So You Want To Start A Motorcycle Club Series?
Motorcycle Clubs 101 “Bylaws”
The heart of a well-run motorcycle club can be found in its adherence to its bylaws. So whether you are starting an MC, taking one over or trying to make yours better your first goal should be to establish or strengthening your club’s bylaws.
What is so great About the Bylaws?
Think of the bylaws as being as important to your club as the United States constitution is to our country. The bylaws are the constitution of your motorcycle club. If you have strong bylaws that are coherent, fair and adaptable, and your MC strictly adheres to them-your MC will have discovered a recipe that will set it up to last for 50 years or more with great success! No member will stand above the bylaws and that fact serves to keep everyone honest-thereby keeping the MC eternally strong!
What Sorts of Things are Contained in the Bylaws?
The bylaws are your club’s bible. They document the history and beginnings of your club. They state the mission and the motto of the club. They specify how club members and officers will conduct themselves, chain of command, order of succession, how dues will be paid, how fines will be levied and how much fines should be, how and when elections will be carried out, how prospects (or probies) will be initiated and how punishment will be meted out. Bylaws also specify the powers and responsibilities of club officers, terms of office, financial protocols the club will follow, dates for annuals and other historical functions, as well as the qualifications for club membership and the criteria by which members may be dismissed. The bylaws are in fact the very document that give your MC the authority to exist and operate.
Should your Bylaws be set in Stone?
For the most part your bylaws should be set in stone; however, every set of rules must have the ability to adapt to changing culture, technology, people and times if they are to remain relevant. So your bylaws should be a rigid but flexible document and should be set up so that a two-thirds club majority can amend them during a normal or special vote. This is a key element to having great bylaws.
From Where Should You Obtain Your Bylaws or is it Better to Just Write Them?
When looking for a source for your bylaws you should never just sit down and write them from scratch. There is no need to reinvent the wheel in this case. Consult a motorcycle club that you hold in high esteem and ask them if you can obtain a copy of their bylaws so that you can base your club’s bylaws upon theirs. Oh, by the way, the club you should ask should be thirty years old or older. The reasons for these suggestions are:
- It would take you perhaps six months to think of and write everything from scratch, that the bylaws should contain in them.
- An older club’s bylaws have been “matured” over time and well-tested. They will contain subjects in them that you may never consider because in the past 30 or more years they have seen basically everything and their bylaws will contain the answers you will need to handle the best and worst case scenarios your club is bound to experience.
- Bylaws strong enough to keep a club running for three decades will be strong enough to get any new club started.
We’ve got a Set of Bylaws, Now What?
After you obtain a set of bylaws you should sit with your prospective club members and amend those bylaws until you transform them into bylaws that work for your proposed motorcycle club. Notice that I said proposed motorcycle club. No motorcycle club should form until those bylaws have been written. This way you will have an operations guideline from day one that clearly spells out everyone’s responsibilities, positions and requirements. This will keep you from going down the wrong road before you head down that road.
One More Thing about the Bylaws!
President’s, I get so damned sick of club members coming up with suggestions or asking me things that are clearly stated in the bylaws, don’t you? New Presidents, after you get a good set of bylaws written and adopted insist that your members know them backwards and forwards if you want your jobs to be easier. The best way to do that is to have a reading of a chapter or two of your bylaws at the start of each club meeting. And always, when one of your non-reading club members asks you something silly that has been covered in the bylaws-make them LOOK IT UP instead of telling them the answer! This will make your club member stronger in their bylaws knowledge and that cannot be bad!