NCVO and Social Enterprise UK
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Co-operative societies

Who controls it?  Management committee
What is the governing document? Rules
Who is the regulator?  FSA
Does it have limited liability?  Yes
What sources of finance are available?  Loans, Equity Finance, rarely grants
Is charitable status available?  Very Rarely

Co-operative society (bonafide co-operative) are a type of society with a co-operative structure that are established for member benefit rather than public benefit. The International Co-operative Alliance Statement on the Co-operative Identity describes a co-operative as ‘an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise’.  All co-operatives operate under the International Co-operative Alliance co-operative values and Principles.

One of their key features is usually summarised as 'one member, one vote'.  There are several different types of co-operatives (e.g. worker, consumer, community, agricultural).  Further information can be found at Co-operatives UK.

They cannot be charitable, except possibly in a case where a necessary condition of membership is to be within a class of charitable beneficiaries (for example, being a resident in financial need in an area of deprivation).

They can raise equity finance up to a maximum of £20,000. [This restriction does not apply to members who are themselves Co-operative Societies or local authorities who have acquired a holding under the Housing Associations Act 1985.]