Is it possible to have both voting members and non-voting members in our bylaws? Our community theater currently has members that pay dues and have a right to vote on the bylaws and for our board of directors. However, we have found that anyone who works on stage or backstage during a show is not covered by our liability insurance because they are neither patrons nor members. We felt that anyone tied to a production that is not a member could be asked to join as a non-voting member at a reduced fee thereby including them in our liability coverage. Thoughts?
You have two issues here, one legal and one coverage of insurance. It is definitely permissible to have both voting and non-voting members of a nonprofit. Our standard bylaws specifically provide permission for non-voting members. (See Ready Reference Page: “Bylaws Function as ‘Constitution’ of Nonprofit Corporations”)
That may not solve your insurance problem, however. I have often mentioned that I am a “member” of the local public broadcasting station and the art museum, but I don’t expect that I have insurance of any type by virtue of those contributions.
General liability insurance usually covers officers and directors (who are often volunteers) of the insured and paid staff and certain other agents. Well-written policies will also cover volunteers for the organization, and provide coverage for the organization and the volunteers if they cause injury to third parties. In some states you may be able to get workers’ compensation coverage for volunteer staff who get hurt if the curtain falls on them. You probably have to have workers’ comp if you pay the stage crew.
Your problem is one that ought to be solvable by talking to a broker who understands nonprofits and theaters, without having to amend your bylaws to create non-voting memberships. There are many insurers who provide such protection. Nonvoting memberships are great for getting donations and creating a sense of belonging in the organization, but are generally irrelevant for insurance.