Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Boxer Club By-laws… But Didn’t Know Whom to Ask :-)

by Virginia Zurflieh
ABC By-laws Committee

A slightly different version of this article will appear in the next issue of the ABC Bulletin (Kudos to Editor Jeff Phillips on a *super* new ABC newsletter!) In the meantime, though, I continue to receive an average of one inquiry every few weeks from a Boxer club member who’s been tasked with updating his/her club’s by-laws, and needs help right away in order to meet a club deadline. Although I’ve been helping ABC member clubs update their by-laws for three years now, I’m far from being an expert; and I realize that many Boxer clubs are unique and have different reasons for needing to amend their by-laws. Even so, there are several issues that come up over and over again, so for those local Boxer club members who need to change their club by-laws to accommodate the changing times, but are not yet ABC members and don’t get their own copy of the Bulletin, I’d like to share the most common by-laws problems with you here. (There will NOT be a quiz! J)

  1. The AKC rules! I mean that literally:  Although the AKC stopped pre-approving local club by-laws in 2009, the AKC Club Relations Dept still has the last word on any provision you want to incorporate into your club’s by-laws. The ABC Board can’t approve anything the AKC won’t approve.
  2.  K.I.S.S. is the watchword!  By-laws are supposed to be general guidelines for how your club is to be run. They can’t possibly cover every situation or contingency that might arise. If something out of the ordinary does come up, consult the ABC. This link to the AKC’s sample by-laws for specialty clubs will give you a good idea of how to organize your club’s by-laws and which provisions to include:  
  3. The two most common problems clubs encounter these days are meeting a quorum and communicating with their membership. Your club will surely want to communicate with members via email (meeting & dues notices, newsletters, etc, but NOT voting) and may want to hold board meetings (ONLY board meetings) via teleconference or video conference. (Your board can’t vote via email, either!) Provisions to use electronic communications must be included in your by-laws, and your members must agree to them. Your secretary can’t just decide one day to start sending notices via email. The following is a link to the AKC’s new policies on electronic communication:
  4. Meeting a quorum is a more difficult issue. The quorum for your general membership meetings (NOT your board meetings) must be 20% of your VOTING membership, per the AKC. That means that if your club has a number of full voting members who don’t regularly attend meetings for whatever reason, you’re going to have a problem making a quorum and won’t be able to vote on necessary club business.  Many clubs have solved that problem by adopting an “associate” membership category. Associate members are usually entitled to all the privileges of full membership (Futurity nomination, for example), except voting and holding office. Therefore, associate members do NOT contribute to your meeting quorum. Just keep in mind that you cannot arbitrarily change full memberships to associate memberships retroactively. You have to offer your members who don’t attend meetings that option when they pay their yearly dues. Some clubs offer discounted dues for an associate membership.
 Finally, remember that club by-laws are only meant to define the purpose and goals of the club and give the club an organized structure that will allow its members to fulfill that purpose and achieve those goals. If your membership is in strong disagreement with one another about the mission and goals of the club, changing your by-laws is probably not going to change hearts and minds or resolve personality clashes. 

And there you have it!  Revising club by-laws can be a tedious and time-consuming job, but it doesn’t need to be painful and frustrating, too. Questions? Just drop me a line at  Now…Ready, Set, Revise!


  1. I'd also suggest that every club invest in at least one copy of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (the 11th Edition was just released) and two or three copies of Robert's Rules of Order In Brief (the 2nd Edition was just released, to coincide with the 11th Edition of the full Rules). Hand them out to your President, Secretary, and Vice President, at the least. Many conflicts in Clubs could be resolved if the members and the Board had a basic understanding of parliamentary procedures. RONR is as dry as it seems it would be, but RONRIB is much more straightforward and "plain English" and was written by the people who currently edit RONR, so it's always in line with the official Rules.

    RONR also has a section on structuring, adopting, and interpreting Bylaws, and between the two books you'll have a good reference for what you can and cannot do as a Club, as a Board, as a member, etc. (And, likely, what you've been doing wrong all these years. ;) )

    If your Club has not adopted RONR formally in the Bylaws (they should!) and has not adopted some other parliamentary authority, you default to the popular common authority which is RONR.

  2. Kudos to Jen for mentioning Robert's Rules! I should have done so, and forgot. My bad. Just the other day I got a call from a local club member who wanted clarification of a situation that was NOT covered by the club's by-laws. The obvious solution was Robert's Rules of Order, which most clubs automatically default to. Every club should have the revised edition on hand at both board and general membership meetings.