Youth Organization Constitutions & Bylaws
As with any organized group that meets as a club or society, a youth organization benefits from an established written constitution that sets down the general principles governing the group, along with bylaws that delineate specific rules of procedure. A constitution helps solidify the purpose and function of an organization, providing an overarching blueprint for its members. Youth-centered organization constitutions are not that different from those other types of organizations in that sense. However, the rules not only address the "grownup" aspects of running an organization, but also the specific needs and responsibilities of young members.
Many organizations, youth ones included, follow a similar format in the writing of their constitution and bylaws. Various young people's groups provide examples of what a youth organization's constitution and its bylaws should look like. Native American youth organization United National Indian Tribal Youth, or UNITY, and the Westport Youth and Recreation Commission created a constitution composed of articles, each of which focus on some tenet or procedural aspect of the organization. The Girl Scouts separates its constitution and bylaws into two distinct documents and enumerates its policies on marketing, fundraising and membership in its own document.
Each section in the youth constitution expounds on a given topic at length. The University of Maine says the main topics of a constitution include: name of the organization, affiliated groups, purpose and aims, membership requirements, officers, advisers and meetings. UNITY's constitution covers the following topics: name of the organization, objectives, members, officers, advisers, meetings and committees. Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association further specifies sections covering duties for a board of directors, as well as fiscal and program policies, and miscellaneous rules. In Westport Youth's constitution, an article is specifically set aside prohibiting the practice of nepotism in the organization's operations.
The constitution provides youth organizations the opportunity to spell out their specific missions with regard to young people, as well as discuss practical matters. In section II of its constitution, entitled "Purpose," Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association offers the following mission statement for a youth sporting organization: "To promote the development of soccer skills, teamwork and personal fitness and give boys and girls the opportunity to play competitively according to their abilities and interests." Article Six of UNITY's constitution discusses meetings in three sections. It mandates at least three meetings a year, along with the need for eight voting members to establish a quorum to conduct the organization's business.
Whereas the constitution provides the framework, the bylaws give youth organizations definitive guidelines and the flexibility to alter them. Every youth organization constitution should make a provision in the document for the procedure of amending the bylaws of the constitution. In the case of the Westport Youth Commission, amendments to bylaws must be proposed in writing and discussed at a previous meeting before being decided on by majority vote of the entire voting membership and finalized by the town board.