Nonprofits work hard to follow their mission and offer the help their constituents need. Many nonprofits are good about taking care of their business, following the rules and their bylaws, and offering the help people need and can’t get anywhere else.
Like any company, mistakes can happen. When someone has a complaint against a nonprofit, they may not know where to direct it.
Of course, it’s always best to try and resolve the complaint directly with the nonprofit, starting with a staff member. Should that be unsuccessful, you can move up to the staffer’s supervisor, or even the director/president of the organization. The next step would be the board of directors and a letter to the chairperson.
If you are unable to work directly with the nonprofit directly, you may have to assess your legal options, including the agency that certifies the nonprofit. Legal options will depend on the nature of the complaint. One place to start is with the City of Chicago’s office of Business Compliance and Enforcement, which issues business licenses to companies, including nonprofits.
This is one of the most common complaints about nonprofits, usually by disgruntled current or former employees. Just like a corporation, a nonprofit is subject to the same types of employment laws as any large or small employer in Chicago.
Employment complaints can include:
- Sexual Harassment
- Wrongful termination
- Workplace harassment
- Whistleblower retaliation
- Unpaid wages
- Other protected class criteria
Nonprofits are required to follow and comply with all anti-discrimination laws, and failing to comply can lead to complaints at both state and federal levels. It’s up to the nonprofit to create an anti-discrimination policy that applies to the public as well as all board members, employees, vendors, volunteers, and customers. The nonprofit is also required to follow anti-discrimination rules and laws when working with their clientele.
Illinois’ public accommodations law requires all organizations who work with the public to offer and provide reasonable accommodations to disabled individuals who need them. Should the nonprofit fail or refuse accommodation to an individual, such as someone in a wheelchair, the individual could file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). This is the agency that oversees and enforces the Illinois state public accommodations laws.
Tax Exemption Complaints
Nonprofits work for the good of the community, using donations to provide services to people that they can’t get anywhere else. The organizations are categorized by their functions and are required to abide by strict rules for all of their operations. They receive tax exemptions that make their nonprofit money go further.
But when an organization changes direction, engages in activity that’s not part of its mission or deviates from its original purpose, it is required to notify the IRS.
The IRS takes tax exemption complaints very seriously, such as participating in political activity or lobbying. An individual can make a complaint directly to the IRS if they feel that a nonprofit is not working on its original mission, or is misusing its nonprofit status.
James Provenza—Chicago’s Nonprofit Attorney
We have over 20 years of experience helping nonprofit startups in the Chicago area with all of their legal matters. Along with comprehensive knowledge of Illinois nonprofit law as well as best practices for growing nonprofits, Attorney James C. Provenza can ensure that all of your legal requirements are done correctly. Contact our office at (847) 729-3939 today, or use our online contact form. We look forward to helping ensure that your organization is successful.