How The Activity of Fundraising Conflicts with Tradition

  1. Fundraising conflicts with the AA General Service Board’s expressed and adopted definition of the phrase “fully self-supporting” from Tradition Seven, which states, “all expenses are to be liquidated by individual contributions”. Our founders wished to be very clear. Fundraising activity interferes with our faith that a God of our understanding will direct and provide for our fellowship if we follow traditions. Practicing tradition is our path to a higher power and true unity.
  2. Fundraising activities divert time, resources, intention and focus of individuals and groups from our primary purpose as stated in Tradition Five. Extraordinary time and energy are put into making events “successful” rather than purposeful.
  3. When fundraising generates monies, controversy results concerning “money, property or prestige”. The traditions are unequivocal about the danger to unity of these subjects. Prudent reserves may become inflated and committees dependent upon fundraising events are pressured to raise more funds for bigger and better events.This further leads us away from the spiritual focus of our fellowship and our primary purpose as stated in Tradition Five.
  4. Fundraising activities in meetings changes the atmosphere in meetings so necessary to our primary purpose of carrying the message to the newcomer. Intimidating, enthusiastic or manipulative sales behaviors are not supportive of our relationship to the newcomer. Inaccurate impressions of our program and purpose are made to newcomers and non-addict visitors. Some members of our fellowship will only attend some meetings if they can promote fundraising events, a significant diversion from our primary purpose.
  5. Fundraising diminishes individual member’s and group’s abilities to effect change or voice discontent with any committee by the practice of with holding funds from the “basket” or donations from the group. Committees are often substantially financed by fundraising allowing them to ignore any diminished funding from the “basket”. This principle created by our tradition’s founders is inherent in the 7th Tradition and is a right granted to individual members.
  6. Fundraising promotes governance rather than service, a clear contradiction expressed in the 2nd tradition. Committees may decide on activities supported by fundraising which may have no relation to the collective group conscience. Majority democratic votes are used by committees often to rationalize this behavior. Democratic votes while useful are not to be confused with, nor are they the equivalent of, the spiritual concept of conscience of the fellowship. Governance of this sort is also justified by the notion that what we are doing is “good” or “necessary”, are euphemisms for “the ends justify the means”, hardly the most spiritual concept. Governance is organizational self will and blocks the effect of “a loving God as he may express himself in or group conscience”, central to the 2nd Tradition.
  7. Fundraising permits the receipt of outside contributions to the funding of our fellowship, precisely prohibited by our 7th Tradition. There is no way to establish membership at the time of sale of goods or services and some activities such as raffles, lotteries, auctions of donated merchandise and resale of outside event tickets skirt legalities and does associate our fellowship with outside enterprises.
  8. Fundraising encourages our membership to miss the underlying spiritual experiences inherent in the phrase “fully self-supporting”. Simplicity, faith, generosity and responsibility are for many, necessary experiences required to have changed lives, becoming fully contributing members to our fellowship and to society as a whole.
  9. Various fundraising activities encourage our membership to continue the self- centered behavior of “giving only if there is something in it for me”. This does not contain the underlying spiritual principles of generosity, faith, selflessness and “giving freely of what we have found,” inherent in the principle of self- support of Tradition Seven.
  10. Social events once designed to promote recovery, fellowship and a sense of belonging, all worthy contributions of fellowship to the goal of unity, have changed from activities designed to celebrate the freedom of recovery to events with the primary purpose of fundraising .This often excludes members from fellowship activities who see fundraising activity contrary to many of the traditions.
  11. For obvious practical requirements and to ensure fullest participation in fellowship events, entire fellowship support is required. This support is simply measured by the willingness of individual member contributions to fund a particular service. No financial support for a particular event or service is one indication of the expression of our collective group conscience. Funding from the fellowship donations helps to avoid the creation of committee events that a particular local area may not be large enough to support or indeed even desire. Funding of events by fundraising thought to be ” good” are not a substitute for informed group conscience, the spiritual essence of Tradition Two and our collective path to a higher power.
  12. Fundraising activities conducted in the group setting change our group to a “business” activity rather than a “spiritual entity”. Our founders of the traditions cautioned in the creation of Tradition Five that business and spirituality should not be mixed, that discussions of money should be kept to a minimum, that we embrace the notion of corporate poverty and that we be ever vigilante in matters of money. Beware. They are seldom as emphatic as when discussing the subject of money and the 12 step fellowship.

Is your Group’s Fundraising efforts taking your fellowship in a different direction? Tell us about your experiences with Fundraising.


5 thoughts on “How The Activity of Fundraising Conflicts with Tradition

  1. Many of the points made in this article reflect very accurately an experience I observed with a brand new prospect at a CA meeting and his encounter of the fundraising kind.

    I was approached by a person at his very first meeting with the question," I do cocaine but I am not sure if I am an addict, how can I tell?." I explained to him the loss of choice and control evidenced by the real addict and the recommendation from the Big Book that he self diagnose by controlling quantity or abruptly stopping. He indicated that he would try this idea and I heard nothing from him until a number of weeks later when he appeared again at the same meeting and firmly declared that he could not stay stopped nor control the amount and could I help him. We arranged to meet the following evening to begin the process of recovery.

    He appeared on time and immediately I could see something very wrong. He had moments ago taken an intravenus hit of cocaine and was showing signs of overdose. We left immediately for a nearby emergency department and he was admitted to be observed. Later he would call from the hospital associated detox and we arranged to attend a meeting the next day and then have our first sit down.

    At this meeting of my home group I was able to intoduce him to some people and then leave him alone to attend to my service duties. This meeting was very solution oriented and had begun to grow, attracting large numbers. During the announcement portion of the format no less than 10 announcements were made for goods, services or fundraising events. The announcers were apparently under some financial deadlines and the sell was particularly enthusiastic changing the purpose and the energy of the meeting. We had switched from a meeting dedicated to carrying the message to a target audience for single purposed fundraisers. I felt like I had been assaulted but the climax was yet to come.

    After the meeting I sought out our brand new prospect, and before I could speak he offered me a picnic ticket he had purchased and explained that he had spent his last five dollars and he didn’t have bus fare to get to the location and wondered if I would like to use the ticket.

    Remember, this is a new prospect who had been in an emergency room on the verge of O.D only days before. He had heard what we had to offer and had entrusted us quite literally with his life. Our response was to bully and shame him, (his words), to buy a ticket without even inquiring who he was or even a member of the fellowship. Did he have a cocaine problem, did he know about the solution or could he use a sponsor? He had become a means to an end: a target for fundraising, often justified because "we" need money to help suffering addicts. A delusional thought if ever there was one.

    A bizarre twist of fate was to happen. I asked him who sold him the ticket to help retrieve his money. His ticket had been sold to him by the current, at that time, chairperson of our area service organization. The irony was thick. I explained in withheld rage to this trusted service member the horror of the circumstances and was only briefly relieved when he admitted what had happened. My horror would be returned however when he proceeded to justify the event, ending with the statement "that our fellowship would not exist without fundraising and it was the newcomers responsibility to say no." More delusional thinking. The type of thinking that destroys unity and may even kill.

    As I shared this story and my horror with fellowship members I would become astonished at the level of agreement with the actions and justifications of the trusted member. This was particularly true of other trusted service members.I would see that our distorted concept of service was actually deflecting us from our primary purpose. This distorted concept that some how this type of action was necessary and aligned with the seventh tradition.

    Fundraising and it’s violation of tradition is the single most disunifying activity I have encountered. It is a cancer in our fellowship. Today some five years later this activity still haunts our fellowship. Like the addict’s delusion that he can’t live without his drug, our fellowship is deluded that it cannot flourish without fundraising.

    Today I am certain we never have a money problem, we only have a Tradition problem. Tradition needs to be our fellowship’s sole way of operating because that is what allows our higher power to manage our service structure; our only hope against organizational self will.

  2. I raised my funds when I became "employable" as a results of working the Steps and with the help of a Power greater than myself.

    Those who have, give of appreciation for the miraculous gift.

    Those who don’t have… can take… and give back later when they are well.

    Historically, we all shared our slender resources with the newcomer, and that always was enough.

  3. “Today I am certain we never have a money problem, we only have a Tradition problem. Tradition needs to be our fellowship’s sole way of operating because that is what allows our higher power to manage our service structure; our only hope against organizational self will.”

    I believe fundraising can pay for alcoholics/ drug abusers to have additional support and allow them to grow confidence – our help centers need support financially. They are amazing organisations but they need more. I could raise money for cancer, asthma, poverty but in reality substance abuse is embedded in society – people are getting younger so something needs to be done. Assemblies, marketing material – I’m game for awareness and development for others. Let’s start with our youth – they need us.

  4. My experience is that one has to distinguish between generating funds internally from within the fellowship and generating funds from outside. The spirit of Tradition Seven is declining outside contributions (businesses & non members)but generating funds from within.

    Were it not for “fundraising”, no group would exist. Passing the basket is one way a group (hopefully via Group Conscience vote)raises funds. Where is this dictated or etched in stone that passing a basket is the only way (my way or highway) that a group is “allowed” to generate funds?

    I like to put things in context and look at the other traditions. It is not a black and white thing.

    One could make a case that generating funds (as long as a group respects Tradition Four) indirectly keeps the primary purpose going for Tradition Five and Twelve Step work. Take a meeting that is supported by mostly sober home people and/or newcomers. Many may be unemployed but if the group is able to put on a function (to support the meeting by members who attend) so that the recovered members can continue to carry the message to the many new people, who am I to say that is a bad thing if: the members voted (Tradition Two) so they are unified (Traditions One)on their ability to carry the message (Tradition Five).

    Most groups recognize the point made about liquidation of funds. That is a good but moot point. I personally know that most groups spend their money or donate it. Some may choose to hold on to the funds but although I may not like that idea, Tradition Two trumps my opinion or thoughts.

    As far as trying to put on a bigger and better function next year, I do not know where that comes from. Many groups successfully put on the same function year after year. That is my experience not my opinion. Many are content with showing others that we can have fun in recovery. Although the Big Book is our solution, if I am a Big Book quoting robot with no fun or zest for life then why did I come into recovery? At these anniversaries, we have usually picked some pretty good articulate speakers so, if done properly, it is great way to show the newcomer our program. (Tradition Five). But these functions cost money and some may raise money for the function — all in the name of the primary purpose, not to hurt it.

    I try not to be so narrow minded and forget that if it were not for funds raised, the book Alcoholics Anonymous would never have been printed. Yes I know that the traditions were not in effect then. But each situation is a case by case situation to be weighed by group members not one member’s broadly based “one size fits all and you have to do it my way” (self-centered) mentality.

    It is kind of like the Big Book. I know many who can quote the BB and I even know a few of them who are still sober. It is about living the program in the Big Book and showing others that we live productive lives. Part of a productive life is that we carry the message no matter what. Reality is that it requires funds.

  5. Aan someone please refer to me where the quote came from in #1?
    Tradition Seven, which states,
    “all expenses are to be liquidated by individual contributions”.

    Some of my literature may be misprinted?


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