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Unincorporated associations

An Unincorporated Association is a simple democratic structure consisting of a collection of individuals who have come together with a shared aim or purpose.  A committee is usually elected to run the organisation on behalf of the members.

Unless the group is a registered charity (or considering applying for charitable status) there are no statutory rules on how it should be run. You will therefore need to collectively decide on your own rules (writing a constitution or governing document).

Advantages to being an Unincorporated Association

  • can be set up quickly and cheaply
  • cheap and relatively easy to run 
  • offers a democratic structure with reasonably flexible procedures
  • if your group’s aims (or purposes) are considered ‘charitable’ (as defined by law) and your activities provide public benefit, you may be eligible to apply for charitable status 
  • not set in stone - option to switch to an incorporated structure in the future

Disadvantages of being an Unincorporated Association

  • no legal identity of its own – exists as a collection of individuals
  • cannot sign legal contracts in name of group – this means that any lease documents, rental agreements, hire contracts etc will need to be in the name of one (or more) of the individual committee members
  • committee members face unlimited personal liability, that is they are personally responsible for the group and if things go wrong, they could be held personally liable for any recovery of debts or be personally sued in cases of negligence

Most suitable for

An Unincorporated Association is most suitable for small groups with limited or specific purpose(s) that operate on a small budget, do not own property, employ staff or enter into lease agreements or contracts.

Other Community Toolkit Topics to look at:



Further sources of information

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The Community Toolkit is owned and maintained by Skye and Lochalsh CVO Conditions of Use
Last Updated 27/02/2014 15:22

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