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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Associations and foundations

Associations and foundations are another type of social economy enterprises in Europe. Associations typically promote the trade or professional interests of their members, whereas foundations spend their funds on projects or activities that benefit the public. The European Commission aims to improve the business environment for associations and foundations in Europe.

The main characteristics of associations are:

  • voluntary and open membership
  • equal voting rights - resolutions carried by majority
  • membership fees - no capital contribution
  • autonomy and independence
  • service providers, voluntary work, and advocacy/representation
  • important providers of health care, care for the elderly and children, and social services.

The main characteristics of foundations are:

  • they are run by appointed trustees
  • their capital is supplied through donations and gifts
  • they may finance and undertake research
  • they may support international, national, and local projects
  • they may provide grants to meet the needs of individuals
  • they may fund voluntary work, healthcare, and elderly care.

Commission actions:

For more detailed information see the specific site and the site of the European Foundation Centre (125 kB, the link is to the internet archive as the document has been deleted from the European Foundation Centre website).