La Vie Associative plays an important role in everyday life in France. A recent survey showed that, amazingly, there are over 1.1 million associations supported by 14.2 million volunteers and 935,000 employees. Associations can be found in all walks of life from sport and education to all types of leisure pursuits, and they are recognised as an important part of the economy in France. Associations rely upon volunteers to direct and support them and through these associations, individuals are able to make a significant impact in their chosen field – in fact, few countries have such a well established network of community action.
ERF is an Association and has been created under ‘Loi 1901′, a law that establishes the rights of not-for-profit associations and strictly regulates what they can and they cannot do. Similar to a charity in the UK, profits cannot be taken out of the legal structure and if it is dissolved, all monies are passed to another Association Loi 1901 with similar aims. As an association with a low turnover, ERF are not subject to tax but do pay TVA (VAT) on all transactions.
All Associations are managed by a Bureau consisting of President, Treasurer and Secretary – these positions are voluntary and receive no remuneration. The Bureau is supported by a Conseil d’Administration and the members of the bureau are annually elected at the AGM from the Conseil d’Administration. All members can stand for election onto the Conseil d’Administration at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and all members are eligible (and encouraged!) to vote at the AGM.
To establish an Association, the first step is to draw up Statuts and it is these that form the legal framework within which the Association will be managed. These cover areas such as aims, details about membership and the Association management plus what will happen in the case of dissolution. In the case of a legal debate, the statuts are used to define the rules of the Association and are therefore central to everything the Association does – the only way they can be amended is through a members’ vote at the AGM or an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM). The Statuts are lodged at the local Préfecture along with other important details and available for public scrutiny.
As a not-for-profit organisation, ERF have to convince the tax office that we do not carry out any commercial activity, nor does anyone on the management council benefit in any way from the activity of the association (although costs can be reclaimed to levels set by the Government). France is renowned for it’s bureaucracy and it will come as no surprise that setting up an Association and employing staff even part time triggers an avalanche of paperwork for the volunteer management team. So spare a thought for us when it may look quiet – we will be buried in tax forms and questionnaires which help to safeguard the money donated by our members and supporters!