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of A.A. Services
Bill W., General Service Conference, 1951
Summary of Bills talk at the opening session of the
of A.A. services at the national level has followed closely
the pattern that is familiar in a typical local A.A. group,
the local group, there is first a "founder." The
founder and his friends, in the early days of the group,
constitute a self-appointed service committee that does
the various chores that have to be done in a new group.
For a time this committee in effect "runs" the
group. It programs the meetings. It arranges the refreshments.
And it coordinates Twelfth Step work.
the group increases in size, the newer members usually put
to work the principle of rotation in handling group affairs.
They select a service committee, which may or may not include
the founder and his friends. They change the committee at
in the beginning responsibility for group services rested
with a small number of self-appointed workers, this responsibility
had now been shifted to the membership of the local group
as a whole.
is a natural and logical development, Bill pointed out.
The same processes have been at work in A.A. at the national
level and the time has now come when responsibility for
national services can similarly be turned over to a rotating
committee representing the membership as a whole. The General
Service Conference is the tool for accomplishing this.
first approach to the problem of providing national services
was made in 1937 when A.A. was in its third year, and as
yet nameless. In those days, Bill said, the first members
were inclined to think in terms of a great plan for many
hospitals, rest homes and professional literature.
John D. Rockefeller became interested in the budding movement
and sent a representative to investigate work being done
in Akron. The report which followed seemed completely encouraging.
It recommended subsidizing the movement, the purchase of
a hospital and the allocation of money for the preparation
of a book.
Rockefeller listened to the report with great interest.
Then he spoke the words that, according to Bill, saved the
destiny of A.A. "I am terribly afraid that money will
spoil this," he said. This wise decision was crucial
to the growth of A.A. "It saved us from professionalism."
founders and their friends next set up the Alcoholic Foundation,
"essentially an incorporated self-appointed committee."
need for a book still dominated the early members
thinking. Work was begun and there was great elation when
a commercial publisher became interested to the extent of
offering Bill a $1,500 "advance payment." Then
followed another decision of great importance to the future
of A.A. services. That decision was to form a publishing
company to produce the book as the property of the movement,
rather than through conventional publishing channels.
Works Publishing, Inc. was formed with 600 shares of stock"par
value" $25.00 200 shares held by Bill,
200 by another early member and 200 distributed among less
than 100 alcoholics. Approximately $4,500 was raised, largely
due to encouragement from the editors of a national magazine
who indicated they would publicize the movement and the
book when the latter appeared. Five thousand copies of the
book were printed, following which the aforementioned editors
announced they had decided not to handle the story after
1939 was one of the low points in the development of A.A.
services. Bill and Lois were forced out of their home. Works
Publishing was "stuck" with nearly 5,000 books.
Only the appearance of a story in Liberty Magazine suggested
that the movement might survive and go forward. About 800
inquiries resulted from the Liberty article.
this point (early 1940) Mr. Rockefeller held a dinner which
had two important results. It raised $3,000 which was divided
for the "upkeep" of Bill and Dr. Bob. And it resulted
in widespread favorable recognition for the movement.
office was set up - the first national service officeto
handle the growing stream of inquiries. Ruth H., the first
secretary, was supported out of income from the book.
turning point in A.A. came with the publication of Jack
Alexanders "Saturday Evening Post" article
in April 1941. Thousands of inquiries swamped the office,
inquiries which could not be handled adequately with funds
available at the time. Because of this, the first solicitation
letter was then sent to the groups, suggesting that one
dollar per year per member be sent to the Foundation for
its service activities.
the Foundation became the custodian of two kinds of funds,
General Funds (from the sale of the book and from the Rockefeller
dinner) and Group Funds (contributed by individual members
through the groups). A rigid policy, continuously enforced,
provides that Group Funds can be used only for service to
groups and for the development of new groups.
also became clear at this stage in the growth of A.A. services
that the book should not be controlled privately. Bill and
the other early members each turned over to the Foundation
their blocks of 200 shares of Works Publishing, Inc. A loan
from Mr. Rockefeller enabled the Foundation to buy up the
remaining 200 shares in the hands of 49 other alcoholics.
the early forties, Works Publishing, Inc. was also the A.A.
service office. Operations were supervised by various Committees
of the Foundation, a procedure that soon became unwieldy.
a seven-man General Service Committee supervises the General
Service Office. The Trustees of the Foundation elect four
of their members to serve. Others on the General Service
Committee are the president of Works Publishing, Inc., the
editor of the "Grapevine" and the senior general
secretary of the General Service Office.
various loans made by Mr. Rockefeller have been repaid and
the Foundation no longer accepts funds from outside A.A.
On several occasions the national services of A.A. have
been "saved" by the prudent reserve maintained
by the Foundation, which has also subsidized the "Grapevine."
the General Service Conference, A.A. as a whole is now brought
into the picture. The Conference is a "huge rotating
committee" in whose hands has been placed responsibility
for A.A. s worldwide servicesassistance to the
groups, public relations, preparation and distribution of
literature, foreign propagation and other activities.
is your legacy of service. Guard it carefully. We hope you
will like the stewardship we have given you."