Shop Member Center Document Center

2019 Updated Bylaws | FAQs

March 8, 2019

General: what's new in the Bylaws

On January 16, 2019, the Barbershop Harmony Society published updates to official documents governing the Society, its districts, and its chapters. These documents are legally binding on all chapters and districts and as such, the Society Board wishes to be clear and helpful in explaining them entirely, and to be available to answer any questions.

All existing chapter and district bylaws derive from the BHS Bylaws, and they all provide for amendment and revision by the Society Board. Approval of the Standard Chapter Bylaws and Standard District Bylaws by the Society Board of Directors has automatically made these revisions part of the governance of each chapter and district as of January 2019.

For complete info, see the complete documents and explanatory videos in the Member Center.

Participation Membership

Probably the most notable change throughout the bylaws is the definition of “participation membership” in sections 8.01 and 8.02. The first section defines individual membership in the Barbershop Harmony Society as distinct from membership in any specific chapter or district -- an option which has been available since October 2015, and was extended to all people in June 2018.

The second section states that any participation organization (for example, a chapter) may define its own guidelines for admitting any Society member. This has the effect of allowing every chapter to decide for itself what kinds of programs, ensembles, and activities it wishes to offer, and what people can take part.

Every chapter owns its own culture and choices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why change the bylaws, and why now?

The two main forces driving the revision project were visionary possibilities, and practical mechanisms.

The visionary element enacts the infrastructure for realizing our Strategic Vision of Everyone in Harmony. The aim is always to give every local barbershop community the ability to enjoy and share barbershop as it pleases. A chapter can now offer more ways to participate in multiple ensembles, organized around its capabilities, interests, community profile, etc. While the Society extended membership to all people on June 19, 2018, admission to chapters and districts still depended on changes to the Standard Chapter Bylaws and Standard District Bylaws which govern all units. This has been accomplished as of January 2019.

The second practical driver was to align and streamline our corporate governing documents at all levels. Over the years, governing documents have a way of growing complex and tangled, as new functions are tucked in here and there. The occasion of Society-wide changes provided opportunity to reorganize, standardize, and simplify as much as possible. With these rewrites, all levels of the Society are aligned in purpose, structure, and legal relationships, yet each barbershop community retains ultimate control over defining its unique experience.

How and when do these changes become effective in our chapter?

All existing chapter and district bylaws derive from the BHS Bylaws, and they all provide for amendment and revision by the Society Board. Approval of the Standard Chapter Bylaws and Standard District Bylaws by the Society Board of Directors has automatically made these revisions part of the governance of each chapter and district as of January 2019.

Who needs to take action now?

The Society advises that each Chapter and District approve the following resolution and enter it into the minutes of its Board:

The Chapter [or District] acknowledges receipt on January 16, 2019, of the revised Barbershop Harmony Society Standard Chapter [District] Bylaws. The Chapter [District] understands that these Bylaws supersede previous editions as its governing document based upon the Chapter [District] Charter. The Chapter [District] hereby adopts the revised Barbershop Harmony Society Standard Chapter [District] Bylaws effective as of January 16, 2019.

Any chapters and districts whose Bylaws had previously been amended with approval by the Society Governance and Bylaws Committee should contact the the Society Board at SocietyBoard@barbershop.org to review and request reaffirmation of these previously approved variations.

Do these changes to Chapter Bylaws mean my chapter is required to change its admission policies?

No. Each chapter will always manage its unique chapter experience for itself, which includes deciding which programming it wishes to offer, which persons will be admitted, what standards for performance or participation are required for membership, etc. There is no mandated requirement from the Society to its chapters to admit any person.

However, the rephrasing of the membership criteria does make possible many more forms of membership and participation for all people: “Any person who meets the qualifications of Society Membership as set forth in Article VIII of the Society Bylaws may be considered for membership in the chapter.”

Note that this does not specify or require any individual person’s admission; it simply allows a chapter to choose for itself to admit any Society member to the chapter and any of its ensembles, contingent on majority vote of its board or majority vote of its members.

Does admitting women to my chapter mean it is required to have a mixed or women’s chorus?

No. Each chapter may define for itself what “participation membership” means. A chapter may offer multiple programs, including activities for a competing chorus(es), a casual chorus, show chorus, non-singing chapter membership, men’s chorus, mixed chorus, etc. No single form is required.

The BHS Member Center provides chapters the means for defining multiple choruses and participation groups within a chapter, and even creating distinct dues structures for each activity.

A chapter will always be free to pursue its own best destiny, and will not be compelled to offer any specific activity.

How should a chapter go about deciding who it shall admit for membership?

The Chapter Bylaws do not need to address that question, only offering the flexibility that “Any person who meets the qualifications of Society Membership as set forth in Article VIII of the Society Bylaws may be considered for membership in the chapter.”

Setting a direction for a chapter -- its guiding vision, its role in the community, its culture -- is an occasion for reflection. Rather than solely reacting to circumstances as they arise, a chapter can make use of the many resources of the Healthy Chapter Initiative and the Leadership Operations Project Team, whose trained facilitators can help you understand your own vision.

Based on its goals, a chapter may choose to adopt Standard Operating Procedures that describe requirements for participation in various program activities. These guidelines can serve as a quick reference for future admission decisions.

How do we document our decision?

Our chapter has decided to remain men-only. How do we document this decision?

No specific action is required to report a status of “men only” to the Society. Effective January 16, 2019, the BHS Member Center added a distinct sub-unit to each existing Chapter for a men’s chorus, and added all existing members to that sub-unit.

A chapter may choose to adopt Standard Operating Procedures that describe requirements for participation in its men’s chorus, for guidance in future admission decisions.

Our chapter has decided to welcome all people, and wishes to add a mixed harmony chorus. How do we document this decision?

No official notification/permission is required. Based on a decision by a chapter Board of Directors to add a program activity in addition to its default men’s chorus, an authorized officer may add another chorus to the chapter record in Member Center, and then to add any chapter members to that chorus.

A chapter may choose to adopt Standard Operating Procedures that describe requirements for participation in its mixed chorus, for guidance in future admission decisions.

Our chapter has decided to welcome all people, but will not be adding a singing activity for women. How do we document this decision?

No official notification/permission is required. Based on a membership admission decision by a chapter Board of Directors, any Society member in good standing may be added to a chapter. Any individual may be a member of a chapter without being assigned to any chorus sub-unit of the chapter.

A chapter may choose to adopt Standard Operating Procedures that describe requirements for participation as chapter members, for guidance in future admission decisions.

Miscellany: other recent revisions to Standard Chapter Bylaws

In addition to general clean-up of language to align all levels of the Society, a few other notable changes are enacted in the Standard Chapter Bylaws in the interest of efficiency and consistency.

Requirements for filing financials with BHS

The Chapter Board shall provide for, and cause to be made, a financial review of the books and accounts of the chapter annually or at its discretion at more frequent periods. The chapter shall report the results of the review to the Society in a manner prescribed by the CEO.

Youth Policy

Each chapter affirms its commitment to the protection of any youth who are members of the chapter or who attend or participate in any functions or schools of the chapter, and will ensure that all of its members adhere to the Society’s Youth Policy.