Constitution Writing Guide and Requirements
A group’s constitution contains the fundamental principles and structure of the group and the by-laws outline the specific rules of procedure by which a group’s membership govern their group. The process of writing a constitution and by-laws should clarify the purpose and structure of the group, and provide a cornerstone for building an efficient organization. Also, members and potential members can read the constitution to gain a better understanding of your group and how it functions.
Student Activities Advisors can help you through the process of writing a student group constitution. Stop in to 126 Coffman, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 612-626-6919. Registered student groups can request constitutions and by-laws they have on file by submitting the Request for Student Group Documents form.
The Constitution is a statement of your group’s policies and rules. It is documentation of the means by which you will run your group. It is also an acknowledgement of the University of Minnesota’s policies and regulations. By submitting a constitution, you provide documentation of your compliance with student group and University policy and you have documentation of the rules that will govern your group.
Student Unions & Activities uses your constitution as an advising tool. If you come to our office with a question about how certain situations can be handled by your group, your constitution provides us a way of working with you to find a solution.
Remember that constitutions are vital documents. They ensure the smooth operation of your group and provide an official statement of purpose and a set of rules that will help you run your group to its fullest potential. Also, remember that constitutions can be changed. When creating or changing your group’s constitution, you will need to be aware of Student Unions & Activities seven minimum requirements. We offer sample constitutions below.
- Sample Constitution 1: This is a sample constitution for the Computer Science Club. Use this to help you write your group’s constitution.
- Sample Constitution 2: This is a sample constitution for the Gardening Club. Use this to help you write your group’s constitution.
Constitution and By-Laws Instructions
By registering with Student Unions & Activities, your group is agreeing to abide by all University of Minnesota policies, including policies governing activities, events and other operations on the Twin Cities Campus. View additional polices regarding student group registration.
In order for your group to register with Student Unions & Activities, there are seven topics you are required to address in your constitution.
The following outline is meant to guide you in creating or updating your constitution and by-laws, by informing you about the topics that need to be addressed as well as providing recommended topics that will help you successfully operate your group.
Student Unions & Activities will approve constitutions that contain, at a minimum, the following 7 items.
Official name of the group
This needs to be stated in your constitution as you will want it to appear on all directories, lists and promotional material used on campus. Student Group Names must be in accordance with the policies listed here.
You will need to state that your group will operate as a nonprofit. This does not mean that your group cannot conduct activities that bring in revenue that exceed your expenses. It does mean that no individuals will profit as a result of any revenue the group generates. However, this does not restrict the payment of wages, salaries or incentives by the group for services rendered. Registered Student Organizations are not automatically recognized by the State of Minnesota as Nonprofit entities. (For information on obtaining this status, see the Tax Information section).
University of Minnesota Policy
Student groups must comply with all University policies and procedures, as well as local, state, and federal laws and regulations. This includes, but is not limited to, the Board of Regents Policy on Diversity, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action as they relate to group membership and access to programs. Religious student groups may require their voting membership and officers to adhere to the group’s statement of faith and its rules of conduct. Your constitution needs to include a statement about your group’s responsibility to operate in accordance with these policies.
Your constitution must define whom your membership is open to. Your rules regarding membership must be consistent with the provisions of Student Unions & Activities policy. Your constitution should also define the qualifications and categories of membership in your group. Specifically, it will need to state who the voting membership is open to in your group. The voting membership can be open to anyone, including; students, staff, faculty, or non-students. However, currently registered students at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus must comprise no less than 2/3 of the total voting membership.
Your constitution needs to state that all officers must be currently enrolled students at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and registered for at least six credits, as defined by student group policy. Officers should also be in good standing with the University and free of any sanctions defined within the Board of Regents Policy-Student Conduct Code administered by the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. Exceptions to the requirement are permitted for graduate students upon receipt of a letter from the Director of Graduate Studies of the student’s department certifying that the student is actively pursuing a degree. Your constitution should also define any officer’s roles and responsibilities as well as qualifications and election procedures, as covered later in this document.
Dissolution of Group
Your constitution must state any procedures to be followed if the group is to be dissolved. You should have specific stated instructions for the disbursement of the group’s funds, which includes listing one or more specific organizations or departments where you would like your group’s remaining funds to be distributed. An individual or for-profit organization cannot be the recipient of any remaining funds. Because Campus Life Programs are part of the University, your constitution must state that any funds remaining at the time of dissolution shall be returned to the University department that sponsored your group.
The constitution must include the date it was ratified (adopted by the group). With this, must be the printed names and handwritten signatures of at least five (5) officers of the group at the time it was ratified or amended. Electronic signatures are not accepted.
In addition to the above items, the following topics are recommended to be covered in your group’s constitution and by-laws.
Statement of Purpose
Your group may provide a purpose statement that will inform non-members about the operations of your group. This can also serve as a mission statement that can guide the work your members do regularly.
Groups that are directly affiliated with national, regional or other organizations outside the University should outline that relationship in your constitution. This would also be an appropriate time to mention how your chapter, or specific local group, adheres to, or differs from, your parent organization’s constitution and by-laws.
The group will want to state in the constitution or by-laws; how to become an officer, the various titles to be held, the selection process for these positions and the duties of these leaders. Include information about pre-requisites for each position – “the positions of President and Vice-President shall be selected from a pool of officers who have at least one year of previous board experience with [this] student group.” Each group must have at least five officers registered with Student Unions & Activities who perform the major operations of your group, from reserving space on campus to communicating with University staff. These do not need to be the only leadership positions within your group. For this reason you may want to elaborate on each position’s roles and responsibilities.
Your constitution could explain the procedures for becoming a member (which may vary by membership category), amount of dues, and termination of membership.
Your constitution could state how various decisions are made in the group and what type of vote is required to enact decisions. The voting procedures can vary depending on different situations, as long as they are outlined in your constitution. Example language, “Decisions of the club shall be enacted by a majority vote, consisting of 50% of the voting membership plus one,” or “A vote of member impeachment will be enacted by a 2/3 majority vote of the voting membership.” Your constitution should also consider what voting methods will be used. For example, voting for the organization shall be conducted by an objective third party, such as, but not limited to, Student Unions & Activities. Voting for student group officers will take place during the eleventh week of Spring Semester and last for at least 5 business days.
Similar to officers, you could explain the committees of the group and their roles in the group. Setting standing committees will make it clear that there are certain committees that always exist within the group. You may also want to include a statement about the process for setting up committees, joining, and being a member of committees. This leaves the group the option to form special committees if something comes up that requires the work of a committee.
Meetings of the Group
The group could state when regular meetings are held and how to call special meetings. It should also be stated what is required for a meeting to be considered an official meeting of the group. You will want to define what will constitute a quorum for the group. Defining a quorum means to decide what critical mass of members need to be present in order to vote on, or enact a decision. Example language, “A quorum shall be present in order to conduct official business of the group. A quorum shall consist of 50% of the voting membership plus one.”
Method of Amending the Constitution and By-laws
The constitution could state how the group’s constitution and by-laws are to be proposed, voted on, enacted and amended. Student groups that are local chapters of national organizations may adopt by-laws specific to their chapter that differ from the parent organization. Your group should state who can make an amendment to its constitution and the process by which a member makes this amendment. This section can include how amendments are voted on and passed. Example language, “By-laws may be amended by proposing in writing and reading the change at a general meeting of the membership and then bring the proposed change up for a vote at the next general meeting where quorum is present. By-laws may be amended by simple majority vote.”
Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view, download Adobe Acrobat Reader.