I founded a nonprofit humane corporation 4 years ago and was the sole founder and operator until a year ago. I had a board of directors consisting of 5 members. The board recently voted 3 - 2 to terminate me as executive director. I was not given a hearing and was told after a special meeting that I was terminated because I did not possess the skills that the board expected. My termination was really due to a personality conflict between me and one of the board members who got two of the other board members to vote her way and remove me. Do I have any rights to the organization as founder and the fact that I wasn't given a hearing to defend myself?
This is why we recommend that founders who expect to provide many years, or even a career, developing a nonprofit organization protect their personal interest in creating the structure of the organization. We regularly recommend that the founder create a membership corporation and serve as the sole member (with powers analogous to a sole shareholder of a business). We set it up so that they have the right to appoint members of the board (including themselves), remove members of the board, and control amendments to the articles of incorporation and bylaws. If that were the case here, even if the board actually removed you as executive director, you could remove and replace those who did so with people who would rehire you to your old position. You can’t do that kind of thing very often or you will have a really difficult time finding people willing to serve. But those who know that they can’t take over the organization and are there to give you their best advice on how to realize your dream are better to work with than those who think they can take advantage of everything you have done as a start-up, get rid of you, and make it theirs.
Since I assume that you are not a voting member of your organization, you most likely do not have any special rights as founder. Since you are not a director, you probably don’t even have a right to notice of the meeting, although the bylaws may provide specific notice rights or tenure for the executive director as an officer. Whether they can remove you without a hearing depends on your state law and your bylaws, but normally a board can remove an officer or other agent at any time without a hearing and for no reason other than they think it is in the best interests of the organization. You can always appeal to the conscience of those who voted against you, but I doubt that you have any legal rights to overturn the decision. (See Ready Reference Pages: “The Key Question – Whose Organization Is It?” and “Bylaws Function as Constitution of Nonprofit Corporations” and "Sole Member Bylaws Can Protect Founder of Nonprofit")