“It’s A Question of Lives That May Be Lost If A.A. Does Not Survive.”
General Service Conference, 1953
Following the presentation on the work of the General Service Office and its importance to the survival of many among the “millions who still don’t know,” the Conference voted to throw the session open for a discussion of means of getting adequate financial support for the Office.
A number of points were made:
(A) Continued dependence upon personal appeals from Bill is not in the best interests of the Society.
(B) The Reserve Fund of the Foundation should be increased to guard against possibly serious contingencies.
(C) The Group Contribution Fund still owes the Reserve Fund of the Foundation $24,000, “borrowed” in previous years.
After inconclusive discussion, Bill W. was asked to comment on the general problem of getting the membership to support its service facilities. A digest-summary of his remarks follows.
When it comes to this problem of asking this Society to support its own services, let us try to put ourselves in the other fellow’s place.
He is interested, first of all, in his own recovery, his own survival. Next, he is interested in his family and in what he can do for them after all his years of drinking. Next, he is likely to be interested in the fellow he is twelfth—stepping. Next, down the line, he is interested in his group and the place where it meets and the way meetings are run and so on.
Now, that’s the way things always will be, the way they always should be.
In other words, it’s only very slowly and very gradually that you are going to get this A.A. interested in even a local Intergroup or Central Office set-up, much less national and international headquarters of the society.
In fact, it is only when he wakes up to discover that the local situation is becoming pretty chaotic – with newcomers not being looked after, with no suitable arrangements for hospitalization, with no adequate telephone facilities —- that this A.A. finally begins to see the glimmer of a need for an Intergroup office.
Finally, and laboriously, he and some of the other drunks in the area hire an office and sit a gal in it. So Intergroup, or a Central Office, comes into being. But only after the need has been there for a long time, only after our friend and the other A. A.s have come to see a personal necessity for an Intergroup. They have to see that personal necessity, or nothing gets done.
Three times in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous we have created services in advance of the time the average alcoholic could see the need for them.
Many people thought back in 1939 that the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” was not only dammed heresy but the beginning of a big racket. They saw no use for it. They thought they were being asked to buy or contribute to something to fill a need that they simply could not see.
The same thing happened when the Alcoholic Foundation was created. People began to fear that great sums of money would be involved, that our affairs would be under the control of some great bureaucratic board. They said, ‘Let’s not do this thing.’ And some people even said: “The Alcoholic Foundation is a menace to the future.”
Not too many years ago, there were a lot of people who did not see the need for overall management of our public relations at the national level. These people couldn’t imagine hundreds of groups writing in to the New York Office to get the benefit of our overall national experience. They couldn’t foresee some of the hassling that would develop.
When the Grapevine was first set up as our national publication, again there were a lot of folks who simply could not see the need for a magazine of that type.
We were dealing with ventures in prophecy!
It was foreseeable six or eight years ago that there would be a need for a link between the Trustees of the Alcoholic Foundation and the Movement. We could see then that if we did not come up with the General Service Conference, or something like it, this Movement would cave in – right in the middle.
It was predicted that we would meet with complete indifference. People foresaw hassles breaking out all over the country. They thought there would be a lot of politics. What they could not foresee was the need to strengthen the unity of our fellowship by transferring the Third Legacy of service to representatives of the society itself.
We have to remember that most of our services are not visible to the average group. Take, for example, the prodigious work of public relations that has helped to preserve and protect us for many years. The average A.A. in the average group can’t possibly have any conception of the importance of that work.
Another thing we have to remember is that as ex-drunks, we have all had frightening personal problems to cope with. And the groups themselves have had problems. Now, those problems were visible. And, because, they were visible, they seemed a lot more real than some of the problems the Trustees and the Headquarters Office have been wrestling with back here.
There was a time, in the early days, when some people thought we were cluttering up this movement by trying to get people to consider the Twelve Steps. We don’t have to worry about the Twelve Steps anymore. They are pretty well accepted by the Society today.
The same problem came up when we began to set down our Twelve Traditions of group experience. People thought I was a little crazy when I began to set those traditions down in writing. But today the Traditions are pretty well accepted by the groups – although the average A.A. still isn’t too sure what they’re all about because they simply can’t see them.
Now, as to getting financial support for the services carried out back here, we might think of it in terms of an educational job, without too much pressure. We don’t want to make any “drives” for funds, in the usual sense of the term. But if delegates to this Conference can carry home an adequate picture of our services, if you can relate the operation of the Alcoholic Foundation to the functioning and survival of the whole movement, I don’t think we are going to have too great a problem about getting the support we need to carry the message to the “millions who still don’t know!” It’s largely a question of using horse sense and of doing first things first.
Let’s not be bashful about what we are doing, or what we need. Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole has to function or we fail. Our needs are pretty simple and pretty clear. Our big need has to do with survival. It’s a question of survival for us. It’s a question of lives that may be lost if A.A. does not survive.
Politely, but firmly, the delegates to the Conference can point out to the folks back home a pretty ridiculous situation. In 1951 the book Alcoholics Anonymous, made a profit of $20,000 for the Foundation. That means that $20,000 was contributed for services that normally would have been financed by contributions from the group treasuries. We can also estimate, in a rough way, that another $15,000 worth of services is performed for the non-contributors and financed by the contributing groups.
In other words, about half of the groups are carrying the load of the General Service Office and, in addition, making a gift to the guys and gals who aren’t contributing anything.
Just get that little story across where it will do some good back home – and I don’t think we will have to worry too much about getting real support for our Service Office.