Unincorporated Associations


Unincorporated Associations

An unincorporated association  is created when a number of individuals agree or ‘contract’ to come together for a common purpose.

Unincorporated associations are relatively straightforward to run and cost nothing to set up. They make their own rules for running the organisation and set these down in a constitutional document. A management committee is elected to run the organisation on behalf of the members (if it has any).

Unincorporated associations do not need to register with or be regulated by either Companies House or the Financial Conduct Authority – they enjoy greater freedom of operation than a company. For example, they don’t have to submit annual returns.

If an unincorporated association’s purposes are exclusively charitable and their activities are for the benefit of the public (not just those in the association), the association may apply to The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland to be registered as a charity. All charities must follow the requirements of charity law, and most registered charities must also submit annual returns to the Charity Commission.

Unincorporated associations have no separate legal identity. This means that their members will have to sign loans and contracts as individuals and carry the risk of personal liability.

Your organisation may wish to consider incorporation if you intend to:

·      take on employees

·      raise finance, apply for grants or open bank accounts

·      issue shares

·      enter into large contracts

·      take on a lease or buy freehold property

Most larger registered charities  are now incorporated to protect individual trustees and members.