Guidelines for Preparation of Briefing Papers on Proposed Constitution and Bylaws Amendments


Amendments to an organization’s constitution and bylaws have a significant potential to alter the organization’s strategic course. Informed decision making by an assembly is important in all matters, but particularly when considering revisions to charter documents. Therefore, Section 11 of SAA’s Bylaws charges the Executive Committee to “review and approve a briefing paper, prepared by the proposer(s) and/or by the Executive Director in accordance with Council guidelines, which shall be presented with the motion(s) at the business meeting or at a special meeting called by the Council.” The purpose of such briefing papers is to assist voting members in understanding the background, rationale, and ramifications of proposed amendments. Briefing papers should present a balanced view of the issue(s) under consideration.


Briefing papers on proposed constitutional and bylaws amendments will be attached as exhibits to a motion and will contain supplementary information that facilitates informed deliberation and decision-making.

Authors: The proposer(s) are encouraged to submit a draft briefing paper upon filing a motion with the Executive Director. The executive office will provide information and other assistance as needed, provided that the requisite number of eligible voting members, as specified in the Constitution, have signed on to the motion. If a briefing paper is not submitted or if the briefing paper is incomplete, the Executive Committee will charge the Executive Director to prepare one, in whole or in part. In doing so, the Executive Director will make reasonable efforts to solicit and incorporate input from the proposer(s), who will be entitled to review and submit comments to inform the Executive Committee’s review.

Content: The briefing paper should contain the following sections:

1. Motion: The main motion is the means by which a substantive proposal may be presented to the members for consideration and action. It should be concise, clear, and stated in the affirmative. In the case of constitutional and bylaws amendments, the motion typically is phrased, “THAT the SAA Constitution/Bylaws be amended as follows,” followed by the verbatim language of the revisions, marked with strikethroughs for deletions and underlining for additions.

2. Support Statement: A summary of the findings presented in the Discussion/Analysis section. The support statement briefly articulates the rationale for the motion. Generally the Support Statement “travels with” the adopted motion in minutes and elsewhere and serves to explain the rationale for the action taken.

3. Proposed By: The names of the proposer and seconder. In the case of an amendment proposed by a group of members, primary and secondary contacts should be identified to enable communication among the proposers, the Executive Committee, and the Executive Director. A complete list of petitioners may be attached as an appendix.

4. Background: A brief description of prior events and/or discussions that helps explain why the motion is being presented. What problem will it solve? What issue will it resolve?

5. Discussion/Analysis: A detailed discussion/analysis that presents a fair and balanced review of the “pros” and “cons” of adoption of the motion. If applicable, some or all of the following questions should be addressed:

a. Is the proposal consistent with SAA’s strategic objectives, as articulated in Article II of the Constitution?
b. Is the proposal consistent with SAA’s legal and financial interests?
c. Does the proposal benefit SAA’s members as a whole?
d. Does the proposal correct an error or omission or add clarification to existing policies?

Criteria for Review: The Executive Committee will assess the briefing paper on its clarity and capacity to inform voter deliberation and will provide feedback to the proposer and/or Executive Director.

Approved by the SAA Council: January 2012.
Revised: May 2016