Where Money and Spirituality in AA Mix

I sometimes have to look to myself to how much I am contributing to AA. Am I still dropping the same amount in the pot that I was 5, 10, 20 years ago? What would that be in today’s prices? While I was drinking, I threw money about like there was no tomorrow. When I got sober, did I get mean too? In the beginning of my sobriety, I would sometimes put in the very minimal or nothing at all. There were too many “other ways” that the money needed to be spent. But once I started to get my life straightened out, I could afford to put more in. Am I now doing less meetings and still just dropping the same dime, dollar, euro, pound?

When I eventually got sober, I went to meetings every day, sometimes more than one. It was more important for me to put fuel in my car than put the money in the pot. I had a bag of small coins in the car and when I went a meeting, I would dump some of these in the pot, just so it looked like I was contributing something. This was very common when I first came to AA. No one just passed the hat, even if they were only putting a few pennies into the pot, they put them in. On a personal observation, it seems to have become more acceptable today to just pass – without putting in – even for members who have been sober for some time.

One of the biggest (regarded) reasons the annual contributions have not risen with inflation or remained the same, is the jump from putting in a £1/1€ coin to putting in £5/5€ notes. The £2/2€ coin has stemmed this somewhat, but as a group treasurer, I seldom see “folding” money when we are counting the 7th tradition collection.

Bill W. talks about this in the 12 and 12, Tradition 7page 163:

“The meeting that night was at New York’s old 24th Street Clubhouse. During the intermission, the treasurer gave a timid talk on how broke the club was. (That was in the period when you couldn’t mix money and A.A.) But finally he said it—the landlord would put us out if we didn’t pay up. He concluded his remarks by saying, ‘Now boys, please go heavier on the hat tonight, will you?’

“I heard all this quite plainly, as I was piously trying to convert a newcomer who sat next to me. The hat came in my direction, and I reached into my pocket. Still working on my prospect, I fumbled and came up with a fifty-cent piece. Somehow it looked like a very big coin. Hastily, I dropped it back and fished out a dime, which clinked thinly as I dropped it in the hat. Hats never got folding money in those days.

“Then I woke up. I who had boasted my generosity that morning was treating my own club worse than the distant alcoholics who had forgotten to send the Foundation their dollars. I realized that my five-dollar gift to the slippee was an ego-feeding proposition, bad for him and bad for me. There was a place in A.A. where spirituality and money would mix, and that was in the hat!”

There is much guidance written within AA literature to what should and should not come out of the AA pot. When a member’s money hits the pot, it becomes AA money. It should then be used for primary purpose work, not to fund birthday cakes, sobriety coins, AA dances, etc. All these things, while also good and worthwhile, should be self-funding.

Whilst involved in AA service at a treasure’s workshop in York many years ago, the then General Secretary of The General Service Board said to us:  “Anyone doing AA Service should not be discouraged to do it because of lack of money. All legitimate expenses should be met by the sponsoring group, intergroup or region. They should be claimed and accepted, so someone less fortunate not be discouraged to partake in that service. Any monies claimed and not needed can be returned to the pot anonymously at any meeting, intergroup or region whilst observing the 7th tradition.”

This statement is backed up in the current AA Structure Hand book, page 73:

• Without its essential services AA would soon become a formless, confused and irresponsible anarchy. It is agreed that no expenses are paid for individual face-to-face Twelfth Step work. But it is also widely held that trusted servants should be reimbursed for reasonable expenses even if they are subsequently returned to the pot. Such claims should be made and accepted lest the less privileged feel denied the right of participation.

It can be viewed online here in the document library, in the folder “Handbooks”.

Grateful in service,
Wullie I.