Associations (whether Loi 1901 or otherwise) - what do you think?

Hi all

First off, let me admit that I don't know whether all (or practically all) associations who can accept members from the general public must be administered under the rules of the loi 1901, or not. So please say if you know - otherwise I'll park that question for now.

My point for discussion is whether Associations are run mainly for their adhérents/members, or for their leaders? I gather that under loi 1901 they can't make a profit (or enrich those that run them) - and that the chairman can't also be the chief executive (or something of that ilk) - meaning that entrepreneurship or capital gain by one person is out, in favour of a "club" that does something for it's members (yadda yadda yadda). However, I guess they could distribute whatever profits there might have been as salaries/stipends for their executives. ??? or not???

The reason for my question is that i've come across a couple of Associations here that make me raise my eyebrows a little.

The first is my daughter's Athlétisme club - where we pay the standard EUR 130ish per annum - along with a hundred or two other youth members (and maybe also senior members, I'm not sure) - yet apart from the odd coach for transport they have no costs (or not that I can see, but the French seem good at thinking up fees for everything, like the Brits). Most of the transport to competitions consists of families going it alone and/or offering spare seats in cars to those whose parents can't transport them. And the hard-done-by athletics coaches are volunteers! WHAT do they do with our money, then? They must pay a bit to use the municipal running track, but all the same... now I know one of the senior members of the committee and it's clear he hasn't done any athletics in a VERY long time. His main hobbies are drinking, gambling, complaining about the health service, and passing xenophobic comments about his friends' wives (i.e. yours truly). I bet he has many a knees-up paid for from our membership fees.

The second is the local "franco-brit association". I went to a Christmas party of theirs, and led them in Christmas carols from a tinny portable piano that someone lent me. It was my idea. I did it because I miss Christmas and wanted to hear some carols - my husband is too humbug to celebrate Christmas so I thought I'd share my goodwill with someone who cared for it (!!!). Anyway, back to the point: I paid fairly handsomely for my ticket, and one for my daughter. They would like a website. This I can do, and could do it in English and French as well (with their help on the French side, of course). But do I stand a hope in hell of getting paid for it, or am I just another customer for their expensive (to a non-idemnised chômeur) soirées?

The Franco-Brit Association give much-needed French lessons to Brits (who've often retired here in a couple), who would otherwise really struggle to pick up the language. Their soirées are a cut above the average shindig at the Salle de Fêtes. So I don't knock their product - but it's a bit pricey for me until I start earning something (will probably still go as it will help me to integrate all the same).

Your thoughts, please. Associations - they clearly serve a social purpose and achieve great things. But are they also capitalism in disguise? I'm not a left-winger - I'm just interested in seeing how things tick here. I also, like many of you, would like to see how I can play an active part in the economy without always only being the end customer, if you see what I'm saying!!!

Hello Emily and the others following this discussion.

I am interested in knowing what people think because I recently created an association (with the help of my husband).

Please see:

It's a not-for-profit that is aimed at Anglophones in the area where I live. It's a way for me to practice, share and keep up my skills w/out setting up a business (which I may do if we stay longer than another year). I don't get a salary, but all money goes into the association's bank account and is used for buying more supplies, training, etc. I imagine there will be a balance whenever I decide to dissolve it, and that balance will be donated to a like-minded association. Since massage therapy and aromatherapy isn't practiced here in France the same way it is in the US and the UK, it is easier for me to work with Anglophones who understand what I am doing. If I decide to create a business, it's going to be complicated here! (I already talked to someone at my local Chambre des Commerces and doing both massage and aromatherapy is complicated - they don't understand what I really do even though I presented my project as clearly as possible. I just don't fit into their categories!)

Thanks for any input.


Thanks to everyone who told me about Associations and connected matters. I was voted in at the AGM despite my protestations about having limited French and it was a committee member (the Treasurer) I asked about club rules/handbook etc. However thanks to you all I’m now in a better position to ask questions , and I’ve now been on the french govt Associations web-site which told me all about the “Statut”. Perhaps if I’d used this word in the first place to the treasurer it might have invoked recognition. Any way thanks again to those who helped me get started on the right track. my first comité meeting is tomorrow - wish me luck.

I'm treasurer of the Paris-based, British Community Committee ( which is essentially an umbrella, not-for-profit 1901 association representing over 75 other 1901 associations with a British connection as members from across France(fee Euro 20 per association). We hold quarterly meetings (with published minutes)for member associations 4 times per year at which I present the latest status of the accounts, which are audited by a professional accountant for final presentation at the AGM. The membership fees contribute to the printing cost of some 4000 directories each year but we have to rely on selling advertising space in the directory and donations to cover the full publication costs as well as website domain/hosting fees, hire of meeting halls, general expenses etc. At the end of the year we usually have a small surplus of a few hundred Euros which the auditor generally has no problem with. I also have to make a TVA tax return to the French authorites every quarter as we are registered for TVA. This doesn't represent a great deal of money, however, covering our TVA credits for directory printing costs and our TVA debits for advertising sales. These accounts are made fully available to our member associations, which cover quite a wide range of activities you can see from our website above. In accepting only Loi 1901 registered associations as members our assumption is that their purpose has been accepted as not-for-profit (and not commercial as such) by the French authorities.

I am the president of the Cat Charity Chats du Quercy.

The management(bureau and committee) of a charity registered under the 1901 law should be totally 'disinterested', that is have no gains either financial or otherwise.

Unfortunately I know of some who openly ignore these laws and regulations.

My only advice is that you check the accounts and raise questions if you have worries.

The URSSAF is an association 1901. So too is Gites de France. They don't make a profit but they employ a hell of a lot of people.

The only real suggestion I have is to ask your Assoc when their AG is held: then go along and ask to see the accounts. These MUST be made available to any paid-up member. If you like you can even stand for election to the ruling committee. If elected then you'll find out just what taxes, insurance, cots are involved.

I think that all associations run under the same set of national rules. See my post above. Your 'co-option' should be approved at the AGM. The committee decides what your responsibilities are, I suggest you ask them!

I've just been press-ganged into being President of my local golf club despite my French language being GCE O level failed 44 years ago. I asked the outgoing President for the Club handbook/rules/charter etc so i could find out what i was responsible for. Apparently no such thing exists ! When I asked someone on the committee how people know what to do when they are co-opted onto the committee - I received the gallic shrug of the shoulders and asked if I'd like another glass of wine! I am the only english speaking member of the club so I'm quite proud to have been asked - however I'm beginning to wonder if I've been conned. Does anyone know if municipally owned sports clubs in France should have charters/handbooks etc ? I'm sure they would in England. Perhaps someone out there can help me with a copy of their club handbook ?

I think you will find that the Athlétisme club has to pay hefty insurance to cover all its members. If you look at the price of private exercise classes they are pretty expensive, because the insurance still has to be paid and on top of that full fees for the venue (Salle des Fetes need to be maintained). You as a member have the right to go to the AGM, vote for whoever you want on the Committee and have access to the accounts. You cannot vote on the Chairperson, this is done within the committee. Money from the Mairie will be very thin on the ground this year, so all associations should have a fallback sum of money. The tax office will come down very heavily on any association making a profit, forcing them to pay tax. This was difficult to understand at first, in that you can't pay your members, although expenses can be sorted and there are rules as to what you can do at a public event. We came a cropper with live music; we didn't know that you have to inform the musician union before, otherwise their fees for use of songs is pretty heavy.

Hi, Emily, we have an Association. Accounts must be done by law each year if there is money involved, you have to have an Assembly General where all members of the committee must participate agree with what ever has been said or what is going to happen in the following year. All this is internal and does not have to be registered with the impot etc., only if someone is employed and has a salary does this have to be declared to the necessary authorities. The Association sometimes should call an open meeting where they can disclose the situation of said Association, declare the position financier, etc.. In the accounts if they have invested in something like new tables and chairs, etc. this should be noted in their accounts, which should be signed off by the President and committee. If you are still interested? go into the website of your local Region and there will be a section on Associations with help and advice, hope this helps. But of course supposedly there are always ways and means to do what you like at the end of the day

We dont of course, and we follow the yellow brick road, it is not worth it in the end.......

Margaret & Brian

All associations are obliged to hold an AGM each year and to share with their members details of income and expenditure. If you wish to know where the money goes you just have to ask for the end of year accounts or go to the (granted, usually boring!) AGM. I am a member of a choir. We pay a small amount each year to cover insurance (obligatoire of course) and we receive donations for our concerts. Our money pays our chef de choeur, pianist, any "professionals" who join us for an event, fees for hire/use of a salle, fees to the organisation in charge or copyright so that we can sing certain songs.... The list is endless. Anything over pays for a knees up (usually when we have our AGM!) Basically however all this information is available to all our association members. You, as a member of your sports association, are also privy to this information.

This may assist if you wish to set up an association

I became Secretary for a very short period of a Franco Brit Association. We started it for several reasons, one the Maire was being awkward about using the room in the Salle des Fetes for our French lessons (he has since changed his mind!).The other was that we felt we needed to improve our French conversation skills.

Anyway, we immediately had a problem as the President decided we needed to do all these events (fish and chip night at an English bar where I had to send the boeuf bourgignon back it was that bad, I don't like fish and chips unless they are very good) and which hardly any of the French wanted to go to. After trying to discuss this issue, along with fellow French members, we gave up trying to communicate with him and it went its own way to become more like an ex-pat club. After one year it is being dissolved. Being an Association was a waste of time. There is some money in the kitty and we have to use it up or donate to a like minded similar association.

Our way forward has been to start a Facebook page for people to put forward suggestions and meet ups for coffee, meals, etc, and this will be aimed at all nationalities, doesn't cost anything and hopefully will attract the right people and will of course not cost anything. We plan to try and promote the page through France Bleu and local French newspapers. Those that don't want to be on Facebook can be e-mailed with the info. It does rely on people having some computer literacy, which we have found to be a small issue but there is no other easy way to do it.

An American friend will be launching the page after the final meeting and we are hoping that this will be a success. Fingers crossed. For those of us that don't work because we can't find work or are retired, we need to converse in French every day to become fluent and that can be difficult.

There are two other Franco Brit Associations in the same region and I am sure they make a nice sum. The ratio of French to English is 1:100 in those.

Think I concur with John on this one. I am a member of my aulumni association which was refused as one so it is just an internet based group as a result. We lose one or two concessions like booking venues for get-togethers at cheaper rates, but little else. Otherwise it appears to be a nice little racket for others...

This would seem to be a common and recurrent theme. I have little experience of such clubs/organisations apart from our local branch of La Troisiéme Age who's annual membership fee is a whopping €13! Various functions and trips are subsidised each year, such subsidies are considerably more than the annual fee. From what I hear from others I gather that in many instances the compulsory insurance element for members may be quite high however but I cannot see the cost of anything like membership of organisataions the original poster mentions.

Just my €0.02sworth ...


I'm in two associations. One I helped found about five years ago which is an anglo/french thing but the number of French people dropped off as the Brits were mainly not at all skillful at French and in the main didn't show any real interest in developing their skills. I must admit I'm still in it but it doesn't really excite me and I make most of my friends elsewhere. All the members are retired and it's a bit of an expat club now and I'm not into such things. Howevere it's not a money maker , it's inexpensive and it raises money for local facilities which is appreciated locally although the French depend far more on the state. Other associations all receive financial aid from the council. I'm also on a local Patrimoine conmmittee which seems to have cash but doesn't spend it much! I suggested and we organised a study day last year on the Breton excavations in 1938 of Sir Mortimer Wheeler. Neither of these organisations is expensive. The cost of compliance makes many associations expensive to run. Our amical laique also does a lot of fundraising to benefit school trips etc and I think that's fair enough. All in all no bad experiences here but we are a small cohesive village in an isolated area.

capitalism in disguise for some, genuine for others. Nearly started a business under the LOI 1901 scheme because as the wiry accountant at the time said, you don't pay tax its the only way to run a business, or words to that effect. He may have been right but then he isn't my accountant now either. I suspect it is just one of those loopholes that has yet to be closed. Whether Mr Sarky can be bothered or not is a different matter