What is the Difference Between Association and Organization?




Association and organization difference

The words ‘organization’ and ‘association’ are often used interchangeably. However, there are several fundamental differences between them. Plus, there are various types of organizations and associations, and several levels within the former. In this article, let’s take a closer look at the differences.

The general definitions of an organization and association

An organization consists of a group of people in a company. Each has a specific role to play and works together toward a common objective. The work is divided between the people as per their skills and knowledge. In other words, people in an organization have specific tasks to do.

In an association, the people involved have an interest they share in common. The specific interest motivates them to work together. They have common goals to achieve and work together with a specific purpose.

A closer look at the critical elements of an organization

Association and organization

There is a defined structure to how the various people in an organization work. The people clearly know what role they play within the organization. They have specific goals to achieve, tasks to do, and duties to perform. When they work together, the organization can achieve its objectives.

The organization’s goal is fixed in advance, and all the staff members work toward it. There is a high sense of accountability and responsibility in how an organization operates. Apart from these features, proper communication leads to an organization’s efficiency and success. While each member has a specific task, the overall plan is shared. There are usually various departments working under an organization, some with their own work structures.

Organizations can be formal or informal., The formal ones are highly structured and work systematically towards a well-planned objective. On the other hand, informal organizations consider each person’s individual goals. It imparts a sense of community and values the goals of each member.

Different types of levels in an organization

Association and organization works

While the major idea of how an organization works remains the same, there are various types of organizations. The following are the top ones.

  • Line organization
  • Functional and staff organization
  • Project management organization

Line organization

A line organization involves a supervisor and a subordinate. The subordinate keeps an eye on the subordinate’s activities to ensure the tasks are completed correctly and efficiently.

Functional and staff organization

A functional organization consists of a management team controlling employees’ activities. The team monitors the employees’ performance and ensures they carry out their duties and tasks efficiently.

Project management organization

In a project management organization, a specific operational organization staff works on a strategy, project or plan.

The fundamentals of how an association works

Association and organization differences

An association involves people who work together to pursue a similar interest. There might be several groups in an association with the same interest. However, the way they work toward their shared interests can be different. In an organization, a person is in charge and assigns tasks to others. However, it is not the case in an association.

Generally, an association does not work for profit, unlike an organization. Most of its members are typically volunteers. They keep functioning, supported by sponsorships, donations, and so on. Usually, the members of an association do not get paid for participating.

There are varying titles involved in an association, including a president, vice president, treasurer, and so on. The members work together to support a social cause. Apart from donations, they organize conferences, meetups, and other events to raise money for their purpose. Based on the regulations and standards an association meets, the government may acknowledge it and even provide funds to support it.

Various types of association in sociology

Association and organization

An association comes in various types, though the general idea is that all the members have volunteered to participate. The following are the different types of association in sociology.

  • Trade association
  • Club
  • Voluntary association

Trade association

Typically, trade associations assist various companies and businesses and boost their day-to-day operations.


A club involves a group of people meeting to explore shared interests. It includes reading, writing, painting, and so on. They generally meet up regularly to pursue their interests.

Voluntary association

A voluntary association consists of volunteers who have joined to support the association’s social cause. A good example is the Somali Greenpeace Association.

Association or organization- top differences

Some critical elements differentiate associations and organizations from each other.

It is often confusing to understand how the two terms vary. The following are the key differences between an organization and an association.

Association Organization
There is more freedom for people to join, sometimes by paying a small fee. It is not possible for most people to join as there are certain rules.
No strict authority controls the rest of the members, and the leadership structure is pretty informal. There is a clear structure of leadership and authority which is strictly enforced.
Since there are no profit goals, losses are minimal, and the members are not directly held liable. Any losses that are incurred typically affect all the members.

Bottom line- Does an association or organization have significant roles to play?

Association vs. organization

An association serves a different purpose than an organization, and they are both significant in their own ways. A good example of an organization is a school. It has a proper structure, and each person has a specific role. There are various regulations involved and authorities that monitor all the activities. An example of an association is the school’s PTA. Their objective is to enhance the welfare of the students and improve the quality of their education and well-being.

In conclusion, there is no basis for measuring if one is better than the other are both are important.

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