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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