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How to create a voluntary association in Sweden

 

In Sweden there are two kinds of associations: the voluntary association (ideell förening) and the economic association (ekonomisk förening). The second one is a cooperative company and must be registered with the authorities to become a legal entity. The first one is a member-based nonprofit organization and is formed without formal registration. The main steps in creating a voluntary association are explained here.

 

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Voluntarius is a Swedish consultant helping voluntary organizations to succed.


How to create a voluntary association in Sweden

Unlike all other types of organizations in Sweden, there is no special law on “voluntary associations” (ideella föreningar). Thanks to this, an “ideell förening” does not have to be registered by the authorities in order to become a legal entity. It must however be created in the right way and fulfill some generally accepted traditional criteria.

It is important to get the non-profit criteria right as there is a risqué otherwise to create something that the authorities will regard as an unregistered “economic association” (ekonomisk förening). The economic association looks like a voluntary association, but is a cooperative business. Unregistered, it does not exist.

Once properly created, the voluntary association of course has to follow the tax law and other laws and rules established by the government. But it also has to follow the unwritten rules and traditions of Swedish voluntary organizations (god föreningssed) which guide how the organization should be run, how it makes decisions and so on.

Below we present the main steps in creating and establishing a successful “ideell förening”: 

1) Analyse the aim and conditions (including services and funding) of the association, and based on that decide which to use of many possible organizational models and structures. Choosing the right model and structure is crucial for the future development of the organization.

2) Formulate the mission. This is very important from a legal point of view. The mission has to be included in the statutes and governs what the organization is to do. It is also perhaps the single most important factor for success when founding an association.

3) Now you as a funder has a clear understanding of how the organization should look like and how it should function. Based on this, develop your statutes. They have to live up to certain legal and traditional criteria, but should otherwise be tailor-made for your specific association.

4) Invite the founding members to a meeting to form the association, agree on its goals, adopt its statutes and elect its governing board. This meeting must be covered in properly signed minutes.

5) Hold the first meeting with the governing board to divide functions and tasks among the board members, decide on who will sign for the association, agree on how to work within the board and plan the coming work. This, as all board meetings, must be covered in properly signed minutes.

6) Now the association has its main legal documents proving that it has been established as a legal entity: The minutes of the founding meeting, the adopted statutes, the minutes of the board meeting establishing functions within the board and who will sign for the association.

7) The association is a legal entity, but needs to apply to the tax authorities for a registration number, which is needed for tax reasons but also when opening a bank account or hiring an office and so on.


 

 

 

 

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