I am doing volunteer work for a 501(c)(3) organization that says only paid “members” can see the bylaws and charter. I thought these had to be available to the general public upon request, but maybe I was confusing it with the tax return. Please advise.
You are correct that the filed Form 990 tax returns of 501(c)(3) charities must be made available to the pubic upon request. The same is not normally true for governance documents, although they may be available from other sources. A corporate charter is generally available from the corporation office of the state of incorporation, or from the IRS in connection with the application for exemption or from a state in which the organization is registered to solicit charitable funds. Bylaws, as they existed at the time of application, would normally be included in the filings, but are often changed without being brought up to date with the IRS or the states. If you are not a member and can’t see what you request, you may want to reconsider whether you want to continue to volunteer.