Whoever Pays the Piper Calls the Tune

Step Ten Personal Inventory
Step Ten: Continued to Take Personal Inventory
March 4, 2024
St Thomas Town Hospital
Step One for Bill W.
April 4, 2024
Whoever Pays the Piper Calls the Tune

I was once chairing my home group and therefore sitting at the front table. A group from an adolescent treatment center visited and they sat near the front row. During the meeting the basket was passed quickly down that row since no one among them had any, or much money with them.

A woman near the end opened her purse and retrieved what seemed to be a dime. The gal next to her advised, “You don’t need to do that.”

“Yes, I do!” she replied. Tears welled in my eyes—a rare event for me. I knew exactly what she meant. That dime didn’t mean much to the group but to her, contributing what she could, meant everything.

I joined AA in the early ‘80s. In the suburbs where I went to meetings, practically everyone was tossing a dollar bill in the basket. It didn’t seem like much to ask—a movie cost several times that. I asked around and the locals said around 1975 a full dollar donation became de rigueur .

By 1980, what had been double-digit inflation slowed and stayed low, but persistent, until 2022 when the pandemic pushed it back near 10%. It now takes $5.71 to purchase what $1.00 in 1975 could.

Many churches ask their congregants for sacrificial giving – for donations so large that they have to give up something important to meet that goal. AA asks no such thing! But several years ago tossing a buck in the plate stopped meaning anything to me. I knew I had to up that amount so that I really felt I was making a contribution.

Indeed, at my home group, we sometimes get no more people in attendance than the few dollars in rental required by the church. In other words, the first dollar I toss in the basket pays the church for my seat at that meeting, leaving nothing to the group or AA as a whole. A good friend started going to his bank and getting a stack of $2 bills and would toss one in each collection basket. It made a point.

I know there are some of you who, at one time or another, can only afford to part with one dollar, if that, for the collection plate and that’s fine – give what you reasonably can. But, there are others who, given a little encouragement, can and will contribute more. Consider yourself encouraged!

Many groups have not yet really recovered from the pandemic and so their donations to our central office (www.aacle.org) at their March Fund Drive have dwindled. Likewise for AA as a whole (www.aa.org) which expects a million dollar shortfall from last year, reducing its already-too-small prudent reserve.

Both entities encourage individual donations in addition to their atrophied group donations. Remember, AA has no other source of income other than a small profit from sales of its literature and these contributions.

Some years ago, the church (where my home group meets) greatly raised our rent to pay the cost of the custodian they felt necessary to have on duty at that time. Our group treasurer told the church we could not afford it and then left for parts unknown. I was asked to fill in and soon found that part of the problem was that a few hundred dollars from the collection had never found their way to the bank.

This is a not an uncommon problem for groups that don’t mandate an occasional treasurer’s report and verification of the bank statement. The church asked me if the rent was unaffordable. I told them “No. But, by meeting it, we will not have any monies to support the downtown office or national organization.” Their board cut our rent in half! They get it! Fortunately, two other 12-step groups joined us at this church around the same time period, sharing the custodian cost.

I’m an archivist for two AA entities and for a local city’s historical society. Much of the funding for this historical society comes from grants. I can tell you from experience that Bill W’s fear of accepting funds from outside sources that “whoever pays the piper is apt to call the tune” is absolutely true and also much of my time there is spent writing grant proposals.

AA is saved from this by refusing outside support. But, the other side of this coin is that it must have inside support: Our 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.