Every organization should have its own bylaws. An organization that is not incorporated may refer to its governing documents as a constitution rather than bylaws. A constitution provides an overview of the organization's purpose, mission and objectives. It often provides the framework for the Letters Patent required when an organization applies for incorporation status.
An incorporated organization must have bylaws that comply with the requirements of incorporation legislation. The bylaws are literally the laws that enable organizations to carry out their activities effectively and efficiently. Boards that do not review their bylaws may sometimes find themselves working against them, therefore putting the organization at risk. Bylaws can only be amended by a board of directors, and changes must be approved by the general membership (however this is defined).
It is often difficult to find samples and templates for developing bylaws as they are unique to each individual organization. Good sources of templates are from other like-minded non-profit organizations. For example, literacy organizations may want to seek out examples from other literacy organizations. A good example can be found at Nova Scotia's Dalhousie University's Continuing Education website.
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