Organized Homeschool, "We're just a bunch of moms meeting together," a homeschooling co-op leader objected. "We don't want all the trouble of bank accounts, board meetings, and bylaws." Frequently, when assisting homeschool groups, I encourage establishing a board and creating bylaws for their group. Some leaders may wonder why a committee and bylaws are needed at all. Here are some reasons:
Most Importantly some groups like their organizations to remain small, unstructured and hassle-free. There are benefits to the small group model. In a small group, close relationships can grow. Bookkeeping is simple and meeting in a home is possible. But as the homeschooling movement grows, so do our co-ops, support groups, and other organizations. We become victims of our success. Some groups break-up when they become too large. But more likely, organizations meet the challenge and become more organized and grow their associations. They serve the needs of more families by enlarging itself.
Organized Homeschool-To Look Like a Non-Profit and Apply for Tax Exemption
I was talking to Beth, a homeschool leader, who told me she didn't have a board, or bylaws and kept co-op funds in her checking account because, as she said, "We're not an official nonprofit. We don't have tax exempt status with the IRS" Actually, Beth's organization should structure themselves as a non-profit organization. Before applying to the IRS for tax-exempt status.
Therefore, the IRS looks for proper structure and a history of operating with a board, among other things, before it will grant tax-exempt status. I recommended that Cindy open a nonprofit checking account for the co-op and not in her name, establish a board, and create bylaws. After a year or so, the cooperative can begin applying for tax-exempt status with the IRS. Beth understood that it is better to establish the proper structures early on to create a history as a non-profit.
Organized Homeschool-Avoid Being Personally Liable
A treasurer opened a personal checking account for her homeschool co-op's purposes. Checks are written to the treasurer's name. "Will that put liability on the treasurer?" I believe the treasurer is in a very uncomfortable situation. The cash in her account will be her income in the eyes of the IRS. I'm sure she doesn't want that! I suggested to her to open a new non-profit business checking account. Have checks written to the organization in the future.
The treasurer should report the financial status of the group to the board regularly. This requirement should be written up in the bylaws, such as, "the duties of the treasurer include regular reporting to the board of the financial position of the organization." The purpose of laws is to protect the organization from mismanagement. The bylaws, if followed, create an excellent form of protection against personal liability.
Organized Homeschool-Forming a Board
Besides if your group is growing or already large, you cannot manage it alone, so find people to help you carry the load. The role of a homeschool leader should be to delegate responsibilities so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the group. Choose people who are organized and can make decisions. Look for people who show an interest and commitment to your group.
Approach a potential board member personally. Emphasize their strengths and contributions to your group and ask if they would be willing to help in a leadership role. Because they may even feel lucky to be chosen. One leader knew my weakness for flattery when she approached me. "I'm surrounding myself with the smartest, best people I know," she told me," and I want you." She made me feel great and, naturally, I said I'd help!
Keep board member tasks well-defined and limited. Some people are reluctant to volunteer for leadership because they may want to leave the group later. If you define their role and limit the job to one year, they may commit.
Our board looked around and noticed that one particular woman was always there on time (or early), had a great speaking voice and was already organizing activities. We suggested to her to take over the job of morning announcements for the next semester. We complimented her organizational skills and promptness! She agreed, and our director had a huge weight lifted!
Tips for Writing By-Laws
Bylaws describe how the organization will operate, and they construct the board of directors. Bylaws identify the organization's laws of internal operation. For example, the bylaws give the number of members of the board, the length each member serves on the board, the officer positions, and how meetings are hed.
The IRS expects to see bylaws if your organization will seek IRS tax exempt status.
Here's a list of what to include in your bylaws:
Name: the legal name of your organization
Organized Homeschool-Purpose statement
Location of your organization: city, county, and state
Qualifications for membership in your group
Meetings: frequency, quorum requirements, an announcement of meetings
Board of Directors: size, how are board members, job descriptions of the officers, qualifications
Look at sample bylaws of other non-profit organizations. Many homeschool organizations have put them by laws online. Do a Google search on "homeschool bylaws" (sometimes spelled as "Bylaws").
Establishing a board and creating bylaws can seem like a lot of extra work for a homeschool. The organization, but the benefits are so important. I have mentioned three benefits of organizing your homeschool group: meeting the needs of a growing membership, establishing a history as a nonprofit and protection from liability. If you set up your homeschool group in these ways, you are ensuring success in the future!