Creating a Constitution

What is a constitution?

A constitution is a document that describes the organization and how it operates. See a sample

Important Information to Include:

  • Name and Purpose Statement - what is your organization about? what are your goals and objectives? who are you as a group?
  • Membership Requirements - dues? minimum GPA? status as a student?
  • List of Offices - not specific names, but titles of leadership roles (i.e. President, Vice President, Treasurer, etc.)
    • Responsibilities of each officer position
    • Election/Selection process
    • Expectations for Officers, what happens if they don't fullfill duties required?
    • Officer Transition details
  • Meetings - how often? (DO NOT be too specific - at most, include frequency of meetings, but not particular days/times/locations)
    • Quorum
    • Special Meetings
  • Amendments - how will they be handled?

**These suggestions may not apply to all groups. Questions? Please contact our office!

What are by-laws?

These are the permanent body of legislative rules by which an organization operates. There is seldom any difference between the constitution and bylaws. Most organizations combine the two. With a little time and attention you can write a constitution and bylaws that will help prevent and/or minimize future problems within the organization.

Setting a quorum

A quorum is the minimum number of members who have to be present at a meeting in order for business to be conducted legally. A quorum for most clubs or social organizations usually consists of either the average attendance at meetings or the largest number of members who can be depended upon to come to regular meetings. The quorum should be stated in the bylaws for the protection of the group as a whole.

Defining duties of officers

The duties of officers are self-explanatory in many cases: the president presides; the treasurer keeps the accounts; the secretary takes notes and handles correspondence. However, other offices can be defined to suit the needs of the group. The office of vice president is one that offers much flexibility. The vice president could be in charge of membership, programs or publicity. Your organization could have more than one vice president, secretary, etc. Think about your group’s needs and programs and delegate responsibility to other officers as needed.

Electing Officers

There is nothing quite so discouraging as holding an election and having no one interested in running for office. It’s also a good way to discourage new members from getting involved if they see no one else volunteering to do anything. The best way to handle this situation is with some advance planning. Suggestion: select a nominating committee (your executive board will do) to recruit a slate of officers. This will ensure that you will have at least one willing candidate for each office. Nominations can also be taken from the floor.

Officer transition

Officers should be elected in the spring semester for the following fall. A spring election will allow time for a very important orientation to take place -- officer transition. By holding a spring election, the former officers will still be around to train the new officers. Do not pick the last week of school for elections. Allow several weeks before the end of the semester. Elections could take place earlier and the actual officer installation could take place later in the semester. If your group is not on such a schedule, you should actively consider the benefits of changing to a spring election.

Removal of officers

Although you might think, “It can never happen to our organization,” it can. Officers were elected last semester and have yet to call a meeting, or officers have misspent the group’s funds, or officers have not attended a semester’s worth of meetings, etc. Whatever the case, a group needs to have a way to remove incompetent officers from office and to elect new ones when necessary. This is not a provision to be taken lightly or ignored. Ask other organizations what their procedure is for such an occurrence.

Sample Constitution


ARTICLE I: NAME AND PURPOSE

Section 1. This organization shall be known as the:

Section 2. The purpose(s) of this organization shall (will) be:

ARTICLE II: MEMBERSHIP

Section 1. Membership shall be open to:

Section 2. Means of selection of members, qualifications, eligibility, etc.

ARTICLE III: OFFICERS

Section 1. The officers of this organization shall be:
(list them)

Section 2. Selection of officers, length of term, etc.

Section 3. Duties of officers

ARTICLE IV: DUES (if any)

Section 1. Include amount, when assessed, etc.

ARTICLE V: MEETINGS

Section 1. Time for regularly scheduled meetings

Section 2. Procedures for calling special meetings

Section 3. Quorum, order of business & disposition of minutes

ARTICLE VI: COMMITTEES

Section 1. Any standing committees of the organization, including process of appointment, responsibilities, etc.

Section 2. Provisions for forming any special committees, as needed

ARTICLE VII: AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION (& Bylaws)

Section 1. The procedure for amendments, including advance notifications, number of readings and required vote for adoption. In most organizations the bylaws may be changed by a majority vote, while a constitutional revision would require a two-thirds majority vote to change