Relationship Between AA and Al-Anon From G.S.O., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163
A.A. Guidelines are compiled from the shared experience of A.A. members throughout the U.S. and Canada. They also reflect guidance given through the Twelve Traditions and the General Service Conference. In keeping with our Tradition of Autonomy except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole, most decisions are made by the group conscience of the members involved. The purpose of these Guidelines is to assist in reaching an informed group conscience.
The Fellowships of Alcoholics Anonymous and the AI-Anon Family Groups have a unique relationship. They are naturally drawn together by their close ties. And yet the Twelve Traditions, the General Service Boards, and the General Service Conferences of both Fellowships suggest that each functions more effectively if it remains “separate,” cooperating but not affiliating with the other.
Each Fellowship has always had its own General Service Board, General Service Office, Conference, publishing company, and directory. Each has established its own policies and maintained its own services. This separate functioning has served both A.A. and AI-Anon Family Groups well. A.A.’s policy of “cooperation but not affiliation” was established as long ago as the early 1950s, and both AI-Anon and A.A. recognized at that time the importance of maintaining separate Fellowships.
However, from time to time, questions come to both A.A. and AI-Anon General Service Offices indicating confusion as to how A.A. and AI-Anon may best cooperate in the groups, intergroups or central offices, and area and regional conventions and get-togethers.
A.A. and AI-Anon have shared on these questions, and A.A.’s General Service Conference approved the following suggested guidelines:
Question: Should a group be affiliated with both A.A. and AI–Anon?
Answer: As the primary purpose of the A.A. group is to help the sick alcoholic to recover and the primary purpose of the AI-Anon Family Group is to help the AI-Anon to live with herself or himself, as well as with the alcoholic, it is suggested they not be combined, but remain separate groups. This enables both Fellowships to function within their Twelve Traditions and to carry their messages more effectively. Thus, the group name, the officers, and the meeting should be either A.A. or AI-Anon, but not both. “The A.A. Group” pamphlet suggests, “Whether open or closed, A.A. group meetings are conducted by A.A. members. At open meetings, non-A.A.s may be invited to share, depending upon the conscience of the group.” Naturally, all are welcome to open meetings of both A.A. and AI-Anon groups.
Question: Should “family groups” be listed in A.A. directories?
“After discussion, the Conference reaffirmed A.A. group policy that only those with a desire to stop drinking may be members of A.A. groups; only A.A. members are eligible to be officers of A.A. groups; nonalcoholics are welcome at open meetings of A.A. It is suggested that the word ‘family’ not be used in the name of an A.A. group; if A.A.s and their nonalcoholic mates wish to meet together on a regular basis, it is suggested they consider these gatherings ‘meetings’ and not A.A. groups. Listing in A.A. directories: It was the sense of the meeting that the family groups should not be listed under the family group name in the directories.”
Question: Should A.A. and AI–Anon have combined central (or intergroup) services and offices?
Answer: Experience and the Twelve Traditions of A.A. and AI-Anon suggest that each Fellowship will function more effectively if each retains separate committees, staffs, and facilities for handling telephone calls, as well as separate telephone answering services, intergroup activities, bulletins, meeting lists, and Twelfth Step services of all types. Also, that the members involved in each service committee or office be A.A. members, if an A.A. facility, and AI-Anon, if an AI-Anon facility.
Question: How may A.A. and AI–Anon cooperate in area and regional conventions and get–togethers?
Answer: In accordance with the Twelve Traditions, a convention would be either A.A. or AI-Anon-not both. However, most A.A. convention committees invite AI-Anon to participate by planning its own program, and the committee arranges for facilities for the AI-Anon meetings.
Question: When AI–Anon participates in an A.A. convention, what is the financial relationship between the two Fellowships?
Answer: The relationship and the financial arrangements usually follow one of two patterns:
When an A.A. convention committee invites AI-Anon to participate with its own program, A.A. may pay all expenses (for meeting rooms, coffee, etc.) and keep all income from registrations etc., in a single fund used to pay all convention bills, after which any excess income reverts back to A.A.
Alternatively, AI-Anon may have a separate registration and pay its own direct expenses, plus a proportionate share of common expenses of the convention. AI-Anon, in this case, receives its own share of the registration income and also shares in any losses that may be incurred.
Question: Should an A.A. convention committee make a contribution to AI-Anon from the financial profits of the convention?
Answer: In accordance with the self-support Traditions of both Fellowships and to abide by the concept of “cooperation but not affiliation,” it is suggested that A.A. should not make gifts or contributions to AI-Anon. By the same token, A.A. should not accept contributions from AI-Anon.
If separate registrations have been kept for both A.A. and AI-Anon members, however, income may be easily assigned.
A.A.’s Debt of Gratitude to Al-Anon
The following resolution of gratitude to the Fellowship of the AI–Anon Family Groups was unanimously approved by the 1969 General Service Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The delegates of this, the 19th General Service Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous, meeting in official session in New York City, this 25th day of April, 1969, do hereby declare:
WHEREAS, it is the desire of this Conference to confirm the relationship between Alcoholics Anonymous and the AI-Anon Family Groups, and
WHEREAS, it is the further desire of this Conference to acknowledge A.A.’s debt of gratitude to the AI-Anon Family Groups, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, that Alcoholics Anonymous recognizes the special relationship, which it enjoys with the AI-Anon Family Groups, a separate but similar fellowship. And be it further resolved that Alcoholics Anonymous wishes to recognize, and hereby does recognize, the great contribution which the AI-Anon Family Groups have made and are making in assisting the families of alcoholics everywhere.
AA Answering Services From G.S.O., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163
AA. Guidelines are compiled from the shared experience of A.A. members in various service areas. They also reflect guidance given through the Twelve Traditions and the General Service Conference (U.S. and Canada). In keeping with our Tradition of autonomy, except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole, most decisions are made by the group conscience of the members involved. The purpose of these Guidelines is to assist in reaching an informed group conscience. GEOGRAPHICAL AREAS SERVED Most answering services serve groups in one community only, or in one county. In some areas, general service districts form the geographical boundaries.
STARTING AN ANSWERING SERVICE
Sometimes an answering service has been started by one A.A. group or even by one or two members who felt the need for such a service. As the service begins to fill the need and as A.A. grows locally, other groups nearby become interested and join in the support of the answering service. General service district committees sometimes are responsible for starting an answering service. If possible, before making such a decision, the group conscience of all groups involved should be consulted, in order to ensure both financial support and a supply of volunteers to take Twelfth Step calls.
A Few Suggestions:
1. Check with your area, district and nearby central or intergroup office to make sure this service is not duplicating an already existing A.A. service. 2. Start small, and remember ‘Easy Does It.’ It is easier to expand than to reduce services. 3. Abide by the group conscience of the groups involved. Take care to separate individual opinions from group conscience.
Volunteer Support of A.A. Members
1. Consider the number of A.A. people available to answer Twelfth Step calls. 2. Consider the need for a responsible person to take charge. 3. It is suggested that volunteer Twelfth Step workers should have at least six months’ sobriety and should state the days and hours when they will be available for calls. 4. Be sure that the list of A.A. volunteers is current and active. 5. If you cannot or do not choose to use a commercial service, start out with two A.A. members‑a man and a woman, each with a reasonable length of sobriety‑to handle the calls. 6. In areas that use volunteers only, rather than a commercial answering service, there are many options available: call forwarding, voice‑mail, pager systems and answering machines.
HOW ARE ANSWERING SERVICES FUNDED?
When several groups get together and decide to contract a commercial answering service, the usual experience seems to be that each group contributes according to its own group conscience. In some cases, each group is charged exactly the same amount. In a few instances, groups are charged for the answering service on the basis of group size. When district committees are responsible, groups contribute to the district committee and the committee pays the bills.
1. Carefully estimate how much money will be needed and how much will be available. 2. Be sure that the groups will finance the venture. 3. Encourage groups to pledge a regular amount each month. 4. When prorating costs among participating groups, add a small amount each month in order to build a reserve for emergencies or expansion of the service.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ANSWERING SERVICE?
Sharing on this question varies: one or two members who may be responsible; an answering service committee may handle matters; or the answering service may be the responsibility of the district general service committee. Even when responsibility for the service is assumed by one or two members or a committee (regardless of what it may be called), it is suggested that one person appointed by the committee or group involved should make the arrangements, have all later contacts with the answering service, and pay the bills. This is to avoid confusing the answering service personnel.
WHO ANSWERS THE PHONES–A.A. MEMBERS OR COMMERCIAL ANSWERING SERVICE PERSONNEL?
Many use a commercial service, though some answering services rely on A.A. members exclusively. Following is a list of the methods for handling Twelfth Step calls:
1. The commercial answering service has a list of members who are available for Twelfth Step calls. After taking the first name and phone number of the caller, the answering service reaches an A.A. member, who then calls the alcoholic seeking help. 2. The Twelfth Step list is arranged according to geographical areas or zip code. When the address of the prospect has been ascertained, an A.A. member in the vicinity is called. Several suggested that there should be separate lists of men and women twelfth‑steppers. 3. Several A.A. members serve on a rotating duty basis. The commercial service refers calls to them, which they in turn refer to names on their list of Twelfth Step workers. 4. In some instances, the calls are referred to the nearest group, rather than to an individual member. 5. In some places, the groups take responsibility for Twelfth Step calls for one week each on a rotating basis. 6. Some answering services use a diverter or patch system whereby they answer the call but immediately plug in the number of an AA volunteer. 7. A screening committee arranges for a different person to receive calls each night from the answering service. That person then refers the calls to A.A. volunteers.
One answering service shared the following information, which might be helpful to those who plan to use a commercial answering service and want to explain their needs to its personnel.
When an alcoholic calls for help…
1. Answer by saying, ‘A.A. answering service.’ 2. Try to find out what the caller wants. 3. If the caller is reluctant to give a name or other information, try to cross‑connect (patch) the call with an A.A. member. 4. If the caller is reluctant to give a name, don’t insist. 5. Never argue with the caller. Explain that you are an answering service and will try to put them in touch with an A.A. member. 6. Tell the caller that many A.A. members are at meetings in the evenings, often up until 10:30 or 11:00, so they won’t expect an immediate callback. 7. Please remember that alcoholics and members of their families who call for help are sick people; dealing with them can sometimes be frustrating unless this is kept in mind. 8. If you are criticized, tell the caller that you are acting on instructions from the answering service committee. 9. Record each call with the name of the caller (if possible), time, phone number, and reason for call. The operators note the disposition of the call with the name and phone number of the A.A. member to whom it was referred.
Problems or questions should be referred to this committee. This committee will keep the commercial service informed of meeting changes, special events, and any other items that A.A. members might inquire about.
PROBLEMS IN FUNDING AND ADMINISTRATION Groups are usually aware that the service is filling a real need and consequently are willing to support it. It is important to be assured in advance of support and of willingness to stick with the answering service until it has a chance to catch on and prove its worth. The importance of keeping the list of volunteer twelfth-steppers up to date and on a rotating basis cannot be over-emphasized.
A SAMPLING OF SOME OF THE EXPERIENCES THAT WERE SHARED WITH US
‘We asked for a show of hands at just one meeting, and seven people indicated they had come to A.A. through the answering service. Is it worth it? We should say it is!’
‘We are pleased with our answering service. We have ‘twelfth-stepped’ the operators, and they are gracious and sympathetic. We feel fortunate and grateful.’
‘From the time our service was started, the attendance at our meetings increased tremendously. We have some volunteers who started with our answering service seven years ago and are still at it, on a rotating basis.
Archives From G.S.O., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163
Whenever a society or civilization perishes there is always one condition present; they forgot where they came from – Carl Sandberg
Like any other A.A. service, the primary purpose of those involved in archival work is to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous. Archives service work is more than mere custodial activity; it is the means by which we collect, preserve and share the rich and meaningful heritage of our Fellowship. It is by the collection and sharing of these important historical elements that our collective gratitude for Alcoholics Anonymous is deepened.
A.A. members have a responsibility to gather and take good care of the Fellowship’s historical documents and memorabilia. Correspondence, records, photographs, newspaper and magazine articles from the past need to be collected, preserved and made available for the guidance and research of A.A. members and others (researchers, historians, and scholars from various disciplines) — for now and for the generations to come.
In the mid-1990’s, the trustees’ Archives Committee developed and approved a mission statement applicable to the Archives of the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous, which reads as follows:
Pursuant to A.A.’s primary purpose for maintaining our sobriety and helping other alcoholics to achieve recovery, the Archives of Alcoholics Anonymous adopts the following mission statement: To receive, classify and index all relevant material, including but not limited to, administrative files and records, correspondence, and literary and artifactual works considered to have historical import to Alcoholics Anonymous. To hold and preserve such material, making access possible, as determined by the present archivist in consultation with the Archives committee, to members of Alcoholics Anonymous, and those of the public who may have a valid need to review said material, such access to be provided only during business hours and with a mindful view toward the anonymity of our members.
One of the best ways to get started in archival service work is to obtain a copy of the “Handbook for Setting up an Alcoholics Anonymous Archival Repository,” available from the G.S.O. Archives. The handbook contains helpful information gathered from shared experience over many years. It points out that the idea of setting up an archives in a specific geographic area most often occurs to someone who has been in A.A. for a while, or to several old-timers who realize the need to create local or area archival centers, beginning with a project to collect material for an area history.
Often, after a need for archives has been identified, the idea is brought to the area or state committee or local central office/intergroup committee, as applicable, for wider discussion. Following sharing and reaching a group conscience, it may then be agreed upon to create an Archives committee responsible to the area or state committee or central office/intergroup committee. Archives committees usually include A.A. members knowledgeable about the early history, who have sources for obtaining historical A.A. material.
THE ROLE OF THE ARCHIVES COMMITTEE
The Archives committee is responsible for establishing policies, budgets and procedures. It undertakes and maintains final responsibility and authority for the use of the archives, and exercises its group conscience in regard to matters of general policy. In all of its actions, the Archives committee needs to be mindful of and guided by A.A.’s primary purpose. Thus, if non-A.A. friends are asked to serve on the committee, which is possible because of interest and special knowledge or expertise, they ought to be people who are thoroughly familiar with our primary purpose, as well as all or our A.A. Traditions.
One of the most important functions of the Archives committee is to establish creative parameters for the selection of material to be collected. These parameters will guide the archivist in gathering material of historical significance and will reduce the time and space of preserving random bits and pieces of dubious value.
THE ROLE OF THE ARCHIVIST
The Archives committee may decide, as its first act, to select a member to serve as a nonrotating archivist, so that there will be a focal person for the collection. From shared experience we know that it takes a considerable amount of time to become familiar with a collection of historical information. Therefore, it is not recommended that the archivist rotate frequently. The committee maintains final responsibility and authority for the uses of the archives, as well as all other mattes of policy, through its group conscience.
The archivist is the person responsible for the collection, the documents and artifactual items. He or she takes care of and maintains the physical integrity of the collection, and also develops finding aids, so as to add to the collection. The archivist is also responsible for ensuring the protection of the anonymity of members, and the confidentiality of the A.A. records. It is helpful and desirable that the archivist takes at least an introductory course in archival science or for library science, and has a membership in a local archivists organization.
The function of the archivist can be considered therefore to be twofold: primarily, a custodial responsibility for assuring the physical integrity of the collection and its availability to persons with a valid reason for study; and also a parallel and critical role of data collector. It is in this latter capacity that service can be rendered to Bill W.’s urging that archives are needed “so that myth doesn’t prevail over fact.” In a real sense then, A.A. archivists are “keepers of the past.”
FINANCING THE ARCHIVES
In keeping with Tradition Seven, the archives ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions. It is better when funding for the archives is derived from an overall budget of the A.A. entity it serves, rather than through separate A.A. contributions. In this way, archival activity can better reflect the support of the membership, and maintain the perspective of the entire range of Twelfth-Step activity.
HOUSING THE ARCHIVES
Over the years it has become clear that, whenever possible, an archives ought to be housed in rented space, rather than in an individual A.A. member’s home. Renting space for the archives eliminates both any appearance of there being a “private collection,” and any problems that might arise later regarding issues of ownership following the death or departure of a custodian. Additionally, with rented space, displays of all general material can be made available on a regularly scheduled basis.
DEVELOPING A COLLECTION
Books, pamphlets, world directories, local meeting lists, G.S.O. bulletins, Conference Reports, International Convention booklets, newsletters, area and district minutes, written histories, photographs and audiotapes all serve as the foundation of a collection. The archivist might also arrange to audiotape local old-timers, thus adding historical oral histories to the collection.
Local A.A. historical material, such as letters, bulletins and photographs, need to be sought out and accumulated in an ongoing manner from old-timers, past delegates, various committee members and so on. It is important to note that whenever a donation is made to an archives, written documentation be recorded indicating that the material has been presented to the archives (rather than to an archivist) to avoid any misunderstanding later on regarding ownership of the donation.
The archivist can contact other local archives for ideas by asking the G.S.O. archivist to forward the list of those archives that have indicated a willingness to exchange information. In addition, archives committees can participate in and publicize local history-gathering efforts, making presentations, and offering table displays at many A.A. events, such as old-timer meetings, conventions, roundups.
As soon as an item is received in the archives, it should be added to the inventory list. Next, the conservation and preservation needs of the collection should be evaluated and followed up on. As a general rule, any action on a document or item that is not reversible should never be performed. For example, scotch tape or lamination ought never to be used. Removal of tape, repair, deacidification and encapsulation are some of the steps necessary to protect the integrity of a document. Consult the “Handbook for Setting up an Alcoholics Anonymous Archival Repository” for some conservation and preservation procedures, as well as other resources listed at the bottom of these Guidelines. Sometimes it may be necessary to seek outside professional help to ensure the integrity of an item.
Once prepared, as archival item should then be categorically classified. The G.S.O. Archives has the following classifications: “Open to all,” “Open to A.A. members,” “Open with the approval of the Archives committee” and “Closed at this time.” This final classification means that it is not available to anyone–sometimes donors request that documents remain sealed for a certain period of time to come. The item should then be entered into a retrieval system, either manual or computerized, in order to provide readily accessed information to researchers. Archival items are indexed by record groups or series, rather than by item.
RESEARCH IN THE ARCHIVES
Researchers working in the archives ought to be informed that they will be expected to strictly adhere to our Anonymity Traditions–only first names and last initials of A.A. members may be used by them. Further, the trustees’ Archives Committee has recommended that there be no photocopying of private correspondence. This recommendation is also designed to assure anonymity protection, and to maintain the physical integrity of archival documents.
In addition to the preservation of the anonymity of the author of the correspondence, the writer’s private opinions and observations, some of which might be highly controversial, must be treated with extreme delicacy. It might be remembered that members share these documents with a trust and expectation that their remarks will be held in confidence. No one has an intrinsic right to view another’s private correspondence at will; it is essential that the archivist’s chief concern of assuring this spiritual wholeness of the collection be understood and supported.
AVAILABLE ARCHIVAL ITEMS
The following items, available from G.S.O. through the Catalog/Order Form, might appeal to those with an historic interest: A.A. Comes of Age; “Pass It On;” Dr. Bob and the Good Old-timers; “Voices of Our Co-founders,” an audiotape cassette of five talks given by Bill and Dr. Bob; “Markings on the Journey,” a filmstrip or videotape of A.A. history; and two Scrapbooks, collections of compelling newspaper articles on early A.A. (1939-1942) and (1943).
In addition, the following items may be ordered directly from G.S.O. Archives: a photocopy of a prepublication manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous; and a set of 8″x10″ b&w photographs of places and individuals involved in the establishment of A.A. in its formative years.
For a more detailed discussion of archival matters, please review the “Handbook for Setting up an Alcoholics Anonymous Archival Repository,” available directly from the G.S.O. Archives. The handbook contains a bibliography of basic professional literature, and a list of archival supply companies.
The Society of American Archivists (SAA) is a good resource to contact. They have published seven books in their “Archival Fundamentals” series–especially helpful is Preserving Archives and Manuscripts. SAA also offers a literature catalog, and may be reached at: Society of American Archivists, 600 S. Federal, Suite 504, Chicago, IL 6065. Telephone: 1-312-922-0140.
Correctional Facilities Committee
From G.S.O., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163
A.A. Guidelines are compiled from the shared experience of A.A. members in the various areas. They also reflect guidance given through the Twelve Traditions and the General Service Conference (U.S. and Canada). In keeping with our Tradition of autonomy, except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole, most decisions are made by the group conscience of the members involved. The purpose of these guidelines is to assist in reaching an informed group conscience.
HOW A.A.s CARRY THE MESSAGE TO ALCOHOLICS IN CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES
The material in these Guidelines has come from the experience and “growing pains” of A.A. correctional facilities committees. We are privileged to share it with A.A.s throughout the United States and Canada who are carrying our message behind the walls.
PURPOSE The purpose of a correctional facilities committee is to coordinate the work of individual A.A. members and groups who are interested in carrying our message of recovery to alcoholics behind the walls, and to set up means of “bridging the gap” from the facility to the larger A.A. community through pre-release contacts.
A correctional facilities committee may function within the structure of a General Service Conference area committee or a central office (intergroup). In A.A.’s early years, prison Twelfth Step work was usually done by an individual group or an individual member. As A.A. has grown, however, it seems that a committee formed within the A.A. service structure works more effectively.
Prior to 1977, services to correctional and treatment facilities were provided under the umbrella of the Institutions Committee. Because of rapid growth, the 1977 General Service Conference voted to dissolve its Institutions Committee and two new committees, one on correctional facilities and one on treatment facilities, were formed. This division was created to provide better service to groups and meetings in both kinds of facilities.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Perhaps the first step would be to contact your General Service Area Committee or local intergroup (central office), and if there is an existing correctional facilities committee, they will connect you to the committee chairperson. Local A.A. groups and members should be given the opportunity of sharing in and doing correctional facility Twelfth Step work. It has proved a good idea to have members from many groups serve on this committee. If a correctional facility committee does not exist in your area, then you may wish to form a new one. Thus, a chairperson is elected, and plans are worked out so that each correctional facility group and correctional facility in the area will be assured of A.A. help. The chairperson of the correctional facilities committee often participates within the area general service committee or intergroup steering committee. These committees convene every month to make assignments and handle other related business. The chairperson relays information from meetings of the Conference Committee on Correctional Facilities, held during the annual General Service Conference, and shares Conference thinking and experience on A.A. in correctional facilities. If you are a new committee, the next step would be to list your correctional committee with the General Service Office in New York. Your chairperson will be put on a mailing list and receive a Correctional Facilities Workbook and other service literature and material.
The Correctional Facilities Workbook is a good basic tool for those involved in correctional work. It contains information on how to do correctional facilities work, background information, guide letters, and a selection of pamphlets, leaflets, etc. If your area already has a functioning committee, the workbook may provide new ideas or new ways of implementing old ideas. If your committee is just getting off the ground, the workbook will help you find effective ways of getting organized.
RELATIONSHIP TO A.A. IN THE AREA OR DISTRICT
As in all A.A. activity, communication of needs and progress is al-important. Such communication can be maintained through group representatives at intergroup/central office or general service area meetings, through area or intergroup newsletters, and by direct contact by committee members at regular A.A. meetings.
Communication also takes place at special dinners where correctional facilities committees invite others to attend; regular correctional facilities workshops at area conferences (in a few areas, inmates are allowed to attend these conferences with their group advisers) and during monthly meetings of these committees (rotated within an area) to which all A.A.s are invited.
BASIC FUNCTIONS OF C.F. COMMITTEES The basic functions of correctional facilities committees are elaborated on in the Correctional Facilities Workbook. However, for your edification, the major headings will now be highlighted.
Correctional facility committees, when allowed to do so, take regular A.A. meetings into facilities within their area. It encourages “outside” group participation in this kind of Twelfth Step work. In some areas, each group has a group correctional facilities representative. It provides a liaison between the correctional facilities groups and meetings and groups on the outside, and also coordinates prerelease contact.
The relationship with prison authorities is discussed in the workbook to ensure a positive reciprocal working relationship with administrators and staff. One such suggestion is that A.A.s in this Twelfth Step work seek to understand, respect, and adhere to all correctional facilities regulations.
The workbook also goes into detail about prison A.A. meetings. It suggests different ways to shoulder responsibility for meetings and speakers.
Most committees find that adequate literature supplies are essential in a correctional facility group or meeting. Supplies are financed and obtained in several ways: Donated by local intergroup or general service committee; donated by members of the committee; purchased with individual contributions; provided by groups through their correctional facilities representatives.
Special funds: Buck of the Month Club, where members contribute, and funds are used for correctional facilities literature; special meetings or dinners, at which a collection is taken; special cans at regular meetings, marked “For Correctional Facilities Literature.”
NOTE: Correctional Facilities Discount Packages are available from G.S.O.
Experience shows that even though an inmate may have been participating in a group or meeting in a correctional facility, there is anxiety about the transition to a regular A.A. group on the outside. With the constant reminder that A.A. has only sobriety to offer, many committees do try to provide some additional personal contact, so this transition period can be made easier.
Pre-parole activity is encouraged in some areas, and many committees work closely with parole officers.
Sometimes, inmates are allowed to attend outside meetings in advance of their parole. Through continual contact with parole officers, the committee can be given vital statistics on all parolees coming into and leaving the area. The parolees are then contacted immediately on arrival, and those going elsewhere are given contacts at their destinations through the A.A. directories.
The contact chairperson or group sponsor meets the inmate on release. Sponsorship being the personal thing that it is, many areas have found it helpful to have inmates select their own sponsors once contact with the outside has been made. The initial contacts do not necessarily continue as sponsors, but do serve as a vital link between the prison and the outside A.A. group.
RELATIONSHIP TO AL–ANON
Many areas report it is extremely helpful to cooperate with AI-Anon Family Groups, in order that the family of the inmate may gain a better understanding of our Fellowship. For information, contact AI-Anon Family Groups, P.O. Box 862, Midtown Station, New York, NY 10018-0862.
RELATIONSHIP TO G.S.O.
G.S.O. lists correctional facilities chairpersons and committee members (U.S. and Canada). The people on this mailing list are sent the following material:
1. Box 459 – every two months.
2. Correctional Facilities Workbook (Chairperson).
The Corrections Correspondence Service, coordinated through G.S.O., offers an opportunity for A.A.s on the “outside” to share experience, strength, and hope through letters with fellow members. Helpful guidelines for this service are provided to both “inside” and “outside” A.A.s. You may write to G.S.O. to become a part of this service.
Please keep in touch with us, so that we may share your activities in Box 4-5-9 and add your experience to our files, to help others who are involved in this rewarding area of service.
Clubs From G.S.O., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163
A.A. Guidelines are compiled from the shared experience of A.A. members throughout the U.S. and Canada. They also reflect guidance given through the Twelve Traditions and the General Service Conference. In keeping with our Tradition of autonomy except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole, most decisions are made by the group conscience of the members involved. The purpose of these Guidelines is to assist in reaching an informed group conscience.
From A.A.’s beginning, the group has been the mainspring in carrying out the primary purpose of A.A.- ‘to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.” It is in the group that A.A.s recover, learn to live together in unity, and grow spiritually through service. Thus, A.A. members around the world zealously protect the group, because it is the very core of our sober lives today‑ the place where we live and work together, ever‑mindful of our common welfare.
The A.A. group is A.A., not only to members, but also to our non-A.A. friends. Thus, any other service entity that comes into existence should conduct its affairs in such a way that it will enhance the effectiveness of the A.A. group, so that the message will continue to be carried and each A.A. will have the opportunities for service that come from group activities.
GROWTH OF CLUBS
There have always been A.A.s who have sought a place to go for coffee and conversation; a spot where members could gather for lunch; a place where they could gather socially on weekends and holidays. They want an A.A. social life, too, which they may find in a club.
In 1947, Bill W. wrote a Grapevine article on clubs that became part of our pamphlet “A.A. Tradition-How It Developed.” The title carried the question, “Clubs in A.A.-Are They With Us to Stay?” Today, the answer to that question can be “yes.” It is felt that the success and the endurance of the club idea can be ascribed to the wisdom and guidance expressed in Bill’s article and to the willingness of club-minded A.A.s to help make them work. These A.A.s make it possible for a club to function effectively without detracting from A.A.’s source of recovery-the A.A. group. Their experience tells them that a club can live in harmony with A.A. in its area and can serve a very useful purpose for those who find a club helpful.
The question then is: “How can those interested in starting a club today have one that will be an asset to A.A. in the community, as well as a pleasant place to get together for those who wish to use it?”
OUT OF EXPERIENCE
Here are some suggestions that come from the experience of established clubs:
• Even though a club is not “A.A.,” many will think of the club as A.A.-particularly the non-A.A.s in your community. Therefore, it is suggested that you familiarize yourself with A.A.’s Twelve Traditions-and guide club matters in keeping with these Traditions.
So, while it is suggested that the name of the club not involve A.A., the club members stick carefully to A.A. Traditions and accept funds only from club members. Naturally, this includes any kind of fund-raising that would involve the public. Dues and contributions keep the club going-plus rent money from A.A. groups that hold their meetings in the club.
Frequently, there is a temptation to accept building materials, furniture, and kitchen equipment and supplies from well-meaning, civic minded non-A.A.s. Everyone in the club should be aware of the value of the self-support Tradition-the one that has brought A.A. along to this point completely independent and financially sound.
• Define the purpose of your club and look for space that will meet your needs. Determine the amount of money needed for such an operation, and work out a budget that will cover getting started, rent, utilities, custodial care, and any other known expenses.
• Call a meeting of all interested A.A.s‑separate from an A.A. group meeting. Inform them of your plans and the financial needs, and determine how many dues-paying members you can count on from the beginning. Also, ask the local group or groups whether they would be interested in renting space from the club for A.A. meetings and, if so, how much rent they would consider reasonable.
Sometimes, charter members of the club are willing to pay a little more in the beginning to help get the club off the ground. It seems better to ask all to participate in this financing than for one or two people to assume this responsibility. Let every A.A. participate who wants to- it is more fun that way.
WHAT KIND OF DIRECTORS?
• Now may also be the time to ask interested members present to consider two more questions. Who will serve as club directors? What should their qualifications be? Directors’ responsibility involves the handling of the business affairs of the club. They hold the lease and pay all bills for maintenance of the property. Many clubs require approximately three years’ A.A. sobriety for directors and follow the suggestion that those serving as club directors should not hold offices in the A.A. groups meeting in the club. This avoids confusion.
• At this meeting, you might also determine qualifications for club membership. Most clubs require 30 days of A.A. sobriety, while a few require 90 days. But new A.A.s may use the club facilities as guests until they qualify for club membership. All dues-paying members would normally be eligible to hold office and to vote at the club business meetings.
• And now, if all goes as planned and it looks as if enough A.A.s are interested to make financing possible, it is time to consult a lawyer and have the club incorporated as a nonprofit business organization, under the rules of the state or province in which it will function. This should not be a very complicated or expensive project. Incorporation is in accordance with Tradition Six, which implies that property to be used by A.A.s should be separately incorporated and managed, “lest problems of money, property, and prestige” divert A.A. from its primary purpose: Needless to say, a club so incorporated should not have “A.A.” in its name. If bank loans are necessary, they should be held by directors of the corporation, and payment should be made from club funds. Caution is suggested in committing future A.A.s to sums and obligations they may not wish to assume. It seems better to start small and enlarge as growth and finances warrant.
• After the club is incorporated, a meeting of the directors may be held to determine details of club operation. This might be followed by a meeting of dues‑paying members to obtain approval of overall plans, club rules, etc. All bylaws and rules can be amended, of course, as experience is acquired. • Gambling: Much thought should be given to prohibiting gambling. Many difficulties have been caused in already‑existing clubs over the years because of gambling; and in some cases, publicity and notoriety have resulted. Because so many club members are also A.A. members, this kind of thing can be damaging to A.A. • Card games, billiards, table tennis, TV-watching, etc., are activities that many club members enjoy. If they are played for the fun of it, not for money (gambling, placing bets, etc.), they aren’t likely to stand in the way of talking to new people and visitors and carrying the A.A. message. • Experience proves that intergroup or central offices, answering services, and central service committees should be separate from clubs-physically separate and separate as far as administration is concerned. In some cases, a newly formed intergroup or central office is invited to use club facilities. At that point, A.A.s should take a good look at Tradition Nine and remember that a service office is responsible to all A.A. groups and members, while a club is responsible chiefly to its dues‑paying members. Generous as the offer may appear, a service office is well advised to maintain its own quarters and its own officers.
A.A. GROUPS MEETING IN CLUBS
The A.A. group: The importance of each group’s maintaining its autonomy and identity separate from the club in which it meets cannot be emphasized too strongly. The group’s responsibility is to the suffering alcoholic and to the Fellowship as a whole, not to the club. In order to fulfill this primary purpose:
• The group uses a name different from that of the club. • The group is self-supporting through its own contributions. This includes paying a fair rent for use of the facilities, maintaining a separate treasury, and making its own contributions directly to the local central/intergroup office (if there is one), to G.S.O., the area general service committee, and the district. • Remember, an A.A. group is available to any alcoholic, as the only requirement for group membership is a desire to stop drinking. • Even though the group meets in a club that may be composed exclusively of A.A. members, and many members of the group may be club members, too, the relationship of the A.A. group itself to the club should be the same as it would be to a church, hospital, school, etc., in which it might rent space for its meetings.
An expression of opinion on clubs for A.A. members followed a discussion on this subject at the 1967 General Service Conference. It states:
“The discussion on clubs noted that, although there is no such thing as an ‘A.A. club,’ many clubs have been identified with A.A. because they are organized and directed by A.A. members and membership is limited to A.A.’s. Clubs where meetings are held and which are maintained for Twelfth Step as well as social purposes can avoid difficulties by abiding by A.A. Traditions. They should not use the A.A. name, however, and should be organized apart from A.A. They should not accept money from outside sources, being supported by membership dues and individual contributions from A.A. members. The question of a paid membership in A.A. does not arise, since A.A. meetings held in clubs are open to all. The Conference voiced recognition of the fact that clubs should operate within A.A. Traditions and abide by them to the fullest.”
Further guidance was given to G.S.O. by the 1972 General Service Conference, which advised that G.S.O. no longer accept contributions from clubs.
This decision was based on returns from a questionnaire sent to all clubs. The answers indicated that the difference in club operating procedures was too great to enable G.S.O. to decide whether or not money received from a particular club was contributed by A.A. members only. (Of course, G.S.O. does accept contributions from A.A. groups that meet on club premises.)
In 1981, the General Service Conference recommended, “that clubs not receive the A.A. literature discount.” By reserving the discount privilege for A.A. groups and their central/intergroup offices, the Conference once more indicated the status of clubs as separate organizations‑the way they function best.
In 1989, the General Service Conference recommended to discontinue listing clubs in A.A. Directories. However, groups that meet in clubs will continue to be listed in the Directories.
Conferences and Conventions From G.S.O., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163
A.A. Guidelines are compiled from the shared experience of A.A. members in the various areas. They also reflect guidance given through the Twelve Traditions and the General Service Conference (U.S. and Canada). In keeping with our Tradition of autonomy, except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole, most decisions are made by the group conscience of the members involved. The purpose of these guidelines is to assist in reaching an informed group conscience.
HOW A.A.s MAKE THEIR GET-TOGETHERS ENJOYABLE AS WELL AS EFFECTIVE IN CARRYING THE A.A. MESSAGE OF RECOVERY
WHY HAVE AN A.A. CONVENTION?
It’s clear that A.A. get-togethers beyond the group have become an established part of A.A. life. The calendar in any Box 4-5-9 or in the Grapevine shows how many conventions, conferences, and banquets are being held by A.A.s throughout the world.
What makes an A.A. convention click for its participants? It’s probably not style or form that matters so much as the spirit and feeling behind it. As one member puts it, the best A.A. convention is “just a darned good A.A. meeting blown up big.” Just watch enthusiastic members at any A.A. convention and you’ll get what he means. The atmosphere alone is worth the trip. Here you’ll find fellowship, laughter, warmth, and understanding-“heaped up, pressed down, and running over.”
CONVENTIONS COME IN MANY SHAPES AND SIZES
An A.A. convention is almost any A.A. get‑together beyond the group‑meeting level. These range from special meetings of one evening’s duration to longer events-area, statewide, or regional weekend conventions. They will, most likely, be one of the following:
1 The special open meeting. This kind of gathering can serve useful purposes. It will, of course, bring together the A.A. members in a city or area. But it also provides a good opportunity to invite interested friends of A.A. to the meeting. Certainly, it’s proper on such occasions to send special invitations to members of the clergy, doctors, lawyers, social workers, public health officials, and others who may have a special interest in A.A.
2 The one-day session. This might include several general meetings throughout the day. For a start, there’s a “welcome” meeting in the morning, followed by other activities. There may be another open meeting in the afternoon, while the main open meeting with the featured speaker is saved for the windup meeting in the evening. If the convention is held in a school, civic hall, or other building with additional rooms, it’s likely that the program for a one‑day session can also include A.A. workshops and panels, service meetings, assemblies, and closed meetings.
3 The banquet. Many intergroups or central offices now sponsor annual banquets, often to help support their office operations. Some groups and areas also have banquets (or informal buffet and potluck dinners) as anniversary or gratitude observances. These are often held on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, sometimes in conjunction with a larger A.A. convention. The banquet often features an after-dinner speaker or some other program of interest to A.A. members.
4 The weekend convention. This is an ideal form for a state, provincial, or regional convention. Members often arrive for an opening meeting session or “coffee & conversation” on Friday evening. Additional meetings and workshops‑as well as other activities‑continue through Saturday and even into Sunday afternoon. The convention may include a banquet, luncheons, special breakfasts, Saturday‑night dancing and entertainment, and perhaps a spiritual meeting on Sunday morning.
THE CONVENTION BEGINS WITH A PLANNING COMMITTEE
Once a get-together has been scheduled, it needs a planning committee. The work in setting up a convention is too much for one person. He or she will need at least a dozen assistants, frequently more.
One method of forming the committee is simply to appoint a general chairperson who then completes the committee by finding able volunteers to chair the various committees.
Another method-popular when a number of groups sponsor a convention-is to send a committee representative from each group. Once in session, representatives can elect a chairperson and receive assignments to specific committees.
In some cases, the convention may be the responsibility of the general service committee from the area. In others, the convention committee may be organized separately. Either method works well if it corresponds to the wishes of the A.A. groups in the area.
In some areas, there is a permanent convention committee, set up within the area committee, so that valuable experience of convention planning can be carried over from one year to the next. Membership on such a committee is, of course, on a rotation basis, so that new members are added yearly, but a proportion of experienced convention planners are retained at any given time.
Once assembled, the convention committee is usually organized along functional lines, with each chairperson responsible for a phase of the planning. Here’ s how a typical committee might be arranged:
1 Chairperson (assisted by one or two co-chairpersons) oversees the entire convention; coordinates the work of subcommittee chairpersons; keeps informed on the progress of all the arrangements; calls committee meetings when needed.
2 Secretary keeps all written records, including minutes of the committee meetings; also sends out notices of committee meetings and other mailings to committee members.
3 Treasurer is, of course, responsible for all money, including revenues from registration and banquet tickets; pays all bills; usually advises the chairperson on cash supply and income flow as well as rate of expenditures.
(Experience indicates it’s best if the treasurer is a person with four or more years’ sobriety and some solid business experience. Each check usually calls for two signatures.) Most convention committees require a complete report from the treasurer within a month or two of the convention. Some committees have the report audited as a further safeguard for convention funds.
4 Program Chairperson. Since this is often a very complex job, its objectives are discussed under the separate heading “What Makes a Good Convention Program?” This person usually sends invitations to speakers and panel members who chair various meetings.
5 Ticket Chairperson supervises the printing and distribution of all tickets, giving special attention to the task of bringing in the collections.
6 Public Information Chairperson has the sensitive task of encouraging a large attendance without abandoning A.A.’s principle of “attraction rather than promotion.” Publicity efforts can be kept within the dignity and spirit of A.A. through the following means:
a. Preparation and distribution of material about the program, speakers, and time and location of the convention (perhaps including map of area, if necessary). It’s advisable for the convention committee to rent a post office box and use that on all mailings, with no reference to A.A. on return addresses.
The convention publicity material should also be sent to the press, radio, and TV outlets in the immediate area. (The Public Information Workbook, available from G.S.O., gives useful advice on approaching the media.)
b. Regular fliers about the convention are usually mailed monthly to all groups in the area, with the first mailing beginning about six months before the convention date.
c. Dates and location of the convention, with a mailing address for information or registration, should be sent (three months in advance) to the A.A. Grapevine and to Box 4-5-9, to be published in their calendars. The GV lists only area, regional, state, or provincial events of more than one day’s duration; send notices to Box 1980, New York, NY 10163. For Box 4-5-9, send notices to Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163.
7 Entertainment Chairperson will arrange for the convention dances and floorshow if there is one. The chairperson hires the band and other performers (or arranges for taped or recorded music). At some conventions, the local A.A.s provide entertainment by putting on a play about A.A. Traditions (for script, write to G.S.O.), or putting together choruses and variety shows. This chairperson might also arrange to make sightseeing available for conventioneers.
8 Hospitality Chairperson serves as convention host, organizing a committee that will greet out-of-town guests, arrange transportation for them when necessary, and see to any other needs they might have while attending the convention. Usually members of the hospitality committee wear special identification badges and are available to answer questions and provide assistance to conventioneers.
9 Display and Literature Chairperson is responsible for displays and posters and for having A.A. literature available for all. G.S.O. provides a literature display to all conferences and conventions. (See “Displays”)
10 Taping Chairperson is responsible for negotiating with the individual or company who will be taping the convention. That individual will be directly responsible to the convention chairperson (see Taping Guidelines).
PAYING THE BILLS
How are the costs of a convention covered and what can be done to make sure that the venture won’t go deep in the red? Some conventions may involve spending several thousand dollars, so the committee must have a fair picture of the financial arrangements long before the convention opens. There’s no substitute for common sense here; the committee must take a businesslike approach to finances and keep expenditures somewhere within a conservative estimate of anticipated revenues. As for financing the convention, several sound methods seem to be in general use:
1 The Underwriting Method. The groups in the area, perhaps through their representatives on the convention committee, agree to underwrite the complete costs of the event. Since the registration fees can be established at a level sufficient to cover the total costs, this should result in no actual out-of-pocket costs to groups. It’s a good idea, though, to put the tickets on sale well in advance of the convention and to know where the break-even point lies. Registration fees cover costs for special events.
2 The Convention Fund. In some areas, the groups make year round contributions to a convention fund. Then, there is no registration fee, except for out-of-state visitors.
One method of covering deficits, provided it is done with tact and sufficient explanation, is to take up a special collection at the convention. But if the groups have already been consulted and have agreed to underwrite the convention, making up the deficit is their ultimate responsibility.
Most conventions, however, make a profit. What’s to be done with these surplus funds? In most cases, part of the surplus is held in trust for next year’s convention. Then the committee uses the balance to help support local service offices or the General Service Office. In accordance with our Seventh Tradition, only funds from A.A. members attending the event should be contributed to support A.A. activities.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CONVENTION PROGRAM?
One A.A. member shared his opinion that the program wasn’t really the most important thing at a convention. He looks for something in addition the joys of meeting new and old friends, working together for our common good, and sharing our experience, strength and hope with each other.
He goes on to say that there can also be a letdown feeling when we leave a convention if the program hasn’t been imaginative and inspiring. This takes careful thought well in advance of the convention date. A well-balanced program might include:
1 The Convention Theme. Often, it’s easier to plan the overall program by organizing it around a simple theme. Such a theme might be “Unity,” “We Came to Believe . . .” “First Things First,” or a similar A.A. saying or topic. This does not mean that the entire program must be devoted to the theme idea; it does, however, serve as a reminder that an A.A. convention advances the common purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous.
2 Main Features-Banquets, Open Meetings, etc. In planning a convention, program chairpersons usually schedule several large open meetings throughout the event, although not necessarily in immediate succession. A Saturday-night banquet may also serve as an open meeting, with a speaker following the dinner.
The large open meeting brings unity to the convention and gives the opportunity for presenting certain matters‑such as the selection of the next year’s convention site‑before the entire assembly of A.A.s attending. But too many open meetings in any single convention can be tiresome; as a general rule, three or four such meetings are sufficient in a weekend convention.
3 Panels. Many program chairpersons schedule workshops and panel sessions to provide suitable convention activity without overloading the program with open meetings.
Workshops and panels may take a variety of forms; one popular arrangement is to set up a panel with three speakers and a chairperson. Each speaker may be assigned a topic and a time limit. The session may be followed by a short question-and-answer period, if time allows.
On the subject of panels, experience has shown that topics such as “How the General Service Office Works” or “Why G.S.O.?” attract only a small audience and therefore do not carry the message in a satisfactory fashion. G.S.O. staff members can best be used as speakers on regular panels-where their familiarity with A.A. worldwide can add an extra dimension to the presentation.
Any one of the trustees (especially your own regional trustee) would be invaluable on such topics as “A.A. and Responsibility.” They are in a crossroads position where they are aware of our Fellowship-particularly on the public level-and also having an overall perspective on our purposes, strengths, and weaknesses. They can be of great value in helping us learn more about worldwide A.A.
Don’t forget your own G.S.R.s, committee members, and delegates. From their work in carrying the message outside their own groups, they’ll have many ideas on such subjects as “Is A.A. Changing?” “A.A. at Work, Then and Now.” Many other A.A.s old-timers and not-so-old-timers-also have worthwhile information and thoughts on such subjects.
Here are some suggested topics appropriate for workshops and panels:
Cooperation With the Professional Community
Intergroups and Central Offices
(Some program committees select phrases from A.A. literature as workshop or panel topics.)
“Balance” and “flow” are two key words in the planning of a convention program, particularly in setting up the panels. It’s important that the program flow smoothly, with one feature following another in a pleasant, logical series. It’s also important that the panel topics and participants be balanced, so as not to give the audience too much of any one subject, too many speakers from one area, or too many panel participants of similar experience and viewpoint.
One effective way to insure maximum interest and participation in the convention is to farm out each meeting, workshop, or panel to a different group or area within the convention territory. Thus, the groups themselves plan and organize the meetings, always working closely with the general program chairperson to assure balance.
4 Care of Speakers. Most conventions feature speakers from out of town, sometimes A.A. members living a thousand miles or more from the convention site. This means that program chairpersons have a responsibility to see that certain important matters are properly handled on the speakers’ behalf:
a. Expenses. It should be clear, when the speakers are booked, what terms are being made for expenses. Unless it’s otherwise specified, speakers have a right to assume that all their travel, meal, and hotel expenses will be paid for the entire trip. Speakers will also expect hotel or motel accommodations as a matter of course; if they’re to be guests in private homes, this should be explained before their arrival.
b. Speaking Arrangements. Speakers should know when they’re expected to speak and whether their presence is also required elsewhere in the convention. (Some speakers may be unable to attend the entire convention.) No other commitments besides speaking should be made for speakers without their knowledge and consent. Most speakers will also appreciate knowing something about the conditions under which they’ll speak; let them know whether there’ll be a podium, public address system, etc.
c. Speaker Hosts and/or Hostesses. Responsible members from the local group should be assigned the duty of being host to the visiting speakers and making sure that they have proper accommodations, as well as transportation and other conveniences.
PROVIDING SERVICES FOR A.A.s WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
For Deaf Members
A.A. members who are deaf or hard of hearing may need special considerations when attending an A.A. conference or convention. For those who have a fair amount of hearing and/or who read lips, seating near the speaker may be all that is required. Others who are deaf may require the use of a sign language interpreter. Here are some points to consider when planning a conference or meeting that will be attended by deaf or hard of hearing A.A.s.
1 Reserve interpreters well ahead of time because they are in great demand.
2 Budget the interpreting expenses. Find out early what the estimated cost will be, whether by the hour or by the day. If you are holding concurrent workshops, you may need more than one interpreter at the same time. If your event is small (and short) you may be fortunate to find a qualified volunteer, but do not expect to rely on volunteers.
3 In arranging preferred seating for deaf or hard of hearing members, designate the reserve area clearly: “Please reserve for hearing-impaired members.”
4 Sensitize workshop leaders and meeting chairpersons to the use of the interpreter.
5 Stick with your plans once you have announced that an event is sign‑language accessible. Deaf people are very likely to travel far for the few events that are interpreted. If the event is a large one with concurrent meetings and workshops, plan for continuous availability of several interpreters.
6 If you are listing the event with the General Service Office, your local intergroup, or in any A.A. publication, specify that it is sign language interpreted. If possible, have a T.D.D. number that deaf people can call for more information.
For A.A.s With Other Special Needs
For blind people, some convention committees provide programs in Braille.
Also, if meetings are wheelchair accessible, this may be noted in the program.
GUARDING AGAINST ANONYMITY BREAKS
When A.A. conventions are being covered by members of the press, it’s customary to begin meetings by asking their cooperation in protecting members’ anonymity. Such an announcement might go like this:
“Our anonymity, like our sobriety, is a treasured possession. We ask the help of our guests-especially those representing the press or broadcasting media-in protecting the anonymity of all alcoholics present or mentioned here today.
“We hope you hear something at this meeting which you can take away with you and use. We respectfully request, however, that you eliminate any mention of names in reference to members of Alcoholics Anonymous.”
It’s hardly likely that any newspaper or broadcasting station these days will fail to cooperate with this request; not only is the A.A. principle of anonymity well known generally, but our G.S.O. in New York City has advised the press and broadcasters year after year of A.A.’s position on this matter.
But it’s possible that members’ anonymity may be violated through indirect methods. There’s a likelihood, for example, that too much promotional zeal on the part of the convention committee may lead them to reveal a great deal of information about speakers without actually disclosing last names. This means, in the case of some well-known individuals, that their anonymity is technically protected but actually broken, since their identity can be readily recognized by anybody remotely familiar with them or their work.
In one case, for example, a university professor had been invited to address a large A.A. banquet in the same state where he lived and worked. Only his first name, nickname, and last initial appeared on the announcement posters, but the name of his school and a previous academic connection were fully displayed. The professor’s actual identity couldn’t have been more clearly revealed if his last name and photograph had been included.
Is there a safe way to avoid making such de facto anonymity breaks? Well, one good procedure is to ask speakers how they wish to be listed on posters and advance notices. They’ll know better than anybody else how much information about themselves ought to be revealed. In any case, whatever the speakers’ feelings, the practice of using initials rather than last names should always be followed for the protection of A.A., as well as the individual.
MISCELLANEOUS TIPS ON GOOD CONVENTION MANAGEMENT
When your committee is discussing the convention, try to go over the things you liked and didn’t like at past conventions, especially matters that caused petty irritations and annoyances; most likely, they can be avoided. Here are a few suggestions:
1 Badges. A.A. conventions don’t seem to be right without identification badges. See that they’re in bold, colorful letters, so they can be read at a glance.
Try not to subject guests to more than a few minutes’ wait in registering for the convention and picking up their badges. Organize the registration so the process will flow smoothly and quickly.
2 Coffee. It’s an essential feature-plenty of coffee sessions throughout the convention. Don’t forget, some A.A.s come more to talk to each other than to listen to speakers, so be sure they have lots of opportunity to gather ’round the coffeepot.
3 Accessibility. At large conventions, it’s sometimes necessary to hold some of the open meetings in buildings other than the one used as convention headquarters. Try to plan the meetings so members do not have to go more than a few blocks for a meeting or panel session. One exception to this might be the last open meeting of the convention, from which the guests will most likely be making their departure.
4 Hotel & Motel Registrations. Often, printed lists of local accommodations, giving prices and other information, are available from local chambers of commerce and similar offices. If possible, send these lists out with the registrations and give members a chance to make their reservations long before the convention.
Don’t assume, in sending out the lists, that all A.A.s intend to stay in medium- or high-priced accommodations; also include the lower-priced hotels and motels. In some places, camping facilities are also listed, for the A.A.s who may arrive in campers.
5 Professional Assistance. Don’t hesitate to avail yourself of assistance from local chamber of commerce officials and convention managers. They already know all about the problems you’ll be facing, and they can give invaluable advice and assistance.
6 Displays. You can pass along important A.A. information in an attractive way by using displays available from G.S.O. When you tell us the dates of your get-together, we will automatically send you two of these. One is the large “Inside A.A.” poster, using pictures to explain our service structure. The other is a selection of pamphlets and book jackets to make up a literature display. Consult the Literature Order Form for listing of other useful material, or write to G.S.O. for suggestions.
7 Don’t Compete With Last Year. While it’s best not to try to compete with previous conventions, if you’re the convention chairperson, you will naturally want to benefit from the experience of previous convention committees.
A.A. AND AL-ANON
The following questions often arise:
How may A.A. and AI-Anon cooperate in area and regional conventions and get-togethers?
In accordance with the Twelve Traditions, a convention would be either A.A. or AI-Anon-not both. However, most A.A. convention committees invite AI-Anon to participate by planning its own program, and the committee arranges for facilities for the AI-Anon meetings.
Should an A.A. convention committee make a contribution to AI-Anon from the financial profits of the convention?
In accordance with the self-support Traditions of both Fellowships and to abide by the concept of “cooperation but not affiliation,” it is suggested that A.A. should not make gifts or contributions to AI-Anon. By the same token, A.A. should not accept contributions from AI-Anon. If separate registrations have been kept for both A.A. and AI-Anon, however, income may be easily assigned.
Shared experience makes it clear that taping of an A.A. convention cannot be left to chance. It is a difficult and time consuming job, including preliminary work with the speakers and decisions about who will tape the convention, the conduct of the taper during the convention, and his/her staff and follow-up after the convention. Following are some suggestions:
1 The taping chairperson may represent the convention in reaching agreements with the person who will be taping that particular convention, and in developing a written agreement.
2 The convention taping chairperson may develop a release form on which speakers agree to being taped or decline to be taped.
3 Experience shows that it is best to encourage speakers not to use full names and not to identify third parties by full names in their talks. The strength of our anonymity Traditions is reinforced by speakers who do not use their last names and by taping companies or tapers whose labels and catalogs do not identify speakers by last names, titles, service, jobs or descriptions.
4 The taping chairperson ensures that a taper has an understanding of the Traditions.
5 The agreement prepared by the convention committee determines what the taper sells or displays on‑site.
6 The convention committee clarifies that taping is not an official part of the convention.
7 In keeping with a 1980 General Service Conference recommendation, it is suggested that speakers not be videotaped.
8 Convention committees discourage any taping royalties to the convention committee.
12. Understand that success means YOU are still sober.Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive Twelfth Step workwith other alcoholics.
Reprinted with permission from Box 459, Vol. 44 #5.