Associations’ memberships and fees — how does it all work?

Associations’ memberships and fees — how does it all work?

Plan­ning on cre­at­ing an asso­ci­a­tion in the near future? Take the time to under­stand all aspects of cre­at­ing an asso­ci­a­tion. Even if the legal process is quite sim­ple, it is bet­ter to be care­ful about the details and ensure that noth­ing gets forgotten…especially when it comes to mem­ber­ship fees. Here is the infor­ma­tion you need to cre­ate your asso­ci­a­tion with­out a hitch.

Con­tents

  1. Decide on the terms of mem­ber­ship
  2. Estab­lish the sta­tus of the mem­bers of the asso­ci­a­tion
  3. Com­mu­ni­cate the rights and duties of the mem­bers of the asso­ci­a­tion
  4. Choose the amount of the mem­ber­ship fee
  5. Offer meth­ods of pay­ment for the mem­ber­ship fee
  6. Pre­pare for the with­draw­al of a mem­ber

1. Decide on the terms of membership

“Unin­cor­po­rat­ed asso­ci­a­tions” are free to set their own terms of mem­ber­ship. How­ev­er it is prefer­able to list these terms in your arti­cles of asso­ci­a­tion. They can be as short as half a page or as long as your arm. It’s up to you to find the right bal­ance and pro­tect your­self from poten­tial issues that may arise in the future. Terms can relate to:

  • pay­ment of the mem­ber­ship fee.
  • age — over 18, under 18, etc.
  • a spe­cif­ic skill — degree, dri­ving licence, per­mit, etc.
  • affil­i­a­tion with a group — school, club, city, etc.
  • spon­sor­ing anoth­er mem­ber.
  • lack of crim­i­nal his­to­ry.
  • etc.

You should get each mem­ber to sign a mem­ber­ship form when they join your asso­ci­a­tion. Add proof of the agree­ment between both par­ties, pay­ment of the fee and infor­ma­tion about the rights and duties of mem­bers to this form.

2. Establish the status of the members of the association

Once again, the asso­ci­a­tion is free to cre­ate dif­fer­ent sta­tus­es for dif­fer­ent types of mem­bers, or give every­one the same sta­tus.

Gen­er­al­ly, the most impor­tant cat­e­go­ry of mem­bers is “active mem­bers or asso­ciate mem­bers”. They pay a fee to be part of the asso­ci­a­tion and take part in its activ­i­ties.

Found­ing mem­bers can grant them­selves spe­cial rights but it’s not manda­to­ry.

If you wish, you can grant the sta­tus of sup­port­ing mem­ber to the peo­ple who have made a dona­tion, or who pay a high­er fee than the stan­dard fee request­ed to oth­er mem­bers.

You can also grant the sta­tus of hon­orary mem­bers to those who have helped the asso­ci­a­tion one way or anoth­er. With this sta­tus, you can exempt them from pay­ing the mem­ber­ship fee.

Final­ly, ex offi­cio mem­bers do not have to meet any require­ments to be mem­bers of your asso­ci­a­tion. For instance, may­ors are ex offi­cio mem­bers of their local com­mu­ni­ty com­mit­tees.

3. Communicate the rights and duties of the members of the association

Your asso­ci­a­tion must hon­our your mem­bers’ vot­ing rights, as set by the Law. Thus, your asso­ci­a­tion must pur­sue the objec­tive it has set itself. If it is not the case, mem­bers have the right to ter­mi­nate their mem­ber­ship. If they have suf­fered dam­ages, they can ask for com­pen­sa­tion. Final­ly, any infor­ma­tion giv­en to you by the mem­bers of the asso­ci­a­tion is pro­tect­ed and can­not be com­mu­ni­cat­ed to third par­ties.

In exchange, the mem­bers of your asso­ci­a­tion have cer­tain duties to hon­our, the first being pay­ment of the mem­ber­ship fee that you have set. Then, it is impor­tant to cre­ate bylaws to com­ple­ment your arti­cles of asso­ci­a­tion. They will pro­tect you from poten­tial dis­putes. Final­ly, your mem­bers should not behave in a way that affects the prop­er func­tion­ing of the asso­ci­a­tion.

4. Choose the amount of the membership fee

You don’t have to ask your mem­bers for a mem­ber­ship fee, but it can be a good way to fund your activ­i­ties and launch your asso­ci­a­tion. If you decide to col­lect fees, add it to your arti­cles of asso­ci­a­tion. How­ev­er, be care­ful not to add the amount of the fee to your arti­cles of asso­ci­a­tion oth­er­wise you would have to change them each time you want to change the price of the mem­ber­ship. That said, the arti­cles of asso­ci­a­tion define who has the pow­er to decide the amount of the fee.

Also, don’t con­fuse mem­ber­ship fee and admis­sion fee. An admis­sion fee is paid once by each mem­ber upon join­ing the asso­ci­a­tion, but the mem­ber­ship fee is col­lect­ed for each new peri­od of activ­i­ty — gen­er­al­ly every year. It gives mem­bers the right to attend and par­tic­i­pate in all your gen­er­al meet­ings.

The mem­ber­ship fee can be fixed or vary based on the type of mem­ber — under 18/over 18, per­son or com­pa­ny, etc. If you set dif­fer­ent mem­ber­ship fees, be care­ful not to set too much of a gap between each amount as this could be per­ceived as dis­crim­i­na­to­ry.

5. Offer methods of payment for the membership fee

The asso­ci­a­tion is once again free to set pay­ment meth­ods for the mem­ber­ship fee as it wish­es, as long as they are spec­i­fied in the arti­cles of asso­ci­a­tion. Cash, cheque or bank trans­fer — it’s your choice! Using a solu­tion to man­age your mem­ber­ship fees online makes it super easy to col­lect your fees by bank trans­fer. It will also save you time and mon­ey.

6. Prepare for the withdrawal of a member

Sev­er­al rea­sons can lead a mem­ber to leave an asso­ci­a­tion. It is then said that they lose their mem­ber­ship sta­tus. First­ly, the per­son can sim­ply ask to leave the asso­ci­a­tion. If the mem­ber­ship lasts for a fixed peri­od of time, the mem­ber may not be able to with­draw and their fee will not be refund­ed.

At the same time, an asso­ci­a­tion can expel a mem­ber based on the arti­cles of asso­ci­a­tion and bylaws. Non-pay­ment of the mem­ber­ship fee is gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered legit­i­mate grounds to expel a mem­ber. Oth­er rea­sons can include not hon­our­ing the bylaws or arti­cles of asso­ci­a­tion, or seri­ous mis­con­duct. How­ev­er, in this case, it is appro­pri­ate to give the mem­ber some time to defend them­selves and prove their good faith, if applic­a­ble.

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