Hierarchy of Documents

Documents, documents and more documents!

There are so many important documents that guide a non-profit, but what if there’s conflict between them? Well, firstly, there shouldn’t be, but if there is, then default to the hierarchy! You may find the hierarchy visual handy.


First and foremost, government laws are supreme. I don’t care what your bylaws say, if it’s illegal, its illegal. A common example of when this gets sticky is that your bylaws may say that it’s okay to take a vote by email, BUT what do the laws in your state say about that? I don’t want to digress on that, so I’ll write about that in a future posting. Stay tuned!


Next in line are your organization’s articles of incorporation. This tells where your organization was formed, when, and what is the formal name of the organization.


If you are a chapter, sub-group, or the like and you have a parent organization, their governing documents are to be followed next. This includes their bylaws, policies, positions, etc.


Then comes your organization’s bylaws, followed by standing rules, then rules of order (commonly Robert’s Rules of Order), and finally policies and procedures.


There you have it! Follow this hierarchy and you’ll be able to sort out any conflicting information your documents might have. And if ever you are in doubt, just shoot me an email and let’s dig into those documents together!


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