A non-profit constitution is nothing more than the organisation's bylaws. Just as a constitution organises a government and describes how that government functions, so do bylaws. State governments have the final say on what must be included in the bylaws. A state's attorney general's office will regulate non-profit organisations while the federal government is the entity granting an organisation non-profit status. Both the state's attorney general and the federal government require copies of an organisation's constitution.
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Refer to your state laws on non-profits. Each state has different minimum requirements for a non-profit's governing rules, whether they are referred to as a constitution or bylaws. How members join boards, who can serve on boards, how to amend the constitution and other necessary components are just some of the items that must be included. However, within these guidelines, there is plenty of flexibility in order to satisfy the demands of the specific organisation. A research institution, for example, will have very different needs than a homeless shelter. The state's statutes on organising a constitution take all of this into account.
Assess your specific organizational needs. The statutes regarding a constitution or bylaws are purposely broad. The organizational structure, its missions and goals are among the items that must be considered in writing the bylaws. The founders of the organisation may wish to provide a means of protecting the mission from the actions of future boards. In the bylaws, the board may also wish to delegate specific functions to the staff members running the organisation. These are just some of the questions that must be addressed.
Follow the proper format. Generally speaking, the constitution will consist of six or seven amendments. There should be a title and each article serves as a subheading (Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, etc.) The articles will name the organisation and determine the length of time the organisation is to exist, usually in perpetuity. Procedures for amending the articles must also be spelt out. Finally, the original incorporators will sign and date the constitution. Many states require at least three members to sign the bylaws.
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