What is a Verein?
A Association (which uses the masculine the article) is the German word for a club or association. societies (the plural of Verein) can be founded by anyone (although there are a few rules to follow which we’ll talk about below) and can be based on a wide variety of interests. For instance, they can be linked to sports, politics, culture, language, music, social issues or indeed any unique interest or hobby.
One key thing to note is that these associations are generally not for profit. So they are for people who have genuine shared interests, rather than with an aim of making money (which in this case would be a business).
They are viewed as strengthening community and societal ties and are a huge part of Austrian culture.
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How many are in Austria?
The number of registered clubs in Austria has been rising in the last decades and there are currently around 125,000 Societies.
In 1960 there were just 42,269 associations in Austria, according to official statistics. By 2010, this number had climbed to 116,556. And in 2019 there were 124,943 registered associations in Austria.
Why found a Association?
It’s a good question and it probably comes down to this: what are you passionate about? If you are so passionate about something – whether it’s hockey, gymnastics, knitting, board games or debating – then a Association is a great way to bring people together who have a similar hobby to you.
sports clubs – which are the most popular type of association – are also a great way to get fit. Around 18 percent of Austrians are members of at least one sports club, although the proportion in Vienna (11 percent) is significantly lower than in the other provinces; in Vorarlberg, it is 21 percent.
By far the most members in Austria are in 2,144 soccer clubs, which counted a total of 440,029 members in 2019.
societies are also very cheap to found, so you don’t need any major capital to kick one off. While making money can’t be the purpose of the Associationit can be a byproduct of your activities.
How do you get started?
As you would expect, there are strict rules to follow if you want to start your own association.
Under Austrian law, founding a Association is a two step process. They have to be formally constituted (built) before they become officially established (developed).
An association is constituted when its statutes have been formally agreed as part of a foundation agreement (incorporation agreement).
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After that, the association’s founders or official representatives have to report that they have constituted the organisation to the relevant Austrian Associations Authority (association authority).
When the association authority has been informed, officials will check the statutes to make sure they are in compliance with the law. And if everything gets the green light, the Association will be allowed to start operating as an official club.
What are some of the requirements I should know about?
For an association to be constituted and pass the test, its statutes (the formal written agreement on what the Association is) must be agreed by at least two people.
Make sure your German is up to scratch (or get a German-speaking person to help you) because all statutes must be written in German, and they have to be clearly worded.
You don’t have to be an Austrian citizen to found a Association. According to the law, associations can be founded by individuals or legal entities, and individuals do not need to hold an Austrian passport.
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What happens next?
The Associations Authority has to conduct its initial checks within four weeks from the date it receives notification that an association has been formally constituted.
According to the Austrian government“if the initial checks give rise to any indication that the association’s purpose, name or organisational structure may be contrary to the law, the Associations Authority may extend this deadline to a maximum of six weeks in order that such questions may be clarified by means of an appropriate preliminary investigation”.
If the the association authority wants to reject the application to found an association, a decision must be issued within the six week deadline. If this doesn’t happen the association is recognised as a legal entity once this deadline expires.
Authorities can also invite the Association to start operating before the deadline expires if it is being approved.
What documents are needed to found a Association?
Association founders need to have:
Are there any costs?
Yes. The federal administration fee is €14.30, while the costs for additional documents (such as the statutes) is €3.90 per sheet (up to a maximum of €21.80)
The fee for a formal decision inviting the association to start its activities (following an application) is €6.50 if a decision is issued, and it’s free of charge if a decision is not issued.
The fees have to be paid after the process has concluded. Authorities will generally send an invoice for this.
For more information and for links to the forms, check out the Austrian government’s fact sheet on Societies.
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Anything else to know?
Make sure to check out if a Association for your interest already exists before starting one!
There is a central register of associations (ZVR), but it is difficult to find clubs unless you know the name of the Verein and its ZVR number.
A much more useful option is to look at the website of your own municipality. Most municipal websites have their own section where associations are listed, with contact details for the club.
But be careful; the data might not be up to date, which means that you often have to start a separate internet search with the club name to get current information. Then you can contact the club to ask for the procedure of how to join.
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