Through Our Own Contributions

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February 28, 2020

Get a sponsor, get a home group, and get something to do at that home group,” was a continuing mantra at the treatment facility I attended in the early ‘80s. This final item was not hard to find. Most meetings needed to be set up and later cleaned up, coffee made, cookies bought, cups and ashtrays washed (yes, china cups and metal ashtrays). We had greeters at the door. And we appointed an Intergroup rep and a General Service rep in addition to the usual secretary and treasurer.

Most long timers whom I’ve discussed this with spent years making coffee somewhere. This was all-too-often not very good coffee, but it was ready on time, nonetheless. Having a responsibility got me to my home group when I had a sick headache, a bad cold, or—most importantly—a strong desire to just skip it. My contributions made the meeting better and by my efforts I became an integral part of that group.

The group needed workers, but it also needed money. They passed a basket and nearly everyone tossed in a full dollar. I asked around and found that hereabouts we’d been doing that since about 1975—the thought was “put in the cost of a beer.” Around that time AA growth was over 10% per year fueled largely by treatment facility promotions funded by insurance payments. While inflation was also high, AA expenses grew slower due to economies of scale.

We had no club in the Heights area and the Central Office would not list a new group if it was on the same day, time, and format of an existing group within 5 miles. Treasuries were flush and nearly all the crowded groups and their members pledged and paid toward maintaining the Central Office. This has all changed.

We have people at the door but they’re usually smokers and not so good as greeters. AA growth has stagnated due in part to few treatment facility promotions and because AA’s Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are rarely run since the deregulation of TV stations means they no longer are required to run PSAs. New groups proliferated in part by a local club starting. Inflation is slow but persistent. Still the pseudo-traditional $1 in the basket lingers on.

Many groups cannot afford to send donations to the central office or general service and, since they’re not sending money, they’re not putting their “mouth” (sending representatives) where their money is. My home group had a somewhat high rental from the church where it met since they felt they needed to keep a custodian there when we met for security and expected us to pay that cost.

The group treasurer complained to the church that we couldn’t meet it; we learned later that a partial cause was they were skimming a large part of the basket themselves. The church asked me if this was true and I explained that we could meet the rent but doing so meant we’d have nothing to give to our support services. This was NOT okay with their board, so the church cut our rent in half.

Many groups get by because their charitable landlords do not charge them the going rate for a building rental. We are part of their mission and so they give us a break. By taking it, we don’t have to get more in the basket. We survive–but are in no way “self-supporting through our own contributions.”

Some charities speak of sacrificial giving, a.k.a. “give till it hurts.” AA does not want or need this, but many of us would not miss an extra $1 per meeting and so should be encouraged to “give until it feels good.” A friend started getting two-dollar bills at his bank and making a statement by tossing one of those into the basket. I’ve followed suit. I also follow our area’s suggestion to give $5 at my home group to make up in part for those not yet able or generous enough to contribute anything to them.

By making a full contribution of both time and money to AA, I find that I less often use what my sponsor called “them preferential pronouns”—I, me, my—and instead speak “we admitted”, “God grant us”, “our program”, etc. AA saved my life; so, I cannot leave it hungry and begging when I can quite easily do my part to alleviate that through my own contributions.

By Bob M.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AA Cleveland District Office.