What can be done when a founding member of a nonprofit corporation repeatedly has bullied others? The consensus is that the founder is disliked by the community. The nonprofit is very young and reliant on membership, but some of the people we hoped would join refuse to do so as long as this founder is involved in any way! Is there a way to remove an unwanted founding member permanently?
This depends entirely on your bylaws. I assume that you have several founders since you talk about one of them. If the founders have protected themselves, as we often suggest, by providing that they can never be removed as members or directors, you may be unable to remove the bully without his/her consent. (See Ready Reference Page: “Sole Member Bylaws Can Protect Founder of Nonprofit”) More likely, if there is no such protection, you would be able to remove the person as either a director or a member, or both, if you follow the proper procedures and have the votes. Before you get to that extreme, you may want to talk to this person and explain how his/her conduct is hurting the organization. If that doesn’t effect a change — and I would not count on its working — you are left with counting the votes, if that is an option.
A removal from membership would not be permanent, but that would not be necessary if you have an admissions process where applicants have to be approved for admission (or readmission). You should be sure that your process does not allow automatic admission merely upon submission of an application or payment of dues. We advocate an approval process that allows you to keep control of the membership and avoid a take-over by hostile elements. (See Ready Reference Page: “Bylaws Function as ‘Constitution’ of Nonprofit Corporations”)