Alcoholic Foundation of Today
Part One of this Foundation story we saw how an informal
group of early A.A. s and their non-alcoholic friends
banded together in 1938 to spread the A.A. message as
best they could; how this group formed The Alcoholic Foundation,
and how some of them became its first Trustees. We saw
how the Foundation helped Dr. Bob and me through difficult
years; how the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" and
the A.A. Office came into being and how, later, the Foundation
acquired ownership of the A.A. book. We observed that
the Foundation was chosen by the Groups in 1941, as custodian
of their voluntary contributions for the support of the
A.A. General Service Office at New York. We also have
learned that, more recently, the Foundation assumed a
responsibility for effectiveness and integrity of THE
A.A. GRAPEVINE and that some time ago the A.A. Groups
designated the Foundation Trustees as the overseers of
our general public relations. Then early last year, on
publication of "The Alcoholics Anonymous TraditionTwelve
Points to Assure Our Future," the Trustees of The
Alcoholic Foundation were named the Custodians of these
traditions as well.
has been the gradual process of evolution and common consent
by which the Foundation Trustees have come to be regarded,
first nationally, and now internationally, as THE GENERAL
SERVICE BOARD OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUSCustodians
of A.A. Tradition, General Policy and Headquarters Funds.
the early A.A. years Dr. Bob and I performed many of these
duties ourselves. Some A.A. s seem to think we still
perform all of them. But that is scarcely the case. From
the beginning we never had anything to do with A.A. Group
funds, though we often urged the Groups to support their
General Office at New York by contributions to the foundation.
Bob and I were once concerned with the preparation, financing
and publication of the book, "Alcoholics Anonymous."
But the Foundation now owns this book and oversees its
printing and distribution. Likewise, we used to perform,
in our small way, those services today rendered by the
General Service Office. But these functions have been
mostly transferred to the General Office staff. Hence
the money and service functions of our A.A. headquarters
are already lodged in more permanent agencies than Dr.
Bob and me. The same kind of transfer is still going on
with respect to matters of general policy. In a few years
more that, too, ought to be complete. The thought is that
Dr. Bob and I would like to leave, at the very middle
of A.A., a simple Center of Service. Within this Center
the coming generations of Custodians, Secretaries and
Editors will, we trust, be accepted as our successors
in such affairs.
us now consider the A.A. General Service Headquarters
as it stands at present. The structure is simplicity itself.
Mainly it consists of one principal committee and three
related ones. Each, for permanence and business convenience,
principal committee or Board is, of course, The Alcoholic
Foundation. This is now manned by four older A.A. members
and five nonalcoholic friends of the A.A. movement.
As Board members (Trustees) they serve without compensation.
Though there is no fixed term of office, the alcoholic
members feel they should nominate their own successors
about every three years. New non-alcoholic Trustees are
elected by the whole Board. Unlike the Rotating Committee
of a local A.A. Group, the Foundation Trustees cannot
be personally known to everyone. Hence the presence of
nonalcoholics on the Board has always inspired a
confidence and assured a certain stability the Foundation,
no doubt, would otherwise lack. Necessarily, the Board
members have to choose their own successors; the election
of Trustees by thousands of A.A. Groups is obviously impossible.
In addition to these, the A.A. General Secretary and THE
GRAPEVINE editors are ex-officio members of the Foundation
and qualified to vote on all questions save their own
compensation for special services.
Foundations non-alcoholic members are, at this writing:
Willard R. and A. Leroy C. (remembered from Rockefeller
Center days as "Dick" and "Chip"),
Leonard S., a physician; Bernard S., a lawyer and Leonard
H., a social service authority. For alcoholics we have
Horace C. and Tom K., early New York members; Dick S.
formerly of Akron, Cleveland and Chicago, and Tom B.,
formerly of New York, now of Atlantaboth early and
experienced A.A.s. The ex-officio members are Bobbie
B., A.A. General Secretary and Tom Y., GRAPEVINE Editoreach
alcoholic of note, and hard workers. Dr. Bob and I know
these as our close associates; we recommend them to you
Foundations three related Committees are: The General
Office Committee, The General Policy and Publications
Committee and The Grapevine Committee. To give these committees
permanence and to enable them to transact business, each
one, like the Foundation itself is incorporated. The General
Office Committee is incorporated as A.A. General Services
Inc., The Central Policy and Publications Committee as
Works Publishing, Inc.; and The Grapevine Committee as
The A.A. Grapevine, Inc. The Foundation, of course, owns
the entire beneficial interest in each of these small
corporations which are only, it must be emphasized, mere
business conveniences for their respective Committees.
assure a close working relationship between our Headquarters
people, The General Office Committee is composed of three
Foundation Trustees and two members of the Central Office
staff; The Grapevine Committee is formed of two trustees,
The Grapevine Editor, and two members of The Grapevine
staff. The General Policy and Publications Committee is
serviced by three Trustees, The Grapevine Editor and the
A.A. General Secretary.
General Office Committee is responsible for the business
policy and effectiveness of that place. The A.A. General
Secretary is charged with its executive management. The
Grapevine Committee is responsible for the business conduct
of The Grapevine. The Grapevine Editor is chairman of
this committee. The Grapevine Editor and his voluntary
staff are responsible for the editorial policy of the
journal, the Editor having the final choice of what is
printed. In case of conflict between editorial policy
and general A.A. policy or tradition the matter will be
decided by the General Policy and Publications Committee
or the Foundation staff.
General Policy and Publications Committee has the duty
of settling those new questions of Headquarters policy
which The Grapevine editor or the General Secretary cannot
well decide alone, but which, in the judgment of the Committee,
need not warrant a special meeting of the Foundation.
The General policy and publications Committee is also
charged with the editing, printing and distribution of
all Headquarters books and pamphlets, new or old. This
important Committee is intended to be a common Headquarters
meeting ground where prompt action can be taken on policy
question of medium importance. But it is understood by
everyone that any decision important enough to greatly
affect A.A. as a whole must be taken at a special or regular
quarterly meeting of The Alcoholic Foundation. AT this
level the Trustees have the final word.
development of our internal structure has taken place
slowly and always on the basis of experience and need.
In like manner, our thinking about Foundation policies
has undergone a gradual evolution. In fact it is a revolution,
respecting the use of Foundation money and the status
of outside enterprises like hospitalization, research,
and alcohol education. Once we imagined we ought to fill
the Foundation with huge sums financing, besides A.A.,
all sorts of outside projects. We thought in terms of
money solicitation and money charity. The Foundation was
formerly chartered to do all these things. But today,
in common with most A.A. Groups, the Trustees have entirely
abandoned such concepts. Never, do we think, should the
Foundation finance or endorse any outside project, however
worthy. Foundation money, we believe, should be spent
for A.A. General Service purposes only. These purposes
should always be universal in character, never of local
or minor benefit. For some years now the Foundation has
solicited no outside funds, and unless there comes a dire
emergency, it will not solicit again. This is because
the A.A. movement itself is becoming fully committed to
the principle of self-support; we prefer to pay our own
way. Neither should the Foundation become wealthy through
large gifts; these will surely be declined. We hope A.A.
Groups will continue to support the General Office, The
Grapevine subscribers, The Grapevine and we believe that
Foundation income from the book "Alcoholics Anonymous"
will always provide us a prudent reserve against any foreseeable
headquarters emergency. That is our money policy.
must be few societies or organizations in the whole world
whose General Service expenses are as modest as ours:
One dollar a member a year of voluntary contributions.
We therefore think that our necessary Headquarters Services
should be the very bestthat our few full time workers
should be paid, not by charity standards but by business
standards; that since most of us, thanks to A.A., earn
excellent livings at business, we should not ask our special
workers to do with less.
Alcoholic Foundation is no longer seen as an institution
or a moneyed charity, it has become, instead, The General
Service Board for Alcoholics Anonymous, a collective conscience
of our A.A. society. The Foundations responsibility
now extends well beyond that of handling our few dollars
and services. As the principal custodian of our tradition
and policy it acts, usually through The Grapevine or General
Office staffs, to inform the whole world of our A.A. message
and point of view. THE GRAPEVINE, the "Voice of A.A.
Experience" reaches out to A.A. members. The General
Office, in cooperation with the General Policy Committee,
conducts our public relations and is consulted in difficult
intergroup situations. When serious questions arise, the
Trustees may deal with them directly, making perhaps,
a public statement. But no action is ever taken in the
spirit of discipline or authority. For our Headquarters
is a service onlynot a government.
the field of A.A. Tradition and overall policy, Dr. Bob
and I still do function. We are frequently consulted on
questions which arise. But we now feel that, while always
glad to help, we should be less and less heard in A.A.
councils. Only in this way can our Service Headquarters
Custodians, Editors and Secretaries be accustomed to function,
as they must one day, when we so-called "founders"
are no more.
our active arms of service have been developing their
own methods and traditions. At the General Office the
vast outcome of nine years exciting experience reposes
in our files and in the heads of our two Secretaries.
Because of their station at the heart of A.A. they are
bound to have a broader view than most of us. Out of strenuous
experience they have developed effective ways of handling
the multitude of problems and situations that press for
answers. They have an immense personal acquaintance that
stretches all over the globe. With them a "crisis
a day" is routine. We are coming to see that a permanently
successful operation of the General Office will depend
on the preservation of these accumulated experiences and
contacts. Lest these immense assets be someday lost, we
shall always need several assistant secretaries in training.
And may we always remember that these secretarial servants
of A.A. have a most strenuous vocation. They are entitled
to our fullest appreciation and backingtheirs is
the most active spot in A.A., the New York General Office
last year (1946) answered 15,000 pleas for help from alcoholics
and their families; it shipped half a million pamphlets
and 25,000 A.A. books; it had about 12,000 telephone calls;
it prepared and shipped 3,000 Group lists; got out a new
printing of the A.A. book; arranged for a Spanish translation
of the A.A. pamphlet; saw 2,000 visitors; registered and
wrote to 500 new Groups; arranged much publicity, notably
the MARCH OF TIME film and the READERS DIGEST piece;
discussed the preparation of a full length movie; wrote
innumerable letters to Groups about their problems and
still found time to help the development of A.A. Groups
in foreign countries.
this was done by a staff of twelve peoplethree alcoholics
and nine "nons." It cost the A.A. Groups about
$36,000, still averaging a dollar a member for 1946, a
year of steeply rising expenses. Some A.A. Groups contributed
much more than a dollar per capita, some much less. No
A.A. dollars can be better spent than those sent the Foundation
for General Office expenses. Dr. Bob and I want to thank
the Groups for their loyal support. May it never lessen!
newest development, THE A.A. GRAPEVINE, has a like promise.
It is one of the finest volunteer undertakings we have
seen. Its 6,000 subscribers (1946) are to be found in
every state of the Union and many foreign lands. Its Editor
and volunteer staff burn oil many nights a month at a
little room in Greenwich Village. Here, during the day,
two full time workers look after THE GRAPEVINE routine
and correspond with the network of GRAPEVINE reporters
at home and abroad.
the earlier people who assembled the Foundation, the A.A.
book and the Central Office, THE A.A. GRAPEVINE began
two years ago among several newspaper-minded A.A. s
who thought we needed a monthly periodical. They were
willing to contribute a little money and boundless effort
to make it a success. At the beginning, this group of
A.A. s had no special authorization from anyone.
They just took of f their coats and did a job, a job so
well done that at the end of a year they found their paper
in National distribution. There was no sponsoring nor
much promoting. Like the A.A. book venture, the General
Office, and the Foundation, THE A.A. GRAPEVINE became
a part of A.A. life on its own effort and merit.
at this point, members of THE GRAPEVINE staff came to
the Trustees to discuss the future of their publication.
They also asked me to write some pieces and requested
me to ascertain if the groups would like to have their
periodical as the principal A.A. monthly journal. Hundreds
of groups and individual subscribers came back with and
enthusiastic "yes." There was scarce a dissent.
So, THE A.A. GRAPEVINE was incorporated and its beneficial
ownership transferred to the Foundation.
one of the Grapeviners recently put it, "We think
that The A.A. Grapevine ought to become the Voice
of Alcoholics Anonymous bringing us news of each
other across great distances and always describing what
can be freshly seen in that vast and life-giving pool
we call A.A. experience." Never taking part in the
controversial issues of religion, reform or politics,
never seeking profit, never lending itself to commerce
or propaganda, always mindful of our sole aim to carry
the A.A. message to those who suffer from alcoholismsuch
is our ideal for The Grapevine."
these sentiments Dr. Bob and I heartily concur. We hope
that A.A.s everywhere will feel it to be their newspaper;
that our able writers will contribute freely; that all
Groups will send in news of their doings which may be
of general interest; that THE GRAPEVINE will presently
take its place in the minds of all A.A. s as one
of our essential general services close alongside the
Foundation, the A.A. book and the General Office.
concludes what I hope has proved a welcome account of
our stewardship of your A.A. General Service Center at
New YorkThe Alcoholic Foundation of Today.
what the future? What about The Alcoholic Foundation of
coming pages I shall try to tell you of our thoughts on
The Trustees of The Alcoholic Foundation ( Intro)
The Alcoholic Foundation
of Yesterday -
The Alcoholic Foundation
of Today - Part 2
The Alcoholic Foundation
Of Tomorrow - Part 3