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Associations during the coronavirus crisis

There are around 100,000 clubs in Switzerland, from yodelling choirs to tennis clubs, but political parties and daycare centres are often organized as this type of legal entity too. Some associations are now battling for survival owing to the coronavirus. Helvetia is supporting these associations with tips – and also with financial assistance.

05 may 2020, text: Felix Mätzler, photo: Deposit

An empty sports hall

According to the saying, wherever three Swiss meet, they form an association. The fact that the Swiss are so «club happy» is not only a characteristic of the people but also because it is relatively easy in Switzerland to choose this form of legal status.

Waiting for «better times»

Owing to the coronavirus crisis, many associations are now under pressure. Fanni Dahinden, Head of the vitamin B competence centre in Zurich, an organization that advises associations, agrees. A large number of enquiries came in prior to the lockdown in mid-March in particular, when large groups were already banned: «Many of the people in charge wanted to know if they should or could still hold their general meeting», Fanni Dahinden says. This has now eased as large groups of people are generally banned. This has resulted in a certain amount of pragmatism among association leaders: They are taking decisions in writing, holding meetings online – or simply waiting for better times.

No events – no income

The longer the lockdown continues, the more associations are running into financial difficulties: for instance, the football club that generated important revenue each year with a sponsored run or a football-for-all event, which this year is not possible until further notice. But cultural associations too, which fund themselves primarily via the events they hold, are fighting for survival. «Sometimes it becomes clear that an association is not necessarily the right legal status», says expert Fanni Dahinden, «Associations are supposed to pursue a social purpose, not an economic goal.»

What should be done if members suddenly demand reimbursement of their annual membership because the association cannot provide its usual service because of the coronavirus? In this case it’s best to take a pragmatic approach and call on the solidarity of the members because it is in their interest that the association survives beyond the coronavirus crisis.

Around 460 associations supported

Helvetia completed the support campaign for associations at the end of August. Since the campaign was launched at the end of April, around 460 associations have received support. Sport clubs make up about two thirds of all applications, with a quarter coming from the cultural sector. Others are active in the social sphere, the arts and business.