Question: Does PTO have to follow their Bylaws?

Our PTO has followed their bylaws and are amended as needed. The bylaws have a two year experience requirement to be president, which was upped from one year prior to that. With the current president at the end of her term, she is saying the bylaws are suggestions or guidelines and anyone that wants to run for president can run. In researching this, I have found that when setting up a nonprofit organization Bylaws must be set up, but cannot find anywhere that definitively says the bylaws must be followed. Please let me know if there is a place I can find information on a PTO being required to follow their Bylaws.

Asked by Anonymous



Advice from PTO Today

lharac writes:
Bylaws are considered one of the core organizing documents of an organization; if your PTO is a federally recognized 501(c)(3) organization, then your bylaws were almost certainly provided to the IRS when you filed your application for tax-exempt status. The very fact that bylaws are a formal document, with a process outlined for making updates to the document and even for dissolving the organization itself, gives weight to the position that they are more than simply suggestions/guidelines for running the group. While it is good practice to have bylaws that are flexible -- for example, if terms for board members are set at 2 years with a limit of 6 years total, but no one steps up to fill a core position, then someone who has reached their total term limit can run for a single year term if no one else is running -- any changes to those bylaws would still need to go through the standard process for updating. Deciding in the moment to simply disregard the bylaws will also undermine your group's credibility; if someone, such as a disgruntled parent or community member, takes issue with how things are being done and sees that the bylaws aren't being followed, that could turn into a real nightmare. Good for you for paying attention to this potential issue and trying to keep your group on the up and up! -- Lani @ PTO Today

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