Necessary Bylaws according to Robert's Rules - dummies

Necessary Bylaws according to Robert’s Rules

By C. Alan Jennings, PRP, PRP

Any organization using Robert’s Rules needs bylaws to define the organization and spell out members’ rights. Your bylaws may have more articles than the basic list provided by Robert’s Rules. (And that’s okay unless you’re adding a lot of stuff that you shouldn’t.) In any case, the following list outlines the articles you should have in your bylaws (and the order in which they should appear) in order to cover the basic subjects common to most organizations.


Specify the official name of your organization in this article.


This article includes a succinct statement of the purpose of your group. This statement should be broad enough to cover anything your group may want to do as a group, but it should avoid enumerating details because when you list things, anything you leave out is deemed excluded.


Begin this article with details of the classes and types of membership as well as the voting rights of each class. If you have eligibility requirements or any special procedures for admission, include them under this article. Also include any requirements for dues, including due dates, rights or restrictions of delinquent members, explanations of when members are dropped from the rolls for nonpayment, and reinstatement rights. Any rules related to resignations or any intricate requirements related to memberships in subordinate or superior societies are included here, too.


This article is the place to explain specifications about the officers your organization requires and any duties beyond those established by rule in your parliamentary authority. Sections including qualifications of officers; details of nomination, election, and terms of office (including restrictions on the number of consecutive terms, if any); and rules for succession and filling vacancies are appropriately placed in this article. You may include a separate article to describe the duties of each officer.


This article contains the dates for all regular meetings. Authority for special meetings, if they’re to be allowed, must appear in the bylaws. Details related to how and by whom special meetings can be called and the notice required are included here. Also, the quorum for meetings should be included in a section of this article.

Executive board

If your organization plans to have a board of directors to take care of business between your regular meetings (or all the time, if that’s the way you set it up), your bylaws must include an article establishing the board and providing all the details regarding the board’s authority and responsibility. Be clear and specific about who is on the board, how board members are elected or appointed, when the board is to meet, any special rules it must abide by, whether it can make rules for itself, and, of course, specific details of the board’s powers.

The powers and duties of boards vary widely from one group to the next, and problems arise for many organizations whenever the members and the board have different ideas about the role and duties of the board. This article, therefore, should be developed or amended with the greatest care.

It’s common not only to have an executive board to handle the business of the organization between membership meetings, but also to have an executive committee (that reports to the board) composed of selected officers who are authorized to act for the board in the time between board meetings.


Define each regular standing committee your group anticipates needing to carry out its business in individual sections. Include the name of the committee, how its members are selected, and its role and function in the organization. If you want to be able to add committees, include an authorization for the formation of additional standing committees. Otherwise, the bylaws have to be amended to create a standing committee.

Parliamentary authority

Adopting a parliamentary authority (such as Robert’s Rules) in your bylaws is the simplest and most efficient way to provide your group with binding rules of order under which to operate. The statement adopting the parliamentary authority should define clearly any rules to which the rules in your parliamentary authority must yield.


The precise requirements for previous notice and size of the majority required to change the bylaws are specified in the bylaws. If your bylaws say nothing about amendment, and if Robert’s Rules is your parliamentary authority, then amending your bylaws requires previous notice and a two-thirds vote.