No Dues or Fees, but We Do Pass the Basket – We are Self-supporting through Our Own Contributions

The How It Works group takes seriously A.A.’s Seventh Tradition. As expressed in the long form, “The A.A. groups themselves ought to be fully supported by the voluntary contributions of their own members.” We agree “that acceptance of large gifts from any source, or of contributions carrying any obligation whatever, is unwise. Then, too, we view with much concern [any tendency for the group’s treasury] which continues, beyond prudent reserves, to accumulate funds for no stated A.A. purpose.” Why we take this tradition so seriously is, perhaps, best explained in the words of one of our founding members.

“The How It Works group in Palm Springs was started on October 10, 1991, with a Group Conscience meeting where everyone including myself had a chance to vote on everything. I couldn’t believe how smooth the process went that night. Would we have smoking or non-smoking meetings, what time would we hold the meetings, etc? Then the big question was asked, ‘But now we need someone to put up the money so we can get this whole thing going.’ My mother had just passed away and had left me a little money. So with no premeditated thought I earnestly raised my hand and offered to finance the group’s initial expenses. The group was desperately in need of the funds, and my offer was accepted. The group conscience voted that the amount borrowed would be re-paid on a monthly payment system.” The funds were, indeed, repaid, but that was not to be the last of the experiences that would form the group conscience in this matter. Our friend continues her story:

“Years later we were renting a club room. Two of our new members robbed an office which was two rooms down from our clubroom. It didn’t take the landlord long to place the blame. He immediately accused us and we were evicted. With no prudent reserve, certain members scrambled to put it all together so we could move to a member’s private home until the group could rent another location. We were obviously handicapped by this arrangement. In particular, a new person would not know where to find us on their own.”

Out of these experiences the How It Works group learned that it wanted the group as a whole to be more responsible. It was clear that A.A.’s central office was not going to pay the group’s light bill if it was a little short in any given month. It also learned that it didn’t want to share its meeting room with any other business, entity, church group, or even another A.A. group. Too often such arrangements meant that the group didn’t have control over meeting times, how the room was set up and furnished, whether the building would be available on holiday weekends, etc. We do not want anyone to be able to arbitrarily dictate when we can have meetings. Moreover, it had become obvious that it would not suffice to merely collect enough money to meet daily and monthly expenses. Building a prudent reserve was necessary. Only in that way could the group take the pressure off any one individual and avoid, finally, the need to turn to such individuals for short term loans or “donations.”

To be truly self-supporting is to have a prudent reserve. A savings account of at least two to three times the group’s monthly expenses “just in case” is called for. A prudent reserve allows the group security, independence, and freedom. The treasurer reports the balance in the prudent reserve account each month at the group conscience meeting. The prudent reserve balance is kept in a separate account, separate from the checking account used to meet normal monthly expenses.

Many of the practices and principles of the How It Works group are indirectly guided by the desire to be self-governing and self-supporting through our own contributions. As one of our members expressed it, “learning to take responsibility to support the clubroom through attendance, participation, and financially supporting it by putting money in the basket is important for spiritual growth.”