouwanttocall'em seem to get in the way.

This is especially true when it comes to these things when they deal with the youth members.

Units try to do stuff that is either already covered by the BSA. I'm thinking about what a uniform is? Requirements for advancement and that sort of stuff. They try to lay down rules for attendance, but end up having to make so many exceptions that the rule becomes so full of holes that it becomes meaningless.

My hope for the youth we serve is that they choose to do the right thing because it's just the right thing to do.

I don't need a rule for kids of Scouts to brush their teeth. I kinda just expect that they will and if they don't? That is up to them. I'm not good enough or clever enough to have rules and regulations that cover every situation. So I'm happy to fall back on the good old Scout Law and Oath.

For a lot of stuff I'm happy to deal with it as it comes along.

We don't in the Ship have a rule about how the funds from fund raising events are managed. The QD decides that before the event. Sometimes all the money goes toward repairs, sometime all the money goes toward the Scouts and them paying for something, sometimes it's a split.

We used to elect new QD Officers every six months but the QD changed that, right now they serve for a year, but there is no reason why the QD couldn't change it again.

After all it is when it comes to the management of the stuff that effects them, their Ship.

 

The Ship's Committee is a very informal committee, they do meet once a month, most of the time but have when everyone is busy and they have felt that there is no real urgent need for a meeting skipped a month. For the most part it is a monthly meeting of friends who share a common interest in he good of the kids that are in the Ship. 99.9% of the time they go along with and support the stuff the Skipper comes up with, which is the stuff that the kids have said that they are planning to do. A lot of the time the Scouts have talked with their parents who are on the committee and they know about this stuff even before the Skipper does.

 

When I was Skipper, I did at times make up my own rules as I went along. Most times these weren't so much rules just requests that I made. Things like not talking on cell phones in the van. No kissing and that sort of thing between boy friends and girl friends on Ship activities.

For the most part over the years I have been happy to stumble along dealing with each and every situation as it comes up and have never felt the need for lists of these whateveryouwanttocall'ems.

If others feel a need? That's up to them.

Eamonn

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By-Laws are no standard operating procedures.

 

SOP's change with the times, new advancements and programs. I don't mean scout advancement, I mean advancement in society or technology.

 

SOP'schange with the worldand community. By-laws are the bsic fundamentals of what needs to be done such as if your treasuer decides to become reclusive with all the books and not report to the pack or what not. Bylaws would state a treasure has a duty to report pack/troop finances. SOP's would dictated wether by e-mail, phone call or in person at the meeting.

 

By-laws demonstrates the channels a pack/troop can follow as far as legal issues, monetary or general procedure. SOP's dictate your program.

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"By-laws demonstrates the channels a pack/troop can follow as far as legal issues,"

???

What does this mean?

Ea

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Leagal may not be the right word here. Meaning law enforcment of your pack/troop, or the legal basis (within your pack/troop) for enforcing you rules and policies.

You don't use byklaw to dictate what advancement requirements are or what the axctual advancement activitie is. Meabuing by laws have nothing to do with deciding active or non active or wether a scout would have to wear full uniform at an EBOR.

 

Not siding either way on that okay.

 

But bylaws are for deciding how long a term of adult leadership, comittee or who can sign a check - for example..Does your pack/troop allow only the treasurer to sign a check, or does the SM/CM, the treasurer and one adult leader have to sign it too?

Does it have to be the treasurer one Adult leader and one committee member that has to sign?

 

That is what by laws are for because if for some reason the treasurer decides to buy someting frivilous that maybe the leadership didn't agree on...you have channels to stop that pewrson from doing it or at the least, a way to remove that person if they did do it. Without bylaws....you only have SOP's that were a guide at the time because standard is just that...the standard, not the final say.

 

How does your troop/pack buy equipment? A couple of you get together and say lets do it or do you have to have a certain number of adult leaders that get together and have to have a certain number of votes? If it just majority, do you have to have a qourum or can two out of three adults be enough to go out and buy sometjing?

 

That's what the bylaws are for. By laws don't care if it.,s just for a weekend trip or Jamboree. They don't care if two members don't like each other for spite. Think of bylaws as the constitution of any group. They can be amended, and can have new bylaws added, but unlike policy,they don't cover minor day to day details such as merit badge requirements!

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

 

Ed, I think most people would understand "Bylaws" to mean a comprehensive document that prescribes, in some detail, all aspects of how the organization operates, and who does what in the organization, whereas a "Parent's Guide" implies a more "targeted" document that covers a few specific topics, and maybe some history of the unit -- more of a brochure sort of thing. When I co-wrote a "Parents' Handbook" for "our" Cub pack years ago, it mainly covered financial issues and uniforming (which were mainly facts that were gathered from scattered sources, which is more useful in Cub Scouts because there are different items to purchase every thing) plus it had names and phone numbers of the pack leaders and was intended to be updated every year.

 

"Practices and Procedures", "Standing Rules" etc. imply something maybe a little more formal than "Parent's Guide" but less so than "Bylaws." Of course, it all depends on who's writing it. I have no doubt that somewhere in the country, there are "Parent's Guides" that are more comprehensive, detailed and complicated than any set of bylaws.

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Infoscouter, this issue of whether a unit committee operates by voting or by having the CC dictate everything has been discussed several times in this forum over the years. As far as I know, the BSA neither requires nor prohibits either method. Past discussions have indicated that different unit committees operate differently, often in keeping with the decision-making model of their CO. I can tell you that in our troop, if the CC attempted to operate in the way you describe, the CC would soon find him/herself a Committee of One. There are not many votes. Most things are done by consensus, after discussion. But everybody understands that if there are opposing viewpoints and one side or the other does not "give in", the way to resolve the issue is by taking a vote.

 

That does not mean everybody has a copy of Robert's Rules (704 pages in the 2000 paperback edition) sitting there, ready to refer to. In fact, I suspect I am the only person on the committee who even owns one, and the reason I do has nothing to with Scouting. It is way too much for a unit committee (or indeed for almost every kind of local organization, but that's a different subject.) When a motion is necessary, someone makes the makes the motion and we discuss it and vote on it. I am involved in some other organizations that do a little more than that, and when things are run correctly some of the other motions in Roberts' Rules can actually expedite things, but first people need to know what they are, or at least the person running the meeting needs to know.

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Call 'em Rules & Policies or Parent Guides or It's The Way We Do It but they are the same as bylaws. Semantics!

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Not wanting or wishing to come off like a smart Alec, or in any way take anyone to task.

"But bylaws are for deciding how long a term of adult leadership, committee or who can sign a check - for example..Does your pack/troop allow only the treasurer to sign a check, or does the SM/CM, the treasurer and one adult leader have to sign it too?

Does it have to be the treasurer one Adult leader and one committee member that has to sign?"

 

Membership in the BSA runs for one year at a time, if you are removed from a charter no matter what a bylaw might say the fact of the matter is that you are out.

The funds in a unit account belong to the CO and it is up to the CO how this money is managed. If he CO is OK with one signature on a check? That's fine if he wants more? It is the organizations money and he or she makes that ruling.

I have served as an adult in Scouting for over 30 years and have never served in a unit that has felt the need for bylaws.

I have served on a lot of committees, District, Council and Regional again th only time there was ever a need for some set of bylaws was when someone was trying to be a real pain.

We as an organization are all about teaching ethical choices. We go about this by setting a good example.

When we start have a lot of bylaws we take away the element of choice.

While most of the time not breaking a rule is a good idea, when the only choice is "Do as your told" Or refuse to do it? What real choice is there? How can we ever hope to teach young people to think for themselves?

We go on and on about how Scouts are to be trusted. In order for us to do that we need to place them in positions of trust. The adults need to lead by example.

I have no wish to just do the right thing because some rule says that I have too.

I'm far better and set a better example for the youth when I do the right thing just because it's the right thing to do.

I work in a correctional facility, where everything is covered by some sort of rule or policy, while a lot of this is done to protect what right the inmates have. Most times these rules are in place in order to ensure that the inmates do as they are told to do. This to my mind is not what what Scouting should be about.

Ea.

 

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Bylaws are the governing document for a corporation/organization/association. They spell out such items as membership rights, election procedures, voting rights, quorums, annual meeting requirements, board membership requirements, board officer responsibilities, standing committees (if any), compensation limits (if for-profit), and what happens upon organizational dissolution.

 

Bylaws should not be used to set meeting schedules (with the exception of 2 meetins - an annual "members" meeting and an annual "board" meeting, which seems to be the minimum requirement in most states - and even then, the requirements should be about as specific as "The annual meeting for the XYZ organization is to take place upon 30-days written notice to the members (which may be in such form as the Board of Directors shall direct) in the month of October" (as an example). They shouldn't be used to set up Troop meetings as "The Troop will meet every Monday from 7:30pm until 9:00pm at ABC Community Center" because that prevents flexibility. In general, bylaws, which are often considered part of the legal documents of an organization and may be required to be filed with your State upon creation or revision, are amendable only by vote of the membership (in a BSA council, the members are generally not the volunteers but are the CO's - they vote on bylaw amendments - and most council bylaws are probably written so that a quorum consists of a minimum of 1 COR present at the annual meeting). A committee really can't just amend the bylaws on a whim every other week because they've changed their mind on something (ok, they "can" in the sense that no one will stop them - unless someone really understands what governing documents are and how their state requires them to be amended - and if they do, they've pretty much made an argument for needing bylaws moot anyway).

 

Every thing needed to operate a Unit is available from the BSA. Need to know what the committee does and how to choose it's chairman and members, and what their roles are, etc. etc.? The BSA has a guide just for that - left a bit vague on some things to give the Chartered Organizations the flexibility they need to operate their unit in a manner consistent with the Chartered Organization's values and mission.

 

The only units that should have such a set of documents are those organized by so-called "Friends of Troop XXX" groups and even then, the Unit itself should not have bylaws, it's the "Friends" group that should have them - and it would be wise for such "Friends" groups to try as much as possible to separate the operation of the "Friends" group from the Troop Committee and Troop program.

 

Parents don't need to be handed a set of bylaws, or a Troop Handbook, to know when a Troop meets, or what neckerchief should be worn, or where a Troop meets, or what expectations the Troop has for uniforming. All they need is a two page paper (if that and at most) that gives the information on meeting nights, times, locations; has a calendar of outings for the upcoming year, uniforming abd book expectations for Scouts, SPL's name and number or e-mail address, Scoutmaster's name and number or e-mail address, Committee Chair's name and number or e-mal address (notice who comes first on that list), Dues (if any), responsibility of Scouts for negligent damage of equipment, requests for occassional assistance from parents (driving, etc.), fundraising opportunities and maybe a statement on Scout Accounts (if Units are dumb enough to have them - personal bias - I don't like Scout Accounts).

 

A Troop Committee can cover questions on how funds are accounted for, who signs checks, etc. with a simple standard procedures manual (vetted by the CO).

 

Bottom line on bylaws - a Units bylaws don't trump BSA policy, rules and regulations, and don't trump the Chartered Organization's rules (or even whims).

 

Hypothetical question: say your Troop Committee puts together a set of bylaws then uses them a few years down the road to replace the Committee Chair who is friends with the Institutional Head who objects - what do you do?

 

This isn't so hypothetical - I've seen it happen - a Troop Committee used a set of bylaws they created to get rid of the Committee Chair with the support of the COR. The CC complained to his friend, the Institutional Head, someone who actually knew something about Scouting and what the CO's role is. The IH asked the COR what was going on, decided that there was a power play at work in the Troop, and told the COR that as far as he was concerned, his friend was still the CC. The Committee and COR balked and called in the District Commissioner to help. The District Commissioner called a meeting of himself, the District Executive, IH, COR, and Committee to discuss it - much to the Institutional Head's annoyance. The meeting lasted about 5 minutes. As soon as the DC called the meeting to order, the IH fired the COR and the entire committee, appointed a new COR, appointed his friend the CC and told him to recruit all new committee members, demanded the checkbook by 12:00 noon the next day (he received it) and told the DC and the DE that next time, he would just fold the Troop. I was at the meeting - I was appointed by the IH as the new COR.

 

The Troop lost 8 members right away and struggled for 2 years to get it's footing and is doing ok today. The old committee formed a "Friends of" Troop that folded in a year. None of the 8 Scouts that left the Troop stayed in Scouting. Oh, and those "bylaws"? Disappeared never to be seen again.

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Yah, it's interestin' how animated some folks get about wantin' to avoid havin' rules and procedures in place, and then at other times get animated about people who they feel aren't complying with rules and procedures. :)

 

Yah, sure an IH of an organization with a strong hierarchy like a Catholic parish can play "trump" as Calico suggests, eh? But there are lots of organizations where the IH him/herself is elected... sometimes by some of da people on the unit committee! Yeh can't make generalizations about this stuff.

 

To my mind, it's good practice to have bylaws and rules & regs. Done right, they provide a structure to the organization and its procedures, eliminate some confusion and disputes and problems, and help a group navigate other kinds of conflicts. But only if they're done well, and only if they're in place in advance.

 

Yah, sure, it's possible for bylaws or regulations to be done poorly, eh? The BSA demonstrates that from time to time. Just look at the mess that poorly written bylaws made in Chicago. But just because troops sometimes use uniforms poorly doesn't mean we shouldn't have uniforms. Same with bylaws and regulations.

 

For every example folks can think of where they feel havin' bylaws in place hurt, I'm sure I can think of an example where not having them in place hurt. So we can have a duel of anecdotes at 10 paces :).

 

Small units that draw from a homogeneous group of people with common vision/values will do just fine without bylaws and regulations. It'll work until it doesn't - when they get one or more members who don't share quite the same vision/values. That's when yeh want procedures to help guide yeh.

 

Every thing needed to operate a Unit is available from the BSA.

 

Yah, I'm not sure where folks get this particular notion, eh? Just isn't the case. Yeh won't find hardly a thing on committee governance, not a thing at all on finance or financial controls, absolutely nothing on how to handle removin' a youth for behavioral reasons (or anything else about dealin' with youth behavior for that matter). And COs don't often have that stuff in place or even have a system that matches up with da notion of a committee. If you're a hierarchical IH, odds are you appoint associates and deputies, and maybe advisory boards but not a committee to oversee something.

 

Every unit out there has built up a whole mess of additional structure in order to make the unit go. Some do it in writin', some do it by more social instruction, but everybody's got stuff that isn't present anywhere in the BSA materials. Me personally, I think it's fine to be informal about it most of da time, but that has its downsides, eh? There's good reason to have things in writin'. Prevents the "CC is King" mentality which is just unhealthy for a unit, and provides guidance when things are goin' south and you need guidance the most.

 

Beavah

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We don't really do bylaws. I can envision extreme problems for which bylaws may be useful, but honestly when we get to that point a lack of bylaws isn't won't be our biggest problem.

 

Much to my embarassment, our "Troop Handbook" is now up to about 25 pages. The good news is the first 20 pages are really more of an orientation to troop operations directed more at new parents than scouts. It's built around the eight methods and ends up being a 90 minute version of Scoutmaster training. It began as an outline for the new parent orientation session we do with the parents while the Scouts have the Webelos off on a tour of the camp. One year one of the Webelos parents noted that we all seemed to have a printed set of note we were using to conduct the session and asked for a copy. Made sense to me....

 

Of the remaining five pages, three are the troop's expectations for behavior which begins with the Oath and Law. It includes a list of postive behaviors we want to encourage and one section lists the obvious dumb stuff you can't do. It provides for consequences for bad behaviors and basically says the troop leaders are free to do just about anything they feel is appropriate to the situation. The in the event of suspension or expulsion, the SM makes a recommedation to the troop committee which must be approved by the COR as well. That's about as close to a bylaw as we get.

 

The remaining two pages includes our attendance expectations and a list of SOPs we thought enough of to write down: we expect every one to wear a full uniform, rules regarding the use of fires and gas appliances (basically G2SS stuff) and electronics.

 

Oh, the last page list all the troop's Eagle Scouts through the years.

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"Call 'em Rules & Policies or Parent Guides or It's The Way We Do It but they are the same as bylaws. Semantics! "

 

Nonsense!! Bylaws are not the same thing as rules/polices.

 

See CalicoPenn's recent note. He said pretty much everything I would have on Bylaws.

 

 

I am a member of several organizations, most of which are local chapters of national organizations. ALL of them have bylaws, including the local groups. Bylaws are a must. But not for troops/packs.

 

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AM I missing something?

Or are the people who seem to be for these bylaws, the same people who in an other thread about uniforming seem to be saying "Hey the BSA uniform stuff is just a guideline and it's OK to turn a blind eye to it all"?

Ea.

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No Eamonn, not blind, you see quite clearly.

 

A troop that wants to do their own "thing" and has disdain for any BSA book, guide, policy or what have you, can codify their rejection of BSA by writing their own bylaws. Those folks that get all animated about wantin' to avoid havin' rules and procedures simply write their own rules and procedures bylaws. Makes is easier to justify perhaps? I see no other purpose.

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