Initially, when preparing a constitution for your club, you may find it difficult to understand what the document is supposed to be for, and how to go about creating it. This page will offer some guidance so that you can make your club constitution meaningful, and so that your document can be a useful piece of paperwork.
- Introduction to constitutions
- What should each section contain?
- What does not-for-profit mean, and is this different from being a charity?
- Club constitution template
Introduction to constitutions
The purpose of a constitution is to set out what a club can do, what it cannot do, how it must be governed, and how it must operate for its members.
Your club does not need to incorporate as a business, but if you want to be able to access such things as bank accounts, hall hire, or possibly even local funding, you may need to provide a club constitution to show that you take things seriously and that you will run in an appropriate and reasonable fashion.
Your constitution should not make your life more difficult. In fact, it should be the bit of paper that you present to show that you are in fact allowed to do the things you need to do for your club!
Don’t worry too much about how other clubs do things, or what they have written into their constitution. If they need to do things differently, then their constitution will look different. If you try to copy their document outright, then you will be able to run your club exactly as they run theirs – which is not necessarily what you need.
A good constitution will usually cover the following things:
- the particulars of the club (the name, and the goals and objectives)
- how the club will be governed (whether by committee, or by the chief instructor, or however this is to happen)
- how the club will manage its finances (including obligations, what is allowed, and what is not allowed)
- how the club will handle membership (any restrictions, fees, or other relevant rules)
- how to amend the constitution (because every club will evolve over time)
- how to wind up and dissolve the club (because the club may come to an end one day)
Just from looking at that list, you should be able to see that the document is probably not useful for everyday training sessions, but that it is important for the people who run the club, and probably for your bank manager as well.
In each section, you don’t need to be too explicit about detail. Write the information that is important to be shown in this document; leave out the information that might change regularly, and that might be better explained elsewhere.
For example, if your club charges £5 per year as an annual membership fee, you don’t need to put that number in the constitution – because next year it might rise to £15, and then £20, and so on, and it would be a pain to have to update the constitution every time. Instead, use your constitution to give your club the power to charge an annual membership fee, and then explain your membership fee and conditions on your club website, where you can update it quickly and easily.
Similarly with information that can be explained through other policy documents – there’s no need to enshrine it in the constitution, where updating it to make it fit for purpose can be difficult. If something needs to be mentioned in the constitution, then say where the up-to-date information can be found, and then make sure you keep those documents up to date.
Of course, if something does need to be in the constitution, then it needs to be described there in sufficient detail. For example, if you want to give your club the power to operate a bank account, that needs to be in the constitution. If you want to give your club the power to take loans, that needs to be in the constitution. If you want to be recognised as a not-for-profit organisation, then you need to show this in the constitution by removing any permission for people to distribute money for personal profit.
What should each section contain?
Here we will go through each section briefly, to give you a sense of what sort of things it needs to say.
State the formal name of the club. This is the final authority on what the club is called.
It might be worth stating the club’s goals and objectives. These don’t have to be rocket science, and you don’t need to have them; but it might help if you are applying for funding.
This is where you describe how the club will be run.
Will there be a committee? If so, what will be the roles and responsibilities? When will people be elected or re-elected? How many terms can anyone serve?
Will you hold an AGM? What is the process for doing this to make it official? Who gets a vote? What about other sorts of meetings, how official/formal do they need to be?
What about complaints and grievances? What if a complaint is levied against a committee member, how will this be handled?
Will the club be allowed to operate a bank account? And if so, what are your rules regarding signatories?
Will the club be allowed to charge attendance fees, or raise income in any other fashion? This is probably a good idea, so give your club the power, explicitly.
Will the club be allowed to take loans? It doesn’t need to be a bank loan worth several thousand pounds, but it might be one of the founding members funding a purchase of a few pieces of loaner gear, on the understanding that they will be paid back.
Will the club be allowed to hire anyone? What about an instructor, or an accountant for doing the annual accounts, or a website developer or marketing specialist, or a first aid instructor? Again, give yourself the power to hire people or engage businesses to provide goods or services if you think this might be useful to your club.
Will the club be allowed to reimburse people for expenses on behalf of the club? If so, give your club the power, explicitly.
Will you be a not-for-profit club? If so, make it clear that no one can take money from the club for personal gain.
Will your club restrict memberships? Consider a minimum age, and your duty of care to under-18s.
Will you charge a membership fee? For how long will membership last?
What needs to happen for the club leaders to amend the constitution officially and correctly?
Can club members propose a change to the constitution?
If the club needs to close, how will this happen? What will be done with club funds and club equipment?
If you want to be a not-for-profit organisation, then demonstrate how no individual will gain personal benefit from the dissolution of the club.
What does not-for-profit mean, and is this different from being a charity?
In the UK, a charity is an organisation that has achieved charitable status from the appropriate charity regulator. It is a legal offence to claim to be a charity when you do not have formal charitable status.
Not-for-profit means that no individual can make a personal profit by taking spare money out of the organisation for their own personal gain. If your constitution prohibits this, then you count as a not-for-profit organisation; if someone can decide to take themselves some money because they feel like it, then you are no longer a not-for-profit organisation. There is no formal legal status to say whether or not you are not-for-profit, it is more of a litmus test where people look at your constitution and see whether or not there is scope for individuals to pocket money for their own personal gain.
It is important to note that the UK definitions of these terms are radically different from the American definitions. If you look for further information online, then non-UK sources will NOT give you the information that you need.
There is also nothing wrong with being a club that is not a not-for-profit organisation. Profit isn’t a dirty word. It might just disqualify you from being able to apply for funding, and it may also mean that you need to register with HMRC and start filing tax returns and annual accounts.
You are able to hire staff members and employees, and pay them a wage, while remaining a not-for-profit organisation.
If you would like more advice about this sort of thing, then you should speak with an accountant or lawyer. We are not accountants or lawyers and cannot offer professional advice.
Club constitution template
We have created a blank club constitution template for affiliated clubs. The template is only accessible to current club leaders who are logged in. If you think that you should be able to see this document, but cannot, then please contact us to resolve the problem.