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Guest Don

Policies, Bylaws, Robert's Rules

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Guest Don

An organized group that began in 1999 with a set of approved Bylaws (that were completely revised in 2004 and amended several times since) has several committees that are names as Standing Committees.  Our group is all volunteer.  Our members have families and jobs and their time available to spend doing things for our club constantly changes.  Since 2007 we have began each calendar year with fresh sign up sheets asking those members that are interested and available to serve to please sign up for a Committee - any Committee.  Until tonight (1-29-14) no one has questioned this procedure/policy; in fact the ability to come and go has been very popular with the people who seemed to be doing all the work all the time.  Now a members is stating that a Standing Committee remains staffed by members until they remove themselves or are removed with just cause.  I have yet to reference my copy of Robert's Rules to see if this is even addressed.  The Standing Committees are constant, it's the membership of the Committee that is in question.  If our group has a policy that is not specifically addressed

in our Bylaws but had been embraced by our membership what is the order of correctness between Procedures/policies, Bylaws, and Robert's Rules?  And does the individual member of a Standing Committee in an all-volunteer organization remain on it because it's a Standing Committee?  Or is the Committee all that's required to remain, allowing for a change in it's staffing. 

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The membership of a Standing Committee may change, but the Committee is permanent. If your bylaws are written in such a way that members can join whatever committee they want and drop out at will, you can do that and still have Standing Committees. In fact, I suspect that having Standing Committees makes that type of arrangement easier to deal with. It would be more difficult with a special committee because the membership wouldn't have as much familiarity with the purpose of the committee.

 

Also, it sounds like what you are doing is customary rather than defined in your bylaws. The rules of order overrule custom, when a Point of Order is raised. The thing to do would be to include this method of selecting committee members in your bylaws.

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Guest Don

Thank you Timothy.  Our Board has felt that it's good for the membership of a Standing Committee to fluctuate since everyone's life situation can change in a heartbeat.  We've been able to staff our Committees all the time operating like this.  We're now trying to figure why someone decided to question this policy now.  We have never conceived of eliminating the actual Committee.

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But Don, nobody is suggesting that your volunteers need to be unduly inconvenienced.  I think Timothy's point was that the way you have been doing it is, inadvertently, in violation of the rules; and since he, as I, get the impression that your people would prefer to do things the right way, and [not] to violate any more rules than you have to, your group should go about amending the bylaws to allow you to use the procedures you prefer, and which work well for everybody.

 

That's fair, isn't it?

 

[Edited to insert a "not" where it should have been.]

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Thank you Timothy.  Our Board has felt that it's good for the membership of a Standing Committee to fluctuate since everyone's life situation can change in a heartbeat.  We've been able to staff our Committees all the time operating like this.  We're now trying to figure why someone decided to question this policy now.  We have never conceived of eliminating the actual Committee.

 

Since it is working and your group likes that method, there's no reason to change what you are doing. But as Gary said, my point was that the correct way to continue using that method is to specify that method in the bylaws. That way, if someone (for whatever reason) says, "we can't do that because if violates Robert's Rule of Order," you can say, "that doesn't matter, because it is in the bylaws."

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An organized group that began in 1999 with a set of approved Bylaws (that were completely revised in 2004 and amended several times since) has several committees that are names as Standing Committees.  Our group is all volunteer.  Our members have families and jobs and their time available to spend doing things for our club constantly changes.  Since 2007 we have began each calendar year with fresh sign up sheets asking those members that are interested and available to serve to please sign up for a Committee - any Committee.  Until tonight (1-29-14) no one has questioned this procedure/policy; in fact the ability to come and go has been very popular with the people who seemed to be doing all the work all the time.  Now a members is stating that a Standing Committee remains staffed by members until they remove themselves or are removed with just cause.  I have yet to reference my copy of Robert's Rules to see if this is even addressed.  The Standing Committees are constant, it's the membership of the Committee that is in question.  If our group has a policy that is not specifically addressed

in our Bylaws but had been embraced by our membership what is the order of correctness between Procedures/policies, Bylaws, and Robert's Rules?  And does the individual member of a Standing Committee in an all-volunteer organization remain on it because it's a Standing Committee?  Or is the Committee all that's required to remain, allowing for a change in it's staffing. 

 

Don't these provisions in your bylaws which create your standing committees say something about how many members they are to have and how they are to be appointed?

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Since it is working and your group likes that method, there's no reason to change what you are doing. But as Gary said, my point was that the correct way to continue using that method is to specify that method in the bylaws. That way, if someone (for whatever reason) says, "we can't do that because if violates Robert's Rule of Order," you can say, "that doesn't matter, because it is in the bylaws."

 

If the society formalizes this method in the bylaws, I think it would also be advisable to adopt a new rule for quorum for committees. The default of "a majority of the members" may be difficult if members come and go so freely and frequently, since it may be difficult to determine how many members a committee has at any given moment.

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If the society formalizes this method in the bylaws, I think it would also be advisable to adopt a new rule for quorum for committees. The default of "a majority of the members" may be difficult if members come and go so freely and frequently, since it may be difficult to determine how many members a committee has at any given moment.

 

I think they will discover that attempting to formalize a method which is no method at all will prove to be difficult.

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If the society formalizes this method in the bylaws, I think it would also be advisable to adopt a new rule for quorum for committees. The default of "a majority of the members" may be difficult if members come and go so freely and frequently, since it may be difficult to determine how many members a committee has at any given moment.

 

Yeah, that and some other things. But I figure that since it has been working for them to this point, they have a pretty good idea of how it ought to work. They just need to specify what they've already been doing in the bylaws.

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Guest Don

Our annual elections are in March.  The new Officers and Board members begin their terms at the April Board meeting.  We have been asking members to sign up for Committees at our January meeting since everything else but our elections run on the calendar year and a lot of things require an early start on the work, and waiting until April would not currently be practical.  After posting my question I went home and referenced my current copy of the Rules (10th edition).  Chapter XVI, section 50, page 473, lines 20-25.  If I interpret correctly I believe we are following the suggested procedure.  I plan on discussing this with our Bylaws Committee and afterwards plan on submitting a proposal for amendment to specify the procedure for staffing our Committees, hopefully turning policy into Bylaw.  Thank you to everyone who took time to respond.

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