An association is a membership organization. It aims to achieve its goal through collaboration. The members therefore play an important role. An association usually has two governing bodies: the general assembly (a regular meeting of the membership), and a board. The general assembly elects the board and the board appoints the staff. The governing rules of the association state the name of the organization, the aims, the obligations of members, how meetings are called and how board members are appointed and dismissed. An association needs to have membership meetings and ways to communicate regularly with members. This may be more cumbersome to manage than an organizational structure without membership meetings, such as a foundation (see below). The advantage of an association may be that more people feel committed to the goals and dissemination of the bulletin. Membership demands organizational time and effort but in return members provide support and cooperation. A membership structure may also encourage the involvement of people who are in a position to help promote the bulletin. For example, a bulletin with members from all regions of a country may obtain national recognition. Membership of an association may be unlimited or may be restricted to certain groups.
Generally, one major benefit of unincorporated associations is the lack of strict organizational, reporting and registration requirements normally imposed on non-profit corporations. Formal documentation and organizational requirements, in addition to possibly helping the organization apply for tax-exemption status, may also help to refine and focus the goals of the organization itself. In many countries, including the USA, the main differences between an unincorporated association and a non-profit corporation are that the members of an unincorporated association can be held directly liable if someone were to sue the association, and it is problematic for unincorporated associations to have paid employees. In UK law associations are the loosest legal form. But associations as such have no legal personality in their own right. Legal form is given through the governing rules of the association. Legal liability, however, rests with the members individually and collectively, (thus any transactions, such as property purchases, are the responsibility of all the members).
In Switzerland, association members can also be held personally responsible if the association has debts that it cannot pay. However, it is possible to limit the risk for members by limiting their responsibility in the association's statutes. It may also be possible to take out a company style “legal liability” insurance policy. A legal expert from the country concerned should always be consulted.