How to found an association
The notice may be filed electronically. You can download the forms (in Finnish or Swedish) for filling in by the word processing program of your own computer. If you wish, you may also order (in Finnish) the founding documents to be sent to you by mail, or collect them from our Client Service or from the Local Register Office (maistraatti). You may also copy the models below to your computer for modification and filling in. These include a model for a charter, model rules (bylaws) I and II (in Finnish) for an association that annually holds one ordinary meeting and model rules III and IV for an association holding two ordinary meetings annually. The pages also contain examples for points at which the purpose and kind of activity are indicated.
An association may choose a rules model fit for its purpose and complement its sections concerning the name, domicile, purpose and kind of activity of the association, and the size of the Executive Committee.
The association has to fill in the basic notice forms, the charter and the rules in one copy and submit the documents either directly to the Register of Associations or to a Local Register Office (maistraatti).
The notices may only be filed either in Finnish or Swedish, not for instance in English.
The Register of Associations is meant for the registration of non-profit associations. A non-profit association is an organisation, meant to be permanent, founded by several persons or several organisations having legal capacity, for the realisation of a common non-profit purpose. Non-profit associations within the meaning of the Associations Act differ from economic organisations in that they do not aim at gaining profit or economic benefit for the parties to them, and that their activities cannot be mainly economic. The focus of the activities has to be in non-profit work. Political parties,trade unions, athletic clubs, charitable organisations and hobby clubs are examples of non-profit associations within the meaning of the Associations Act.
Registered and unregistered associations
A non-profit association can operate either as a registered or an unregistered association.
Registered associations have legal capacity. They can own property, enter into contracts and file different petitions and applications, if necessary. Members of a registered association are not personally liable for the commitments of the association.
An unregistered association does not have legal capacity, it cannot acquire property in its name and be a member of another association. Its establishment and operations are free in form and the Executive Committee cannot act on behalf of the association in a way that is binding on the rest of the members. Responsibility for the operations of an unregistered association is borne by the members who have participated in the operations from which the responsibility arises.
Founders of an association
A registered association may be founded by a minimum of three natural persons of at least 15 years of age or organisations having legal capacity. The founders may also consist of both of these. Foreigners can also act as founders. The persons signing the charter must be members of the association entitled to vote; natural persons or organisations having legal capacity.
The number of auditors and their term of office have to be stated in the rules. An association must have at least one ordinary and one deputy auditor. An auditing organisation may also serve as an auditor.
The accounting period is a 12-month term specified in the rules.
The rules must contain provisions on the date of the meeting in which decisions are made on the association´s statutory matters (see model).
Manner of and period for convening a meeting
The meeting must be convened in an evidentiary manner (such as by letter, by announcement in a newspaper or journal, or by an e-mail message to those members who have given their e-mail addres; oral invitation is not acceptable).
Use of the assets in the case of dissolution
The rules must specify a non-profit purpose for which the assets are to be surrendered.
Persons entitled to sign the name of the association
The chairperson of an association invariably has the right to sign the name of the association, unless this right is restricted (two together) or extended (by giving also other persons the right to sign the name) by a provision contained in the rules. A person who is legally incompetent or bankrupt cannot sign for the association. Restructuring of debts does not form an obstacle to signing the name of the association.
In matters concerning taxation of an association advice is available from the Tax Office of the town or city where the association is registered.
In Finland the freedom of association also covers foreign natural persons and foreign organisations having legal capacity. Consequently, foreigners may in Finland found associations, join them and act in them, also as members of the Executive Committee, and be entitled to sign the name of the association. The only restriction is laid down by Section 35(3) of the Association Act, according to which the chairperson has to be a resident of Finland. This restriction also applies to the vice-chairperson. The Finnish Patent and Registration Office may grant an exemption from this restriction. See the instruction on how to draw up a petition.