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5 Tips for renewing your constitution

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This is Joanne O’Brien from CRH Law, talking about 5 tips for renewing your constitution.

All too often the constitution of a Not-For-Profit Organization is a document that sits on the shelf and is considered part of the organization’s history, but it is arguably the most important document that the organization has. Because it is the document that sets out your objects, your reason for being, and therefore dictates the activities that you can be involved in. It sets the criteria for who can belong to your organization. It contains the rules about how you meet together, and how you elect directors, the people who are going to set the strategic direction for the organization.

It’s important to be able to understand your constitution, and that it be a living document. Often the documents are very old, and they no longer serve the organization. It’s a document that should be renewed and revitalized at least every 3-5 years, or when there are major changes in the organization.

Here are the 5 key things that I think should tell you when it’s time to review and renew your constitution.

Firstly, if you can’t understand it, you have difficulty interpreting long wordy sentences containing sometimes, legal jargon.

Secondly, if there’s no clear procedures around how you should meet together, the notices, the periods of time for notices to be given.

Thirdly, if it no longer keeps up with up to date technology, for example, it doesn’t allow you to have meetings using teleconferencing, or even telephones.

The fourth one is, if it restricts the people that you can get onto your board, either because of the tenure of directors is too long, or because it doesn’t allow you to attract people who might have particular talents or expertise.

Finally, if the objects no longer reflect what your organization does, if you’ve moved on, but you haven’t gone back and actually reviewed the objects so that they accurately have, create an identity for your organization.

So, if any of those 5 things resonate with you about your constitution, it’s time for it to be reviewed.

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