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the word "charter"

anthony liberatore

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AS a member of Laguna Woods mutual , I am a director, and we like to use the word charter for a committee. In the brown book I find the word used in omly one place. It recomends that, when drawing up bylaws the society should consult an attorney to apply for a charter. I owened two companies and had at one time two Charters which made it legal for me to operate my companies.  What's with the word charter; why not mandate. The wprd implies that the committees has a direction and has a master, ifyou will. 

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Neither use of the word charter seems to be a good match for that of mandate.  

Oxford defines charter as: A written grant by the sovereign or legislative power of a country, by which a body such as a city, company, or university is founded or its rights and privileges defined.

I'm not sure what brown book you're referring to, but the word appears 39 times in RONR, and 11 more in the index.  And unless the organization is to be incorporated, I see no reason to ask a lawyer to draft one.

In the States, the term typically refers to a corporate charter, granted by a state, which creates the legal entity of a corporation.  It is part of the founding documents of a corporation, and outranks the constitution (if any), and the bylaws, so that motions that conflict with the charter are not in order.  That appears to be the only meaning taken in RONR.

I suppose you are free to call your committees charters if you like, but I see a substantial risk of confusion, with no corresponding reward.

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The term Charter is also used to refer to the creation or establishment of local chapters or units of state or national organizations, wherein the parent organization grants a charter to a local subsidiary unit which has complied with the requirements of the parent organization to become a local unit or chapter.

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I had the experience of dealing with a governance consultant who renamed all of our committee terms of references as "committee charters." If a change was actually required, (rather than just being done because the consultant needed to show he had done something) "committee mandates" would have been a better term in my view, but apparently this is the latest buzzword.

The earlier responses give you a good indication of why this use of the word can be problematic and confusing.

Edited by Atul Kapur
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