Professional Associations Bylaws

Bylaws are internal rules and regulations set up by an association or organization for the purposes of self-regulation. Every professional association, regardless of size or scope, must have a set of bylaws that their members, and specifically their board, must adhere to. The bylaws should also be freely available for download on the association’s website. 

Purpose of Bylaws

Every professional association in Canada must abide by regulations set out in the Not-For-Profit Act, and other similar acts. These are regulations that are mandated by the government. Bylaws, on the other hand, are internal laws that an association creates itself.

In general, professional associations have a great deal of freedom in how they want to set up their bylaws. Whilst, for example, every association must have a board of directors, the size and composition of the board is at the bylaw’s discretion. Having clear, freely available bylaws is vitalfor the efficient and legal management of an association. Bylaws ensure that there are certain rules and principles that must be adhered to, and ensures that there are limits to the board’s power. 

Content of Professional Association Bylaws

No two sets of professional association bylaws will look exactly alike, but there is normally a similar structure. Below you can find a list of issues your bylaws should cover:

  • Interpretation/Definitions
    • Regardless of the organization, most bylaws will start by defining terms
  • Name and Purpose           
    • Make clear what your organization is called – in full.
    • Establish what your professional association sets out to do
  • Board of Directors
    • List the various positions present on the board (i.e. President)
    • Also specify the size of the board, as well as relevant term lengths
    • List the various committees
    • Make clear how directors are elected
  • Membership
    • Discuss how an individual can become a member
    • List the fees that must be paid, and in what intervals they should be paid
    • Make clear in what situations a member can be dismissed
  • Budget
    • Set up regulations regarding how the association’s funds can be spent
  • Amending bylaws
    • Indicate how bylaws can be changed in the future

The above list is by no means exhaustive but outlines the main points your association’s bylaws should include. 

Many professional associations in Canada are non-profits, and therefore regulated by the Canadian Not-For-Profit Act. Click here to learn more. 

Bylaws Regarding Elections

Given that every professional association will need to regularly organize elections, there should be a section on the subject in the bylaws. At the very least, your bylaws should cover the following issues:

  • Which type of elections your college will hold
  • The positions that require elections
  • The nomination process
  • The manner in which your election will be held (i.e. online, post, in person)
  • The duration of the election
  • Whether different membership groups have different voting rights

POLYAS strongly recommends that you ensure that your bylaws allow online voting. In comparason to postal, online voting can be up to 70% cheaper and has a 95% smaller carbon footprint. This excludes the reduced hassle and saved time that voting online with POLYAS can bring you. 

To learn more about e-voting with POLYAS, get in touch with one of our election experts.