Bylaws Update

Posted by Laurie Schechter, Randi Jones and Janis Barquist

September 28, 2023

Dear Friends,

We’re finishing a new version of the documents governing our beloved Ebell, and we want you to know what we’ve been working on for the past year or so in the Governance Committee and on the Board. It’s important that you all understand what will change—and what won’t—in the proposed bylaws, which the Board approved in August.

In the proposed bylaws, you’ll still find the categories and privileges of membership, the rules for nomination and election of officers and other board members, the procedures for holding meetings of the members and the Board, the basic guidelines for committees, and how bylaws may be amended when necessary. More things will stay the same than will change. But first….

What’s a Bylaw?

According to the California Association of Nonprofits, bylaws address fundamental provisions related to the management of an organization’s activities and affairs. Bylaws “should provide guidance to the board and reassurance of sound governance practices to government authorities, funders, and other interested stakeholders.”

While these guidelines are vital, it’s equally important that we have the flexibility to respond quickly to new opportunities and challenges. For that reason, most nonprofits—including The Ebell, by long tradition — put most of their procedures in a separate set of policies that are easier to amend as needed. If you don’t find something you’re used to seeing in the proposed new ones, it’s probably been moved to Policies along with most of our day-to-day procedural rules.

What Are the Important Changes?

• The bylaws will be streamlined and reorganized to correct typos, eliminate inconsistencies, and make them easier and more efficient to use.
• Most day-to-day operational details will be moved from the bylaws to the policies, where they will be simpler to amend as necessary.
• Board roles will be modified, with most members serving “at large” to encourage a focus on the whole organization rather than on specific roles and to allow for greater flexibility and continuity. (The officers of The Ebell—President, VP, VP of Finance, Treasurer, and Secretary—will continue to be elected individually to those positions.) Committee Chairs and Co-Chairs will be recommended by the Nominating Committee and assigned by the Board, and each Board member will be required to serve on at least one committee.
• The size of the Board, currently 15 members, will change to 15-21 members to allow for more inclusivity, flexibility, engagement and representation of members.
• Board terms will be expanded from 2 to 3 years to improve transfer of knowledge and continuity, and restrictions on length of service will be loosened.

Why Change Them Now?

—A Changing Landscape:
The world around us and the cultural and non-profit landscape have evolved. The Ebell must keep up with those changes if it is to remain relevant to our current and future members and our community.

—Stronger Leadership:
Stacy Brightman, our Executive Director, is bringing a strong leadership capacity and community presence to the organization. In doing so, she is optimizing the talent of Board and committee members in a collaborative effort with internal resources that greatly enriches the organization. This means Board members can serve a broader role as advisors and supporters.

—Unity of Purpose:
By giving Board members an “at large” seat at the table, we are able to create a unity of vision and purpose shared across the entire Board working as a collaborative team of members.

—Seismic Retrofit (Urgent!):
Major repairs needed to our campus and a complicated and costly earthquake retrofit mandated by the City of Los Angeles require new funding sources. Major donors are looking to us to modernize our governance structure and to demonstrate that we are a modern, professional, adaptable organization worthy of their investment.

For more information click here Retrofit.

What’s Next?

We value women’s voices. Without exception. We want you to see how the proposed bylaws provide for a less encumbered governance structure and position The Ebell for a vibrant future working for the greater good of our members, our stakeholders, and our community.

To review the draft bylaws, click here Bylaws.  We anticipate holding a vote to adopt the proposed bylaws as soon as possible. Before that, we will send out a survey asking for your reactions to the proposed bylaws, and there will be several other opportunities for you to offer your opinions. Meanwhile, please contact any of us with any questions or concerns you may have and/or points of clarification.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Laurie Schechter

Randi Jones
Vice President

Janis Barquist
Director of Governance