After fifteen years of dedicated volunteer service, I was dismissed from a 501(c)(3) museum without any warning, reasons or a hearing (in complete violation of the organization's bylaws). I have no doubt that I was the victim of a vendetta, perpetrated by an immature, jealous president. As a long-time member of the media, I was instrumental in generating a considerable amount of publicity for the museum, and contributed untold hundreds of hours in the construction and operation of this now world famous museum. I am 74 years old and a disabled veteran. I have tried on a number of occasions to get together with the current president and board to get some sort of explanation for my dismissal and resolve any possible differences, and my requests are continually ignored. A number of members are upset by what has taken place, and their efforts in my behalf have also been ignored. What can I do?
You don’t say whether you were dismissed as a director or merely as a volunteer worker. If you were dismissed as a director in violation of the bylaws, you might have a cause of action. If the Board generally wants you out, however, it is likely to go back and do it right and you will have spent a lot of money for a pyrrhic victory.
If you were dismissed as a working volunteer, it is not likely that the bylaws say anything about that, and volunteers are generally not protected by anti-discrimination laws, although there appears to be some movement toward protecting volunteers under employment law. (See Nonprofit Issues, 1/16/13.)
If there are voting members of the corporation, and they feel strongly about your situation, and the current directors will not change their position, the members can probably seek to remove some or all of the current directors, or at least refuse to re-elect them when their terms are up. If the members are not voting members, but are merely contributors, their only leverage may be withholding contributions or generating adverse publicity.
If your own and your friends’ talking can’t change the situation, you should probably recognize that you have already made a difference at the museum and go on with your life until the current crowd has gone or change their minds.