It is considered as an umbrella organization for under this organisation are included organisations from many countries, and organises often World and Regional Vegetarian Congresses. These alternate in two-year cycles.
The ruling body from IVU is the International Council, and the members who form it are unpaid volunteers elected by the Member Societies at each World Vegetarian Congress.
Member organizations may be continental groups (EVU, VUNA, NAVS, etc.) or local or other regional vegetarian organizations whose primary purpose is the promotion of vegetarianism and the support of vegetarian living (e.g. EarthSave).
The IVU also encourages regional and national organizations to run vegetarian festivals, such as the 43rd WorldVegFest in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, on 25 October 2015 and the hundreds of currently organized vegetarian festivals on many continents.