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5yearscouter

58 page constitution, bylaws aaarrrrggggghhhh

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"A unit committee that has to take formal votes, count numbers for a quorum, and establish policies about bank accounts isn't operating in an efficient, Scoutlike manner, IMHO. There's simply no need to get all legalistic and procedural about this Scouting stuff."

 

An organization which is doing this IS an efficient one, following commonly accepted parliamentary procedure. (there is nothing 'legalistic' about this). There is nothing 'unscoutlike' in doing so.

 

But the thing is, a unit committee is NOT a 'deliberative assembly'. That is, its NOT a group that needs to be making decisions. Its a support group there to support what the work of the Scoutmaster and the PLC. Decisions should be made by general consent.

 

 

 

 

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I haven't posted on this because it is an issue I hate but after reading all the posts I realized that there are a lot of you guys that are like me and didn't understand why bylaws and such are important. I never cared, we usually operate by consensus and had an issue until last year when an adult brought their son to our unit from another unit. We started having problems and the reality is the bylaws were specific and covered every accusation this person made against us. I joined this forum at that time and was beside myself with frustration over the obvious lies and falshoods being spread but had no understanding of how to deal with it. Fortunately both the DE and SE were aware of what was going on and asked about bylaws. Although I knew they existed, I hadn't thought to look to them or understood the need but at the time I read them again (it had been a few years). The reality is the people who wrote them were smart enough to recognize that somebody somewhere and somewhen would decide they did not like the way things were done and would cause problems. The bylaws were even specific to the points brought up and the committee was well covered and well within guidelines set forth by the bylaws. I now realize that bylaws are not for the individual but for the group and well written ones do protect the unit from outsiders who decide to try and dictate an agenda. Subterfuge can be quite an issue and having bylaws that pre-empt certain actions and activities are a way that a CO protects its unit from making decisions that are not in the best interest of the CO and the unit. The bylaws are basically the rules of the BSA merged with the CO's expectations of the unit. Ours are written so they can only be changed with approval and a vote by the CO's executive board which has also been tested by committees over time. Usually changes that are suggested are considered and may be enacted but there have been times when the changes were not to the CO's benefit and were being brought forth by people who wanted to "take charge" and were not happy that somebody could say no (it may come as a shock to a new CC who has never been involved at that level). I was reading the thread on removing the CC and this immediately came to mind as it is laid out in BSA information but it is also explicitely spelled out in our bylaws. We actually had a committee who decided that they needed a new COR. I am not sure what their thought was although it may have been wanted to have a COR with a child in the unit, but whatever the reason, it was pointed out how it is done with the bylaws. At that point they were going to change the bylaws until it was pointed out they could not do that either because it really would not have been in teh best interest of the CO. The long and the short of it is these people are gone now and the unit has survived them and the CO is pleased to have a healthy and happy unit that continues on despite the normal turnover related to a Cub unit. I say yes, you need bylaws but no, they don't need to be 58 pages of minutiae. The bylaws should primarily dictate stuff not covered by the BSA like money handling, youth accounts, actions and responsibilites related to the CO etc... not stuff like advancement policy or things that dictate regular meetings. I did not know it (probably didn't pay any attention when I first joined) but our bylaws dictated that we maintain a used uniform library. I have been doing this for years but never knew we were "suppose to". It can be a very helpful document for a new leader taking over or even for a parent just joining that does not understand why things are done the way they are. There are lots of ideas and perspectives and some really benefit the youth while others benefit the CO. The best balance is to benefit all as much as possible.Finally, one thing the bylaws needs to address are assets. I have known of committees plundering equipment to pay for program. That is usually short sighted and causes grief later. Our bylaws require CO approval for any functional or reparable equipment disposal. We have sold off stuff but our CO has acquired two pinewood derby tracks for us and several times it has been suggested to sell the second but the CO has it for a reason and it is interesting when the subject has come up. Sorry for going on but "been there, done that".

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The way a CO protects it's unit is to fire people who are causing problems or acting inappropriately.

 

 

But if a unit wants to adopt bylaws, help yourself. I presume that such units have the extra volunteers and such to support such processes.

 

Furthermore, Scout units generally aren't run by majoritarian processes. Leaders are appointed to make decisions.

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Yah, 5yearscouter, I reckon you can google and find all kinds of examples that might give yeh ideas. I didn't feel comfortable answerin' your question directly because I don't know your situation, your CO, or the goals of your group. There are a lot of ways to go about this stuff. Some of us here are familiar with more formal environments where there are distinctions between bylaws, policies, procedures, and guidelines. I don't think for an average troop yeh need to get that formal, though in a large unit it might help to make some distinctions. And of course in a self-chartered unit it is necessary.

 

Traditionally "bylaws" define how the troop committee is formed and functions. Things like:

 

Classes of membership (do you have regular and ex officio? is it open to all parents or only to registered MC's?)

Who votes (do ex officio or non-registered folks get a say?)

How are members selected or removed if membership is not "open"? (subject of course to CO approval)

What is the term of membership (I know one troop committee that runs 3 year terms, renewable once. That prevents long-term old guard).

Meetings and quorum (how many members need to be present to make decisions? If only 3 are there, can they spend the entire treasury to buy a trailer?)

Is any meeting notice required (it can be good to require notice if you're considering major purchases or a change of bylaws)

What kinds of actions are allowed without a meeting? In other words, how do you handle emergent decisions?

Who chairs the meeting and how are meetings to be conducted (eg. Robert's Rules? consensus required?)

Are there other officers (secretary, treasurer, vice-chair)? How are they selected? What are their terms? What are their roles/duties? When can they act without committee approval?

Who is authorized to spend money? In what amounts? When is full committee approval required?

Are there any standing committees or subcommittees? How are they selected? For how long? What do they do?

Anything about conflicts of interest? CC and treasurer can't be from same family? CC and SM? When must a MC refrain from participating in discussion/voting?

How are bylaws modified? First and second reading? Supermajority required? CO approval required?

 

Now the TC guidebook offers suggestions for some of this (like possible officer positions), but each troop handles those differently, so yeh might not want to adopt that wholesale. Larger troops might have more, smaller troops less. Treasurer and Advancement Chair are common, the others "just depends.."

 

Policies and Procedures are much longer and more locally tailored. They might include things like:

 

How do you handle a serious discipline matter for a scout (one that might lead to suspension or removal)? Having that in place in advance really helps.

How do you handle a serious discipline matter for a parent (one that might lead to removal)?

What's your CO's procedure for handling accusations against scout leaders or committee members?

How are fundraising funds handled? How is the money allocated?

How are scout accounts handled, if yeh use them? What can they be used for? How are disputes resolved?

Who reviews medical forms for youth and adults? How are necessary people informed of important information (allergies, chronic conditions, medications, special needs)? How is confidentiality maintained?

Does the troop buy supplementary accident coverage as a matter of policy?

Are parents required to volunteer/serve in some role in the unit? How is that monitored? How are exceptions made?

What's your unit's/CO's procedure for selecting/approving unit leaders?

Do you have any training requirements for the committee or unit leaders? How is that monitored? How are exceptions made?

How are event signups/permissions handled? How about cancellations? Are fees refunded for cancellations? For illness?

Who fills out Tour Plans? How are they reviewed? Do you designate an "official leader in charge" for a trip? What if he/she drops out?

Are there any standard procedures for handling emergencies?

Can siblings/family members come on outings? Under what circumstances?

How are reimbursement requests handled? Do you reimburse for gas? For leader expenses? For SPL/PLC expenses?

Who selects/recommends/purchases troop gear? If a boy or patrol loses/breaks troop gear, is he/they charged for loss or repair?

Are there other outing rules that need to be communicated? No electronics? No coming late or leaving early?

Are there attendance expectations to remain a member in good standing or to qualify for membership renewal?

Who is permitted to "sign off" advancement (this is the SM's call, but it often helps to document it here for good communication)?

How are BOR members selected? How about MBC's?

What's the troop's procedures for advancement stuff? Blue cards? No blue cards? Go to SM? Go to AC? etc.

Who handles advancement disputes within unit? Full committee? Subcommittee? Solus Scoutmasterus?

What are dues? Who sets them? Who collects/records?

How are outings payments handled? Who collects/records? How are campership/support decisions handled? By whom? How to make a request? Any appeal?

Is Boys' Life mandatory in your unit? Any other similar things? Troop neckerchief a required purchase?

Who can accept donations? What about donations with conditions/restrictions? Sponsorships?

How about advertising? Does the troop allow advertising? On its website? Any limits?

Anything about conflicts of interest?

Any other code of conduct for adult volunteers? For example, are gifts to kids allowed? (often used by predators) Expectations for conduct within or outside of scouting?

Mandatory youth training of any sort? YP for youth?

 

At the boy/PLC/SM level there might also be policy & procedures. The PLC after all can set its own rules, so it might decide "no electronics". Often it's helpful to put such PLC rules or procedures into a document somewhere so that new families/parents are informed.

 

How long is the term of a PL/SPL?

Are there procedures for election/selection?

Any rank/age requirements for serving in different positions? How are exceptions made?

What troop PORs does the troop use/recognize?

Any attendance expectations for PLC members/PORs?

Training requirements for youth leaders?

Procedures for lost and found/returning lost gear?

 

Anyway, you get the picture. Few if any of these things are really specified by the BSA materials, or they're things that are well buried or frequently modified by units.

 

Then it might be worth copying a few things from G2SS into troop procedures, like the unauthorized activity list or YP expectations.

 

That should be enough to get yeh goin'. ;)

 

Beavah

 

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The way a CO protects it's unit is to fire people who are causing problems or acting inappropriately.

 

And to have policies and procedures in place for a variety of things. Yeh know any organization anywhere that only protects itself by hiring/firing? That doesn't also have employee handbooks and policies and the like?

 

I reckon there's a reason for that, eh? ;)

 

Furthermore, Scout units generally aren't run by majoritarian processes. Leaders are appointed to make decisions.

 

Youth leaders are typically elected by a plurality or majority. Troop committees typically operate by majority or consensus. Unit leaders are selected by da committee or a subcommittee operating by majority or consensus.

 

Scout units generally should be run in a manner similar to the kind of citizenship and values we're tryin' to teach, eh? That most often means majoritarian processes for leader selection and then leaders making decisions within policy or procedural strictures that ensure review and oversight.

 

Beavah

 

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Was the troop founded by an attorney by chance? Id start over for sure. My goal would be bylaws that can fit on the front and back of on sheet of paper. A quality parent guide, not more than four, or five pages long. Id make both electronic, with links to key resources, and email them to save trees and money. You could follow up with a parent orientation meeting, where you offer to answer any questions.

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The venturing program encourages each crew to come up with its own set of by-laws. Some of those are online. Many of them may fit what you might expect from a troop committee. You may just have to tweak the names of the positions. (And drop any clause about public displays of affection!)

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Hello Old Ox,

 

 

>

 

 

If a unit is going to have formal rules, I think you provide sage advice.

 

About the only rules I would favor would be regarding finances, specifying a Treasurer who isn't the Cubmaster and requiring that the checking account statement be sent to the address of someone other than the Cubmaster or Treasurer.

 

A Four or five page maximum parent guide is good --- more isn't likely to be read. I hand out a two pager to parents new to the pack and maybe some of those are read.

 

 

 

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Yah, this gets back to goals, eh?

 

I think yeh can have a few documents.

 

1) A short one-pager that is bylaws, with perhaps a page of explanation for new members on how the committee operates and what its scope is.

2) A longer policy/procedures set that the committee puts in place and refers to when needed that might cover some of what I suggested above.

3) A short new parent handbook which gives the basics like Ox describes.

 

Easy & quick.

 

Or, if yeh want somethin' longer, require training for all of your committee members. ;)

 

Beavah

 

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Our troop has a 37 page Troop Guidelines document. I'd say 50% of the content is geared toward the new parents and explains things like when we meet, when money is due, the types of gear recommended, etc. We do an bi-annual review to make sure there isn't anything inconsistent with the BSA publications. Or I should say, the scouts review it. Each of the four patrols gets 9 or so pages to review and provide any updates for the next year. I know it's a little sneaky, but each patrol's section get's an Easter egg inserted somewhere in the content. It's not all that sneaky because they know there will be one or two things that are blatantly wrong from the changing of a word so it reads the opposite of what is correct. The patrols get a prize for finding it. Just a little thing to help ensure they read through it all. The committee then does their own final review to make sure they didn't miss something (especially the intentional mistakes), and update anything related to finances that may have changed. The other 50% of the content describes the way the troop is run: how discipline is handled, elections, how to request a BOR, etc. The majority of it was decided by the scouts. The PLC basically "owns" the document, so anything that is in it as a troop "policy", they have the power to change it. The SM is responsible to make sure the PLC doesn't try to make a policy that contradicts something in BSA policy.

 

If our boys end up with a 37 page document that says how the troop is run, I'm not going to tell them it's too long or too short. It may have started out years ago with the help of some adults, but it's all owned and maintained by the scouts now.

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FWIW, I just was doing an edit of my parliamentary club's bylaws. (we did a minor amendment to bring our bylaws in-line with certain policies of our national body).

 

Our bylaws are 5 1/2 pages long. Our standing rules take up the rest of the 6th page.

 

 

 

Also, the standard articles of bylaws are:

 

Name

Object

Membership

Officers

Meetings

Executive Committee (or Executive Board)

Committees (committees within the organization)

Parliamentary Authority

Amendments

 

 

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