| print this
Use of Money
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., May 1946
Alcoholics Anonymous, does money make the mare go or is
it the root of all evil? We are in the process of solving
that riddle. Nobody pretends to have the complete answer.
Where the proper use of money ends-and its misuse begins
- is the point in spiritual space" we are all seeking.
Few group problems are giving thoughtful A.A.'s more concern
than this. Everyone is asking, "What shall be our attitude
toward voluntary contributions, paid workers, professionalism,
and outside donations?"
the first years of A.A. we had no money problems. We met
in homes where our womenfolk made sandwiches and coffee.
If an individual A.A. wished to grubstake a fellow alcoholic,
he did so. It was purely his own affair. We had no group
funds, hence no group money troubles. And it must be recorded
that many an old-time A.A. wishes we could now return to
those early days of halcyon simplicity. Knowing that quarrels
over material things have crushed the spirit of many a good
undertaking, it is often thought that too much money may
prove an evil for us too.
small use yearning for the impossible. Money has entered
our picture and we are definitely committed to its sparing
use. No one would seriously think of abolishing our meeting
places and clubs for the sake of avoiding money altogether.
Experience has shown that we very much need these facilities,
so we must accept whatever risk there is in them.
how shall we keep these risks to a minimum; how shall we
traditionally limit the use of money so that it may never
topple the spiritual foundation upon which each A.A. life
so completely depends? That is our real problem today. So
let us look together at the main phases of our financial
situation, seeking to discover what is essential, what is
nonessential, what is legitimate and harmless, and what
may be dangerous or unnecessary.
we begin with voluntary contributions. Each A.A. finds himself
dropping money in "the hat" to pay the rent of
a meeting place, a club, or the maintenance of his local
or national headquarters. Though not all of us believe in
published in The A.A. Grapevine.
while a few A.A.'s see no necessity for any local or national
offices, it can be said fairly that the vast majority of
us believe that these services are basically necessary.
Provided such facilities are efficiently handled, and their
funds properly accounted for, we are only too glad to pledge
them our regular support, with the full understanding, of
course, that such contributions are in no wise a condition
of our A.A. membership. These particular uses of our money
are now generally accepted and, with some qualifications,
there is little worry of dire long-range consequences.
some concern does remain, arising mostly in connection with
our clubs, local offices and the General Office. Because
these places customarily employ paid workers, and because
their operation implies a certain amount of business management,
it is sometimes felt that we may get bogged down with a
heavy officialdom or, still worse, a downright professionalization
of A.A. Though it must be said that these doubts are not
always unreasonable, we have already had enough experience
to relieve them in large part.
begin with it seems most certain that we need never be overwhelmed
by our clubs, local offices or by the General Office at
New York City. These are places of service; they cannot
really control or govern A.A. If any of them were to become
inefficient or overbearing the remedy is simple enough.
The average A.A. would stop his financial support until
conditions were changed. As our A.A. membership does not
depend on fees or dues, we can always "take our special
facilities or leave them alone." These services must
always serve us well or go out of business. Because no one
is compelled to support them, they can never dictate, nor
can they stray from the main body of A.A. tradition for
direct line with the principle of "taking our facilities
or leaving them alone" there is an encouraging tendency
to incorporate all such special functions separately if
they involve any great amount of money, property or management.
More and more, the A.A. groups are realizing that they are
spiritual entities, not business organizations. Of course
the smaller club rooms or meeting places often remain unincorporated
because their business aspect is only nominal. But as large
growth takes place it is usually found wise to incorporate
and so set the club apart from surrounding groups. Support
of the club then becomes an individual
rather than a group matter. If, however, the club also provides
a central office secretary serving the surrounding area,
it seems only fair that group treasuries in that area should
shoulder this particular expense because such a secretary
serves all groups, even though the club itself may not.
Our evolution in large A.A. centers is beginning to indicate
most clearly that while it is a proper function of a cluster
of groups, or their central committee, to support a paid
secretary for their area, it is not a group or central committee
function to support clubs financially. Not all A.A.'s care
for clubs. Therefore club support has to come mainly from
those individual A.A.'s who need or like clubs, which, by
the way, is the majority. But the majority ought not to
try to coerce the minority into supporting clubs they do
not want or need.
course clubs also get a certain amount of help from meetings
held in them. Where central meetings for an area take place
in a club it is customary to divide the collections between
the club and the central committee for the area, heavily
favoring the club of course, because the club is providing
the meeting place. The same arrangement may be entered into
between the club and any particular group which wishes to
use the club whether for meeting or entertainment. Generally
speaking, the board of directors of a club looks after the
financial management and the social life of the place. But
strictly A.A. matters remain the function of the surrounding
groups themselves. This division of activity is by no means
the rule everywhere: it is offered as a suggestion only,
much in keeping, however, with the present trend.
large club or central office usually means one or more paid
workers. What about them-are they professionalizing A.A.?
About this, there is a hot debate every time a club or central
committee gets large enough to require paid help. On this
subject we have all done a pile of fuzzy thinking. And I
would be one of the first to plead guilty to that charge.
reason for our fuzzy thinking is the usual one-it is fear.
To each one of us, the ideal of A.A.. however short we may
be of it personally, is a thing of beauty and perfection.
It is a power greater than ourselves which has lifted us
out of the quicksand and set us safe on shore. The slightest
thought of marring our ideal, much less bartering it for
gold, is to most of us unthinkable. So we are constantly
on the alert against the rise, within A.A., of a paid class
of practitioners or missionaries. In A.A., where each of
us is a goodwill practitioner and missionary in his own
right, there is no need for anyone to be paid for simple
Twelfth Step work-a purely spiritual undertaking. While
I suppose fear of any kind ought to be deplored, I must
confess that I am rather glad that we exercise such great
vigilance in this critical matter.
there is a principle upon which I believe we can honestly
solve our dilemma. It is this: a janitor can sweep the floor,
a cook can boil the beef, a steward can eject a troublesome
drunk, a secretary can manage an office, an editor can get
out a news-paper-all, I am sure, without professionalizing
A.A. If we didn't do these jobs ourselves we would have
to hire nonalcoholics to do them for us. We would not ask
any nonalcoholic to do these things full-time without pay.
So why should some of us, who are earning good livings ourselves
in the outside world, expect other A.A. '5 to be full-time
caretakers, cooks or secretaries? Why should these A.A.'s
work for nothing at jobs which the rest of us could not
or would not attempt ourselves? Or why, for that matter,
should they be any the less well paid than for similar labor
elsewhere? And what difference should it make if, in the
course of their duties, they do some Twelfth Step work besides?
Clearly the principle seems to be that we may pay well for
special service but never for straight Twelfth Step work.
then, could A.A. be professionalized? Quite simply. I might,
for example, hire an office and hang on the door a sign
reading: "Bill W.-Alcoholics Anonymous Therapist. Charges
$10.00 per hour," That would be face-to-face treatment
of alcoholism for a fee. And I would surely be trading on
the name of Alcoholics Anonymous, a purely amateur organization,
to enlarge my professional practice. That would be professionalizing
A.A.-and how! It would be quite legal, but hardly ethical.
does this mean we should criticize therapists as a class
- even A.A.'s who might choose to go into that field? Not
at all. The point is that no one ought to advertise himself
as an A.A. therapist. As we are strictly amateur there can
be no such thing. That would be a distortion of the facts
which none of us could afford to try. As the tennis player
has to drop his amateur status when he turns professional
so should A.A.'s who become therapists cease publishing
their A.A. connection. While I doubt if many A.A.'s ever
go into the field of alcohol therapy, none ought to feel
excluded, especially if they are trained social workers,
psychologists or psychiatrists. But they certainly ought
never to use their A.A. connection publicly or in such a
way as to make people feel that A.A. has such a special
class within its own ranks. That is where we all must draw
sum up - we have observed:
That the use of money in A.A. is a matter of the gravest
importance. Where its use ends and its misuse begins is
the point we should vigilantly watch.
That A.A. is already committed to a qualified use of money,
because we would not think of abolishing our offices, meeting
places and clubs simply for the sake of avoiding finances
That our real problem today consists in setting intelligent
and traditional limits upon our use of money, thus keeping
its disruptive tendency at the minimum.
That the voluntary contributions or pledges of A.A. members
should be our principal and eventually our sole support;
that this kind of self-support would always prevent our
clubs and offices from getting out of hand, because their
funds could readily be cut off whenever they failed to serve
That we have found it generally wise to separately incorporate
those special facilities which require much money or management;
that an A.A. group is a spiritual entity, not a business
That we must, at all costs, avoid the professionalization
of A.A.; that simple Twelfth Step work is never to be paid
for; that A.A.'s going into alcohol therapy should never
trade on their A.A. connection; that there is not, and can
never be, any such thing as an "A.A. therapist."
That A.A. members may, however, be employed by 'is as full-time
workers, provided they have legitimate duties over and beyond
normal Twelfth Step work. We may, for example, surely engage
secretaries, stewards and cooks without making them professional
now the discussion of professionalism: A.A.'s frequently
consult local committees or The Alcoholic Foundation saying
they have been offered positions in related fields. Hospitals
want A.A. nurses and doctors, clinics ask for A.A.'s who
Now known as The General Service Board of A.A., Inc.
social workers, universities ask for A.A.'s to work in the
field of alcohol education on a non--controversial basis
and industry wants us to recommend A.A.'s as personnel officers.
Can we, acting as individuals, accept such offers? Most
of us see no reason why we cannot.
comes down to this. Have we A.A.'s the right to deny society
the benefit of our special knowledge of the alcohol problem?
Are we to tell society, even though we might make superior
nurses, doctors, social workers or educators in the field
of alcohol that we cannot undertake such missions for fear
of professionalizing A.A.? That would certainly be farfetched,
even ridiculous. Surely no A.A. should be barred from such
employment because of his membership with us. He needs only
to avoid "A.A. therapy" and any action or word
which might hurt A.A. as a whole. Aside from this he ought
to be just as employable as the nonalcoholic who would otherwise
get the job and perhaps not do it half as well, In fact,
I believe we still have a few A.A. bartenders. Though bartending,
for obvious reasons, is not a specially recommended occupation,
I have never heard anyone point out that these few members
are professionalizing A.A. on account of their very special
knowledge of barrooms!
ago we used to think A.A. should have its own hospitals,
rest homes and farms. Nowadays we are equally convinced
we should have nothing of the sort. Even our clubs, well
inside A.A., are somewhat set apart. And in 'the judgment
of practically all, places of hospitalization or rest should
be well outside A.A.-and medically supervised. Hospitalization
is most definitely the job of the doctor, backed, of course,
by private or community aid. It is not a function of A.A.
in the sense of management or ownership. Everywhere we c
operate with hospitals. Many afford us special privileges
and working arrangements. Some consult us. Others employ
A.A. nurses or attendants. Relationships such as these almost
always work well. But none of these institutions are known
as "A.A. hospitals."
what about donations or payments to A.A. from outside sources?
There was a time some years ago when we desperately needed
a little outside aid. This we received. And we shall never
cease' being grateful to these devoted friends whose contributions
made possible The Alcoholic Foundation, the book "Alcoholics
Anonymous" and our General Office. Heaven has surely
reserved a special place for every one of them. They met
a great need, for in those days we A.A.'s were very few
and very insolvent!
times have changed. Alcoholics Anonymous now has thousands
of members whose combined earnings each year amount to untold
millions of dollars. Hence a very powerful feeling is spreading
among us that A.A. ought to he self-supporting. Since most
members feel they owe their very lives to the movement,
they think we A.A.'s ought to pay its very modest expenses.
And isn't it high time, they ask, that we commence to revise
the prevalent idea that an alcoholic is always a person
who must be helped-usually with money? let us A.A.'s, they
say, be no longer takers from society. Instead let us be
givers. We are not helpless now. Neither are we penniless
any more. Were it possible to publish tomorrow that every
A.A. group has be-come fully self-supporting, it is probable
that nothing could create more goodwill for us than such
a declaration. Let our generous public devote its funds
to alcohol research, hospitalization or education. These
fields really need money. But we do not. We are no longer
poor. We can, and we should, pay our own way.
course, it can hardly he counted an exception to the principle
of self-support if a non-alcoholic friend comes to a meeting
and drops a dollar in the hat.
it is not these small tokens of regard which concern us.
It is the large contributions, especially those that may
carry future obligations, which should give us pause. Then
too, there is evidence that wealthy people are setting aside
sums for A.A. in their wills under the impression we could
use a great deal of money if we had it. Shouldn't we discourage
them? And already there have been a few alarming attempts
at the public solicitation of money in the name of Alcoholics
Anonymous. Few, A.A.'s will fail to imagine where such a
course would lead us. Every now and then we are offered
money from so-called "wet" or "dry"
sources. Obviously dangerous, this. For we must stay out
of that ill-starred controversy. Now and then the parents
of an alcoholic, out of sheer gratitude. wish to donate
heavily. Is this wise? Would it be good for the alcoholic
himself? Perhaps a wealthy A.A. wishes to make a large gift.
Would it be good for him, or for us, if he did so? Might
we not feel in his debt and might he not, especially if
a newcomer, begin to think he had
membership in 1997 is over 2,000,000
no case have we ever been able to question the true generosity
of these givers. But is it wise to take their gifts? Although
there may be rare exceptions, I share the opinion of most
older A.A.'s that acceptance of large donations from any
source whatever is very questionable and almost always a
hazardous policy. True, the struggling club may badly need
a friendly gift or loan. Even so, it might be better in
the long run to pay as we go. We must never let any immediate
advantage, however attractive, blind us to the possibility
that we may be creating a disastrous precedent for the future.
Strife over money and property has too often wrecked better
societies than we temperamental alcoholics!
is with the deepest gratitude and satisfaction that I can
now tell you of a recent resolution passed by our over-all
service committee, the trustees of The Alcoholic Foundation,
who are the custodians of our national A.A. funds. As a
matter of policy, they have just gone on record that they
will decline all gifts carrying the slightest obligation,
expressed or implied. And further, that The Alcoholic Foundation
will accept no earnings which may be tendered from any commercial
source. As most readers know, we have been approached of
late by several motion picture concerns about the possibility
of an A.A. film. Naturally money has been discussed. But
our trustees, very rightly I think, take the position that
A.A. has nothing to sell; that we all wish to avoid even
the suggestion of commerce, and that in any case A.A., generally
speaking, is now self-supporting.
my mind, this is a decision of enormous importance to our
future-a very long step in the right direction. When such
an attitude about money becomes universal through A.A.,
we shall have finally steered clear of that golden, alluring,
but very treacherous reef called Materialism.
the years that lie just ahead Alcoholics Anonymous faces
a supreme test-the great ordeal of its own prosperity and
success. I think it will prove the greatest trial of all.
Can we but weather that, the waves of time and circumstances
may beat upon us in vain. Our destiny will be secure!
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., May 1946
practicing our Traditions, The AA Grapevine, Inc. has neither
endorsed nor are they affiliated with Silkworth.net.
The Grapevine®, and AA Grapevine® are registered
trademarks of The AA Grapevine, Inc.
W. Grapevine index