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In Forming Rural Health Networks: A Legal Primer, Teevans defines bylaws as an organization's internal guidelines that:

  1. Define the rights and responsibilities of individuals running an organization
  2. Set forth rules outlining how the corporation will operate within state and federal guidelines

All states require nonprofit organizations to have bylaws and some states require for-profit organizations to have them as well. State guidelines are available through the Secretary of State's office. Though bylaws do not need to be filed with the state, they are considered legal documents and must be approved and abided by board members. Because requirements vary from state to state, each organization should consult their Secretary of State's office.

Regardless of each state's bylaw requirement, networks and coalitions would be wise to develop guidance for how the network will operate. Bylaws outline the process for:

  • Selecting, removing, or replacing officers
  • Holding meetings, including frequency
  • Roles of governing individuals

Board members can amend bylaws.

Some organizations opt to seek legal assistance when writing bylaws. Networks and coalitions that have written their own have reported it helpful to use another organization's existing bylaws as a template. The National Cooperative of Health Networks provides bylaws written by members of their network as examples for other networks to consult.

Resources to Learn More

Writing Bylaws
Comprehensive step-by-step guide to writing bylaws, including examples and a template.
Author(s): Hampton, C.
Organization(s): Community Tool Box