Just how many associations are there in the UK?

Associations have a very long history but identifying how many there actually are is somewhat challenging as there is not one, up-to-date resource.

Experian, using the Thomson classification, lists 475 trade associations in the UK.

The Trade Association Forum (TAF) lists around 180 trade associations.

British Services has almost 400 trade associations and regulatory bodies detailed on its website but details are very out of date.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining detail 142 associations related to their members.

Similarly, the website buildingconservation.com has curated a list of some 700 associations and advisory bodies relating to the building sector.

The current list of employer’s associations maintained by the certification officer – under section 123 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 – identifies around 90 which fall into this category.

But all of these resources significantly underestimate the amount of associations in the UK.

‘Association’ is a sensitive word at Companies House. A quick check shows there have been around 17,650 company registrations using association in the company name but, of course, many of these may no longer be in existence.

Rich Gott, the founder of MemberWise – a network of around 6,000 membership professionals – introduces the top 100 membership bodies in the UK in this post.

He explains: “I estimate there are over 8,000 membership organisations and associations based in the United Kingdom (with memberships of over 1,000 individuals/organisations). The figure for smaller organisations (including local sports clubs and societies) is likely to be far higher at approximately 50,000.”

No longer printed but probably the most accurate count of associations in its day was The Directory of British Associations, which was first published in 1965. Edition 20 (2012) lists 7,200 associations, institutes, federations, and chambers of commerce in the UK and Ireland.

This directory categorises the types of association into 23 categories, of which trade associations are one.

The directory runs to some 900 pages but randomly selecting 5% of the pages shows that around 19% of the listings are trade associations. This means there are around 1,350 trade bodies in the UK.

You might be interested in three related blog posts:

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