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Can Individual Members Make Donations for a Special Purpose?

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The comments below were given by various members of the Conference Steps, Traditions, and Concepts Committee and do not represent a group conscience of the entire committee. The opinions expressed here are solely that of the person giving them. Take what you like and leave the rest.

The Question

At our Intergroup a twice gave to our Literature Sales and Distribution Rep $100 to buy Newcomer kits to be distributed equally among the groups who could then give them out for free. No one objected at the time and things were done as requested. Then, someone brought up that it might interfere with Traditions 6 and/or 7. The only thing I found in Tradition 7 is that it would not be wise to accept personal as the donor could use that contribution as a way to impose his/her personal will. This member is no longer around so we do not foresee having to deal with this situation again…but we never know. We can’t make up our minds as to whether it really interferes with Tradition 7 since it was quite beneficial to the newcomers. Does it? However after we agreed that it would be best to accept only orders from Group Reps as voted by their group’s conscience. Is this the best way to go? I personally tried to find some information about the maximum amount that could be given by one living member, which I believe was discussed at the a few years ago, but I could not find the reference. Could you also answer that question?

To have a member offer to donate funds to provide additional literature to the groups in their area is a commendable gesture. As I look at this issue I do not see any mention of that member making this offer expecting to receive any favor or return from the groups or the Intergroup. If this were a no strings attached donation specifically earmarked for a certain project, unless it exceeded the Intergroup’s for individual contributions or the Intergroup had a policy regarding not receiving any earmarked contributions, then I would see no issue as to this being in keeping with the spirit of Tradition 7.

FWS does have a maximum individual contribution limit of $12,000 per year from an individual member. Due to limited funding FWS does not currently accept earmarked donations and all funds go into the general operating fund. This was discussed at the 2008 ABM and it was decided that there would be no change made to the contribution limits at that time. Some have an individual contribution limit written within their ; therefore, it would be wise to check to see if the contribution were in keeping with the policies set down by the Intergroup.
As to Tradition 6, I do not see an issue because this seems to have nothing to do with aligning S.L.A.A. with other enterprises.

In my opinion this is a good example of a member recognizing the importance of Tradition 7 and honoring that Tradition by making a generous donation. I knew there were limits for individual donations, but I couldn’t remember what they were.
I think it’s important to examine the spirit and driving force behind Tradition 7 and not get tied up in interpretation. In my study to better address this issue, I went to Al-Anon’s Paths to Recovery. Here is what it had to say:

“Even within Al-Anon, no one is allowed to contribute great sums. When any single-person or small group of people contribute too much, problems of jealousy and dominance are likely to arise. Our spiritual fellowship is based on equality and, though we may not all contribute exactly the same amount, by spreading widely, we assure ourselves of the mutuality of our self-help. When we did not contribute to the group, we found our participation was lessened, and in time, our own recovery was threatened.”

In the situation from our inquirer, I think it is important that the group examine the big picture and see if one individual is, indeed, contributing “too much.” That wouldn’t be determined by a dollar amount but instead by whether or not the donation is enabling others to lessen or forego their own financial contributions. If that’s the case, then the donation is harmful. However, if this contribution is not affecting the financial giving of others, then I don’t see a problem. I do recognize that this determination would not be an easy call to make, but I believe strongly that it’s at the heart of this discussion.

The individual contribution allowed by SLAA for one year is considerably above the $3,000 limit set by AA. These contributions come well within that limit. The question of designating those moneys for a specific purpose is different. SLAA has a history of honoring such gifts with specific targets, such as contributions for the delegate equalization fund, or for a Step Chip initial prototype and first order. However, two ideas are relevant to me.

SLAA has not adopted the AA for World Service, but many think we should, and the guidelines of those concepts make a great deal of sense.  [The Concepts were adopted at the 2014 ABM] Concept III says that the Intergroup itself has the power to decide where contributions go, and the contributing person can only suggest, not dictate the use. The alternative would be for that person to buy a certain number of beginner’s packets and take them to various meetings him- or herself. Groups normally give these to beginners without charge, although they pay for the materials in the packet to FWS and/or the Intergroup.

The other issue is individual “credit” for contributions. Anonymity about such contributions is the custom, and I think that practice is wise, both for the Fellowship and for the individual. Some people have less financial capacity to make such contributions, but provide priceless value with prodigies of service, all without pay, and nothing more than brief recognition at conferences or group . Humility in action should guide our decisions, always. If an individual will “donate” money only if control over its use, and/or personal recognition is made, I believe the donation should be respectfully and kindly refused. A gift should be a gift. If conditions are attached, there is ego involved, not the spirit of humility.

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The CSTCC is a group of volunteers, some of whom were ABM delegates, and others who volunteered out of interest. We do not represent a group conscience of S.L.A.A., but are committed to bringing thoughtful discussion and study of 12 Step Fellowship literature and experience to the questions that are brought to us. We offer this summary as the results of our discussions. We present the major points of concern in the hopes that wider discussion in the Fellowship will help us evolve our customs and practice of the S.L.A.A. program of recovery to better represent the loving guidance of a Higher Power. Always, we affirm the autonomy of each group and the need for each individual to follow her/his own conscience. No decision of this group, or any other, is ever forced upon another, even when we believe a practice is clearly in conflict with the Steps, Traditions, or Concepts.

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