A voluntary association
(also sometimes called a voluntary organization
, unincorporated association
, or just an association
) is a group of individuals who enter into an agreement as volunteers to form a body (or organization
An organization is a social group which distributes tasks for a collective goal. The word itself is derived from the Greek word organon, itself derived from the better-known word ergon - as we know `organ` - and it means a compartment for a particular job.There are a variety of legal types of...
) to accomplish a purpose.
Strictly speaking, in many jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...
s no formalities are necessary to start an association. In some jurisdictions, there is a minimum for the number of persons starting an association. Some jurisdictions require that the association register with the police or other official body to inform the public of the association's existence. This is not necessarily a tool of political control but much more a way of protecting the economy from fraud
In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation...
. In many such jurisdictions, only a registered association is a juristic person whose membership is not responsible for the financial acts of the association. Any group of persons may, of course, work as an association but in such case, the persons making a transaction in the name of the association all take responsibility for it.
An unincorporated association has been defined as existing:
- "...where two or more persons are bound together for one or more common purposes by mutual undertakings, each having mutual duties and obligations, in an organisation which has rules identifying in whom control of the organization and its funds are vested, and which can be joined or left at will."
In most countries, an unincorporated association does not have separate legal personality, and few members of the association usually enjoy limited liability
Limited liability is a concept where by a person's financial liability is limited to a fixed sum, most commonly the value of a person's investment in a company or partnership with limited liability. If a company with limited liability is sued, then the plaintiffs are suing the company, not its...
. However, in some countries they are treated as having separate legal personality for tax purposes. However, because of their lack of legal personality, legacies
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death...
to unincorporated associations sometimes fall foul of the general common law prohibitions against purpose trusts.
Associations that are organized for profit or financial gain are usually called partnership
A partnership is an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests.Since humans are social beings, partnerships between individuals, businesses, interest-based organizations, schools, governments, and varied combinations thereof, have always been and remain commonplace...
s. A special kind of partnership is a co-operative which is usually founded on one person—one vote principle and distributes its profits according to the amount of goods produced or bought by the members. Associations may take the form of a non-profit organization
Nonprofit organization is neither a legal nor technical definition but generally refers to an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals, rather than distributing them as profit or dividends...
or they may be not-for-profit corporations; this does not mean that the association cannot make benefits from its activity, but all the benefits must be reinvested. Most associations have some kind of document or documents that regulate the way in which the body meets and operates. Such an instrument is often called the organization's bylaws, regulations, or agreement of association.
Under certain civil-law
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...
s are considered a special form of contract
A contract is an agreement entered into by two parties or more with the intention of creating a legal obligation, which may have elements in writing. Contracts can be made orally. The remedy for breach of contract can be "damages" or compensation of money. In equity, the remedy can be specific...
In most Australian states a similar set of laws allows not-for-profit associations to become legal entities with a limit to the liability of their members. An example of such a law, the Associations Incorporation Act (South Australia), allows for the creation of a legal entity able to buy and sell land and in general enter into legally binding contracts. Many clubs and societies begin life as an unincorporated body and seek to attain incorporated status to protect its members from legal liability and in many cases to seek government financial assistance only available to an incorporated body. Clubs and Societies wishing to incorporate must meet the provisions of the relevant state act and lodge their constitution with the corresponding state government authority.
Under the Quebec Civil Code
The Civil Code of Quebec is the civil code in force in the province of Quebec, Canada. The Civil Code of Quebec came into effect on January 1, 1994, except for certain parts of the book on Family Law which were adopted by the National Assembly in the 1980s...
an association is categorized as a type of statutory specific contract set forth in a constitution. An association can become incorporated with its own legal identity so that it may, e.g., open a bank account, enter into contracts (rent real estate, hire employees, take out an insurance policy), or sue or be sued.
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...
, all voluntary associations are non-profit and are either unincorporated (association non-déclarée
) or incorporated (association déclarée
), public (association d'utilité publique
) or private, and are created in terms of and governed by the Waldeck-Rousseau Act 1901. This is why association loi 1901
is subjoined to their name, except in Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...
Moselle is a department in the east of France named after the river Moselle.- History :Moselle is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...
which is governed by local law in this regard (the area was German in 1901) and are therefore called association loi 1908
The German Civil Code
The Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch is the civil code of Germany. In development since 1881, it became effective on January 1, 1900, and was considered a massive and groundbreaking project....
sets out different rights and rules for unincorporated associations (nicht eingetragener Verein
) with legal identity (Verein
Verein is a German word, sometimes translated as union. See:* Eingetragener Verein — a registered voluntary association under German or Austrian law;*Förderverein...
, art. 21-79) versus incorporated associations (eingetragener Verein
) with full legal personality, which, in the eyes of the law, are treated as partnerships (Gesellschaften
, art. 705-740). Associations can be for-profit (wirstschaftlicher Verein
), non-for-profit (Idealverein
), or public (gemeinnütziger Verein
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...
, state law has statutes concerning unincorporated non-profit associations that allow unincorporated associations that meet certain criteria to operate as entities independent of their members, with the right to own property, make contracts, sue and be sued, with limited liability for their officers and members.
Freedom of association
The freedom of association stands in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...
- Article 20 Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
- Active citizenship
Active citizenship refers to a philosophy espoused by organizations and educational institutions which advocates that members of companies or nation-states have certain roles and responsibilities to society and the environment, although those members may not have specific governing roles.Active...
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...
A club is an association of two or more people united by a common interest or goal. A service club, for example, exists for voluntary or charitable activities; there are clubs devoted to hobbies and sports, social activities clubs, political and religious clubs, and so forth.- History...
A collective is a group of entities that share or are motivated by at least one common issue or interest, or work together on a specific project to achieve a common objective...
A cooperative is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit...
In Finland, a ry is a suffix ending which generally denotes a registered, non-profit organization. In this instance, ry is an abbreviation for rekisteröity yhdistys, or "registered association", e.g. tAAt ry. Registration requires the organization to create legally sound constitution, which must...
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...
- Swiss Verein
A Swiss Verein is a legal structure in Swiss law. It is similar to the Anglo-American voluntary association. Unlike in Germany, a Swiss Verein does not need to be registered in order to have a separate legal personality...
- Eingetragener Verein
Eingetragener Verein is a legal status for a registered voluntary association in Germany and Austria. While any group may be called a Verein, registration as eingetragener Verein holds many legal benefits because a registered association may legally function as a corporate body rather than just...
Voluntarism, or voluntaryism, is a philosophy according to which all forms of human association should be voluntary. This moral principle is called the non-aggression principle, which prohibits the initiation of aggressive force or coercion...