Copyright © The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., May 1948
The sixth of our Twelve Points of AA Tradition is deemed so important that it states at length the relation of the AA movement to money and property.
This Tradition declares in substance that the accumulation of money, property, and the unwanted personal authority so often generated by material wealth comprise a cluster of serious hazards against which an AA group must ever be on guard.
Tradition Six also enjoins the group never to go into business nor ever to lend the AA name or money credit to any “outside” enterprise, no matter how good. Strongly expressed is the opinion that even clubs should not bear the AA name; that they ought to be separately incorporated and managed by those individual AAs who need or want clubs enough to financially support them.
We would thus divide the spiritual from the material, confine the AA movement to its sole aim, and ensure (however wealthy as individuals we may become) that AA itself shall always remain poor. We dare not risk the distractions of corporate wealth. They have become certainties, absolute verities for us.
Thank God, we AAs have never yet been caught in the kind of religious or political disputes which embroil the world of today. But we ought to face the fact that we have often quarreled violently about money, property, and the administration thereof. Money, in quantity, has always been a baleful influence in group life. Let a well-meaning donor present an AA group with a sizable sum and we break loose. Nor does trouble abate until that group, as such, somehow disposes of its bankroll. This experience is practically universal. “But,” say our friends, “isn’t this a confession of weakness? Other organizations do a lot of good with money. Why not AA?”
Of course, we of AA would be the first to say that many a fine enterprise does a lot of good with a lot of money. To these efforts money is usually primary; it is their lifeblood. But money is not the lifeblood of AA. With us, it is very secondary. Even in small quantities, it is scarcely more than a necessary nuisance, something we wish we could do without entirely. Why is that so?
We explain that easily enough; we don’t need money. The core of AA procedure is one alcoholic talking to another, whether that be sitting on a curbstone, in a home, or at a meeting. It’s the message, not the place; it’s the talk, not the alms. That does our work. Just places to meet and talk, that’s about all AA needs. Beyond these, a few small offices, a few secretaries at their desks, a few dollars apiece a year, easily met by voluntary contributions. Trivial indeed, our expenses!
Nowadays, the AA group answers its well-wishers saying: “Our expenses are trifling. As good earners, we can easily pay them. As we neither need nor want money, why risk its hazards? We’d rather stay poor. Thanks just the same!