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What's in a Policy?

Optimist International has bylaws and policies. Clubs have bylaws. Districts have policies. All of them can be changed. It can be quite confusing and overwhelming at times. How do we as Optimists keep it straight? Who can change what?

First, a major difference between a bylaw and a policy is who can change them. A bylaw requires a vote of the membership to be changed. A policy requires a vote from the board of directors. The Board of Directors at the district level consists of each club president and the district Executive Committee. A second major difference is that bylaws tend to be more set in stone while policies are more flexible. Bylaws are the top set of rules that can only be changed with membership input. Policies are the set of guidelines for how we operate and can be changed by the leadership.

As an example - the bylaws might indicate the types of memberships that are available - general membership or Friend of Optimist membership. The policies might specify how those memberships could be accepted or approved based on the way the board of directors wants to operate.

Optimist International provides a template for Optimist Club bylaws. The Club membership may vote to update those bylaws with the exception of any language in bold font. That is required language for all Optimist Clubs. Optimist International recommends that the club review these bylaws on an annual basis to ensure all members are familiar and ensure any mandatory language is included. Clubs may also elect to create Club policies for how the club operates. The Club Board of Directors may vote to update these policies as needed and commits to following those policies in the operation of the club.

Optimist International also has International bylaws. The District is an extension of Optimist International and is therefore bound by the Optimist International bylaws. Those cannot be changed except by a vote of all Optimist members. The District policies are specific to the district, created by and maintained by the district. They specify how the District will operate and can only be changed by a vote of the District Board of Directors. Optimist International also provides mandatory wording in the District policies. These are indicated by bold type. In order to receive the district allotment of dues from Optimist International, the mandatory wording must be present. A review of all District policies is conducted each year by a member of the Optimist International Board of Directors.

The South Carolina Optimist District Policies can be found on the website under Optimist Resources at In addition, the proposed updates for 2022 along with a summary of changes can also be found on that same page. The proposed changes will be voted on during the 2nd quarter conference on February 19th via Zoom.

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