“Every group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.”
This tradition may be one of the best examples of the miraculous change that can occur when alcoholics are relieved of the obsession to drink and begin to grow spiritually, letting go of self-centeredness and fear. Self-centered and dependent, often looking for a hand-out, the alcoholic had to change. The idea that recovering alcoholics did not necessarily deserve monetary support just because they were trying to stay sober, was possibly painful, but true. It was time for alcoholics to pay their own way, no matter how difficult.
At first, it was believed lots of money was needed to support the society. Then fear caused members to think that no money should be involved. As the society grew and members realized that a certain amount of financial support would be needed to ensure the message being carried, whether by meetings, literature or phone, alcoholics cautiously learned that spiritual growth was not negatively affected by minimal material support. The principle of corporate poverty was established as a tradition. In other words, A.A. must always remain poor. The society would have to support itself, no matter how poor the group might be. Trust in a Higher Power was needed.
The story of the impact of Jack Alexander’s 1941 Saturday Evening Post publication is a well-known example of the foundation of this tradition. Thousands of letters from distraught alcoholics and their families arrived at the mailbox in New York after people read the story. The 2-person staff were overwhelmed as they tried to respond to the inquiries. It became clear more help was needed, and that would require money. AA groups were asked to send voluntary contributions of a dollar a member a year. Bill relates that initially the response to this request was slow. But eventually donations began to add up, and requests for information were answered. Understanding that Alcoholics Anonymous needed funds to function grew. Small offices, phone lines and meeting places cost money but were necessary, or the help alcoholics needed would not be there. The integrity of Alcoholics Anonymous was established through this tradition, and exists to this day.
—Anonymous, Salt Lake City