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A voluntary group or union (also sometimes called a voluntary organization, common-interest association, association, or society) is a group of individuals who enter into an agreement, usually as
volunteers
volunteers
, to form a body (or
organization An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of . It is named after the , one of the ancient that migrated from , a peninsu ...

organization
) to accomplish a purpose. Common examples include
trade association A trade association, also known as an industry trade group, business association, sector association or industry body, is an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry Industry may refer to: Economics * ...
s,
trade union A trade union (or a labor union in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native ...
s,
learned societies A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly society, or academic association) is an organization An organization, or organisation ( Commonwealth English; see spelling differences), is an entity – such as a compan ...
,
professional association A professional association (also called a professional body, professional organization, or professional society) usually seeks to further Further or Furthur may refer to: *Furthur (bus), ''Furthur'' (bus), the Merry Pranksters' psychedelic bus ...
s, and
environmental groups An environmental organization is an organization coming out of the Conservation movement, conservation or environmental movements that seeks to protect, analyse or monitor the environment against misuse or environmental degradation, degradation Huma ...
. Membership is not necessarily voluntary: in order for particular associations to function correctly they might need to be mandatory or at least strongly encouraged, as is common with many
teachers union{{short description, Wikimedia list article The following is an alphabetical list of education trade unions: __NOTOC__ A * NEA-Alaska * Alliance of Concerned Teachers (Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas or ''Filipinas'' ), offi ...
s in the US. Because of this, some people use the term common-interest association to describe groups which form out of a common interest, although this term is not widely used or understood. Voluntary associations may be incorporated or unincorporated; for example, in the US, unions gained additional powers by incorporating. In the UK, the terms voluntary association or voluntary organisation cover every type of group from a small local residents' association to large associations (often registered charities) with multimillion-
pound Pound or Pounds may refer to: Units * Pound (currency) A pound is any of various units of currency A currency, "in circulation", from la, currens, -entis, literally meaning "running" or "traversing" in the most specific sense is money Im ...
turnover that run large-scale business operations (often providing some kind of
public service A public service is a service Service may refer to: Activities :''(See the Religion section for religious activities)'' * Administrative service, a required part of the workload of university faculty * Civil service The civil service is a co ...

public service
as subcontractors to government departments or local authorities). Voluntary association is also used to refer to political reforms, especially in the context of urbanization, granting individuals greater freedoms to associate in civil society as they wished, or not at all.


Differences by jurisdictions

In many
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
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 could be a tool of political control or intimidation, and also a way of protecting the economy from
fraud In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by ...

fraud
. In many such jurisdictions, can only a registered association (an incorporated body) is a
juristic person A juridical person is a non-human legal entity In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and in ...
whose members are not responsible for the financial acts of the association. Any group of persons may, of course, work as an informal association, but in such cases, each person making a transaction in the name of the association takes responsibility for that transaction, just as if it were that individual's personal transaction. There are many countries where the formation of truly independent voluntary associations is effectively proscribed by law or where they are theoretically legally permitted, but in practice are persecuted; for example, where membership brings unwelcome attention from police or other state agencies.


History

Voluntary groups are a broad and original form of nonprofit organizations, and have existed since ancient history. In
Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era wa ...
, for example, there were various organizations ranging from elite clubs of wealthy men (''hetaireiai'') to private religious or professional associations. In preindustrial societies, governmental administrative duties were often handled by voluntary associations such as
guild A guild is an association of artisan Wood carver in Bali An artisan (from french: artisan, it, artigiano) is a skilled craft worker who makes or creates material objects partly or entirely by hand. These objects may be functiona ...
s. In medieval Europe, guilds often controlled towns.Kohn M. (2003)
Merchant Associations in Pre-Industrial Europe
Ch. 16 i

.
Merchant guilds enforced contracts through embargoes and sanctions on their members, and also adjudicated disputes. However, by the 1800s, merchant guilds had largely disappeared.
Economic historians Economic history is the academic study of economies or economic events of the past. Research is conducted using a combination of historical methods, statistical methods and the Applied economics, application of economic theory to historical sit ...
have debated the precise role that merchant guilds played in premodern society and economic growth. In the United Kingdom, craft guilds were more successful than merchant guilds Starr M. (1919)
A Worker Looks At History, Ch. 7: The Guilds
Plebs League

and formed
livery companies Coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Grocers, founded in 1345, 2nd in precedence amongst the livery companies of the city: ''Argent, a chevron gules between nine cloves six in chief and three in base proper'' There are 110 livery companie ...
which exerted significant influence on society.


Legal status

A standard definition of an unincorporated association was given by Lord Justice Lawton in the
English trust law English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...
case ''
Conservative and Unionist Central Office v Burrell Conservatism is an aesthetic, philosophy of culture, cultural, social philosophy, social, and Political philosophy, political philosophy, which seeks to promote and to preserve traditional social institutions. The central tenets of conservat ...
'' (1981): In most countries, an unincorporated association does not have
separate legal personality In law, a legal person is any person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of ...
, and few members of the association usually enjoy
limited liability Limited liability is a legal status where a person's financial liability Liability may refer to: Law * Legal liability, in both civil and criminal law ** Public liability, part of the law of tort which focuses on civil wrongs ** Product liabi ...
. However, in some countries they are treated as having separate
legal personality In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its b ...
for tax purposes: for example, in the United Kingdom an unincorporated association is assessable to
corporation tax A corporate tax, also called corporation tax or company tax, is a direct tax imposed by a jurisdiction on the income or capital of corporations or analogous legal entities. Many countries impose such taxes at the national level, and a similar tax ...
. However, because of their lack of legal personality, legacies to unincorporated associations are sometimes subject to 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, known as business partner A business partner is a commercial entity with which another commercial entity has some form of Business alliance, alliance. This relationship may be a contractual, exclus ...

partnership
s. A special kind of partnership is a
co-operative A cooperative (also known as co-operative, co-op, or coop) is "an autonomous The federal subject The federal subjects of Russia, also referred to as the subjects of the Russian Federation (russian: субъекты Российск ...
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 A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, public or social benefit, in contrast with an entity that o ...
or they may be
not-for-profit corporation A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, public or social benefit, in contrast with an entity that op ...
s; 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, constitution, regulations, or agreement of association.


Common law


England and Wales

Under
English law English law is the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Blac ...
, an unincorporated association consists of two or more members bound by the rules of a society which has, at some point in time, been founded. Several theories have been proposed as to the way that such associations hold rights. A transfer may be considered to have been made to the association's members directly as
joint tenants In property law, a concurrent estate or co-tenancy is any of various ways in which property is owned by more than one person at a time. If more than one person owns the same property, they are commonly referred to as co-owners. Legal terminolog ...
or
tenants in common In property law, a concurrent estate or co-tenancy is any of various ways in which property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstract and concrete, abstract is what belongs to or with something, whether as an attribute or as a compon ...
. Alternatively, the funds transferred may be considered to have been under the terms of a private
purpose trust A purpose trust is a type of trust which has no beneficiaries, but instead exists for advancing some non- charitable purpose of some kind. In most jurisdictions, such trusts are not enforceable outside of certain limited and anomalous exceptions ...
. Many purpose trusts fail for want of a
beneficiary A beneficiary (also, in trust law A trust is a legal relationship in which the holder of a right (eg. title to a chattel) gives it to another person or entity who must keep and use it solely for another's benefit. In , the party who entrusts t ...
and this may therefore may result in the gift failing. However, some purpose trusts are valid, and, accordingly, some cases have decided that the rights associated with unincorporated associations are held on this basis. The dominant theory, however, is that the rights are transferred to the members or officers absolutely, perhaps on trust for the members, but are importantly bound by contracts ''
inter se Inter may refer to: Association football clubs * Inter Milan, an Italian club * SC Internacional, a Brazilian club * Inter Miami CF, an American club * FC Inter Sibiu, a Romanian club * FC Inter Turku, a Finnish club * FK Inter Bratislava, a former ...
''. Accordingly, on dissolution, the distribution of these rights depends on how they were held. A purpose trust may by its nature survive the dissolution of the association, or it may not. If it fails as a result of the dissolution, then the rights will be held on
resulting trust A resulting trust is an implied trustAn implied trust is an element of trust law A trust is a legal relationship in which the legal title to property is entrusted to a person or legal entity with a fiduciary, fiduciary duty to hold and use it fo ...
for the contributors, unless they can be shown to have renounced their right to such a trust in their favour. If the rights are held subject to contract, then they will be divided among the surviving membership upon dissolution, according to the terms of the contracts ''inter se'' or an implied term according to contribution. If, as a result of this contract or statute, no member can claim, the rights will pass to the Crown as ''
bona vacantia Unowned property refers to tangible, physical things which are capable of being reduced to being property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstract and concrete, abstract is what belongs to or with something, whether as an attribute or as ...
''. This conclusion has also been suggested where the association dissolves because only one member remains, although this has been doubted by some commentators who believe the last members should be entitled to the rights.


Scotland

Scottish law Scots law () is the legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law, common law, statutory law, religious law or combinations of these. However, the legal system of each co ...
on unincorporated associations is essentially the same as English law.


United States

Each state sets its own laws as to what constitutes an unincorporated association and how it is to be treated under the laws. In the United States, voluntary associations which were incorporated were "pre-eminent" in collective action. * In
California California is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper i ...

California
, during the 1980s, then
Los Angeles County Los Angeles County, officially the County of Los Angeles, and sometimes abbreviated as L.A. County, is the List of the most populous counties in the United States, most populous county in the United States and in the U.S. state of California, w ...
district attorney In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, s ...
Ira Reiner Ira Kenneth Reiner (born February 15, 1936) is an United States, American lawyer. Career He was the Los Angeles City Controller from 1977 to 1981, and was the Los Angeles City Attorney from 1981 to 1984, both times being succeeded by James Hahn. ...
decided to use California's unincorporated associations law to attack
street gangs A gang is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be repre ...
and the habit of their members of tagging
graffiti Graffiti (both singular and plural; the singular ''graffito'' is rarely used except in archeology) is a type of art genre that means writing or drawings made on a wall or other surface, usually without permission and within public view. Graf ...

graffiti
in public spaces, in an attempt to abate vandalism and to recover cleanup costs. He sued the street gangs by name, with cases titled such as ''City of Los Angeles v. The Bloods'' and ''City of Los Angeles v. The Crips'', which then allowed the city to go after any member of the street gang, as a member of the unincorporated association being sued, for damages resulting from graffiti tagging involving that gang's name,. * In
Texas Texas (, ; Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambigu ...

Texas
, 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. *
New York New York most commonly refers to: * New York City, the most populous city in the United States, located in the state of New York * New York (state), a state in the northeastern United States New York may also refer to: Film and television * New ...
state law regarding unincorporated associations actually gives members of the association more protection against liability than that given to either stockholders of
corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the State (polity), state to act as a single entity (a legal entity recognized by private and public law "born out of statute"; a legal person in legal ...

corporation
s or members of
limited liability companies A limited liability company (LLC) is the US-specific form of a private limited company A private limited company is any type of business entity in Privately held company, "private" ownership used in many jurisdictions, in contrast to a Pub ...
. This was noted in the case of ''
International News Service The International News Service (INS) was a U.S.-based news agency (newswire) founded by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst in 1909.
vs
Associated Press The Associated Press (AP) is an American non-profit A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, publ ...

Associated Press
'', because the members of the AP are not liable for damages for the organization's actions unless the association as a whole approved it.


Australia

In most states and territories in
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
, 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 that is in force in
South Australia South Australia (abbreviated as SA) is a States and territories of Australia, state in the southern central part of Australia. It covers some of the most arid parts of the country. With a total land area of , it is the fourth-largest of Austral ...

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
club Club may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Club (magazine), ''Club'' (magazine) * Club, a ''Yie Ar Kung-Fu'' character * Clubs (suit), a suit of playing cards * Club music * "Club", by Kelsea Ballerini from the album ''kelsea'' Brands an ...
s 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.


Israel

In
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
, many non-profit organizations (NPOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are established as registered nonprofit associations (Hebrew '','' plural ) (some are established as public benefit companies (Hebrew ) not to be confused with
public benefit corporation Public-benefit corporation is a term that has different meanings in different jurisdictions. In some cases it is the technical term used for a traditional nonprofit charity or religious organization. In other locations it is the term used for a ne ...
s). ' are regulated by the Associations Law, 1980. An ' is a body corporate, though not a company. The ' is successor to the Ottoman Association which predated the State of Israel, and was established by the now-superseded 1909 Ottoman Law on Associations, based on the French law of 1901. An ' must register with the ''Rasham Ha’amutot'' ('Registrar of Amutot'), under the purview of the ''Rashut Hata’agidim'' ('Corporations Authority') of the
Ministry of Justice A Ministry of Justice is a common type of government department that serves as a justice ministry. Lists of current ministries of justice Named "Ministry" * Ministry of Justice (Abkhazia) * Ministry of Justice (Afghanistan) * Ministry of Justic ...
.


Civil law

Certain civil-law systems classify an association as a special form of
contract A contract is a legally binding agreement that defines and governs the rights and duties between or among its parties Image:'Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Artist Festival at Skagen', by Peder Severin Krøyer (1888) Demisted with DXO PhotoLab Clearview ...

contract
ual relationship.


Canada

Under the Quebec Civil Code 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.


France

In
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
, all voluntary associations are non-profit. They may count as unincorporated () or incorporated (') and are created in terms of and governed by the
Waldeck-Rousseau Pierre Marie René Ernest Waldeck-Rousseau (; 2 December 184610 August 1904) was a French Republican politician who served as the 29th Prime Minister of France. Early life Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau was born in Nantes, Brittany. His father, ...

Waldeck-Rousseau
Act 1901. This is why '' association loi (de) 1901'' is subjoined to their name, except in the
Alsace Alsace (, also ; Low Alemannic German Low Alemannic German (german: Niederalemannisch) is a branch of Alemannic German Alemannic, or rarely Alemannish (''Alemannisch'', ), is a group of High German dialects. The name derives from the ancie ...

Alsace
-
Moselle The Moselle ( , ; german: Mosel ; lb, Musel ) is a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becom ...
area, which is governed by local law in this regard (the area was German in 1901), and are therefore called '' association loi (de) 1908''.. If the association responding to defined criteria, like social or medical help, for example, they can be declared "public utility association" () by French authorities. Associations created under the 1901 act have a significant amount of freedom in their internal operation, such as management or authorized members.


Germany

The
German Civil Code German(s) may refer to: * Germany Germany (german: Deutschland, ), officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in . It is the in Europe after , and the most populous . Germany is situated between the and seas to the north, and the ...
sets out different rights and rules for an unincorporated association () with legal identity (''Vereine'', art. 21–79 BGB) versus an incorporated association () with full
legal person In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by ...
ality, which the law treats as partnerships (''Gesellschaften'', art. 705–740 BGB). Associations can be for-profit (), non-for-profit ('), or public ().


Freedom of association

The freedom of association stands in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six p ...
:
Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of association, association, including the right to form trade unions, subject to certain restrictions that are "in accordance with law" and ...
also protects the right to
freedom of assembly Janitorial workers striking in front of the MTV building in Santa Monica, California">Santa Monica Santa Monica () is a beachfront city in western Los Angeles County, California Los Angeles County, officially the County of Los Angeles, i ...
and association.


See also

*
Active citizenship Active Citizenship ( it, Cittadinanza Attiva) is a left-wing Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism Egalitarianism (), or equalitarianism, is a school of thought within political philosophy that builds from th ...
*
Anarchism Anarchism is a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge ...

Anarchism
* Associations Incorporation Act 1981 (Victoria) * Associations of the faithful (canon law) *
Collective A collective is a group of entities that share or are motivated by at least one common issue or interest, or work together to achieve a common objective. Collectives can differ from cooperative A cooperative (also known as co-operative, c ...
*
Cooperative A cooperative (also known as co-operative, co-op, or coop) is "an autonomous The federal subject The federal subjects of Russia, also referred to as the subjects of the Russian Federation (russian: субъекты Российск ...
* Encyclopedia of Associations *
Not-for-profit arts organizationA not-for-profit arts organization, also known as a nonprofit arts organization, usually takes the form of a not-for-profit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit ...
*
Registered association (Finland)In Finland a (Finnish for registered association) or (Swedish) is a registered, non-profit organization. The abbreviations (Finnish) or (Swedish) are used as a suffix (linguistics), suffix ending of the voluntary association, association's name. ...
*
Swiss association Swiss may refer to: * the adjectival form of Switzerland *Swiss people Places *Swiss, Missouri *Swiss, North Carolina *Swiss, West Virginia *Swiss, Wisconsin Other uses *Swiss-system tournament, in various games and sports *Swiss International Ai ...
*
Unincorporated association Under English law English law is the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in writt ...
*
Voluntaryism Voluntaryism (,"Voluntaryism"
''
Non-profit organizations
Legal entitiesThis category contains articles related to juristic or natural person In jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of law. Scholars of jurisprudence seek to explain the nature of law in its most general form and ...
Legal terminology {{CatAutoTOC Terms Jargon Terminology Terms Terminology Terminology is a general word for the group of specialized words or meanings relating to a particular field, and also the study of such terms and their use. This is also known as termino ...
Civil society
Types of organization{{Commons category, Types of organization : This category collects articles on types of organizations. See :Organizations by type, which collects categories of organizations by type. Organizations Types, Organizations ...