TRADITION 7 VIOLATION? Is it appropriate for one group to provide financial support for another group?

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:
We have a group that is not able to pay their rent and another group has stepped in to pay it for them temporarily. Is this a violation of Tradition 7?


In the A.A. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions book, several experiences within the early fellowship shaped the form of this Tradition, as well as the way it has been implemented over the years. The experiences were fairly simple:

A)  Accepting contributions from outside the fellowship opened it to attempts to interfere with the way that A.A. conducted its affairs (page 161).

B)  Donations of substantial sums of money resulted in endless arguments over its use, a major distraction from the real purpose of AA groups (page 161)

C)  It was easy to imagine that if the A.A. organization did not depend on donations from the membership that it would rapidly cease to be responsive to the needs of that membership as its primary purpose. (Page 162)

D)  In discussions about accepting large amounts of money through wills, it was clear that a rich foundation could tempt the alcoholics acting as trustees to start running things without reference to the wishes of AA as a whole (page 164)

The decisions to refuse donations except from members, and to limit the amount any one person could donate in a given year, created a structure dependent upon the often slow flow of funds from individual and AA group donations. No individual or small group of individuals could claim the right to have special influence on how AA general services would operate. There was no real payoff for an individual to rise in an organization that was deliberately poor, and publicized nobody and not even its own accomplishments.

This principle of corporate poverty insured that the individual members and groups would always have a direct responsibility to be involved with, and support, services to members which made sense to the members themselves. There would not be money to pay high priced consultants, and many services would depend on volunteers. Although

S.L.A.A. has not followed that model with complete faithfulness, the basic principles have been lived out as S.L.A.A grew so that it has escaped most of the turmoil AA experienced as the Traditions were being shaped by often hard experience.

Nowhere does this corporate experience say that members in one group are forbidden to help another group with the expenses necessary to keep the meeting in existence. In fact, helping out in that way with the anonymous resources of a group supports the primary purpose of S.L. A.A., without changing the receiving group’s autonomy to run itself according to its own group conscience. In this case, the donor group will soon get tired of sharing its own resources if the other group does not grow enough to support itself. There is no violation of the principles that are the foundation for this Tradition. The purpose to is help make the message of recovery available to more people, and there should be no likelihood that helping another group with the rent will cause the problems that created the seventh AA Tradition.

The meaning of the seventh Tradition is to be sure the Fellowship supports itself, and owes no one outside the Fellowship. It is also a custom to be sure any one person cannot claim to be “supporting the group”. If someone wanted to drop hundred or thousand dollar bills into the basket, no one will stop them, and probably there would be some uproar about it until the group focused on the first Tradition about the importance of unity, and the anonymity that is the spiritual foundation of our program. Then they would refuse the large donations, which surely would identify the likely giver quite easily. There is, however, no danger in one group helping support another group with the same spiritual purpose. It is still the Fellowship supporting itself for the purpose of helping the still suffering sex and love addicts and anorectics.

There is no profit or fame for anyone in that use of the resources gathered from within the Fellowship.

As usual, I went back to my A.A.12 and 12 to read the tradition at the root of the consultation. In light of my reading, I could not say that the group stepping in to support another group temporarily would be in breach of the 7th tradition as I don’t see that another group could have specific interest in running the beneficiary group per say.

However, I believe this should be a very temporary measure, well established in advance, let’s say, for three months, to allow the beneficiary group to find a location it can afford, or conduct a group conscience on the financial difficulties of the group.

After that, contributions to the group should stop.

I really do believe that each group should be responsible for itself, in either find a new location, ways to attract and retain new members or reflect on reasons why not enough members attend the meeting, if this is the case.

Sometimes a good inventory can be useful. Once I witnessed a situation in a group I was visiting where they were facing the closing of their meeting because of lack of sufficient income. They blamed such difficulty on the fact that the Chair for the month (and other previous months), whom was considered as not having a lot of attraction, “repelled” people from coming, hence causing the income problems. However, the collection that night did not even amount to $1 per person. So I believe the problem laid somewhere else than the Chair. This resembles a bit to the sometimes low generosity of members reported in the text of the 7th tradition when it comes to support their group. Sometimes also, not enough implication of new members burns out the longtime and faithful servants who just leave the group, discouraged.

Whatever the reasons, I find that groups do suffer ups and downs in attendance. However, if lack of attendance compromises the meeting and that despite all the efforts to find a solution (looking for another location, ask for more generous donations at the 7th tradition, advertising the meeting, taking an inventory), the situation does not improve, I believe the group should fold until there is a strong enough will amongst needy members to restart and support the group again.

When I look at this question, I see no violation of Tradition 7. Our primary purpose is to carry the message to the sex and love addict who still suffers and this is done from our personal contributions at each meeting. The Seventh Tradition funds pay for literature and other expenses, such as rent, for our meetings. There are some groups who are fortunate enough to have plenty of funds available and are able to provide support to the local Intergroup and FWS. Unfortunately, there are some meetings which do not collect sufficient funds in order to pay its expenses and it needs help. Receiving funds from another group is a way to make sure that the message is being carried to the area which is financially distressed. It is just another way to make sure that the message is being carried.

I believe that for the groups which are suffering from a lack of funds due to having good attendance but not collecting much money, there might be a need for the group to sit down at a meeting or at Group Conscience and discuss the importance of the 7th Tradition. This is a way for each member to express his/her gratitude for the gift of sobriety. We also need to get away from the idea that a dollar is enough; the value of that dollar keeps falling and we need to adjust our personal giving to keep the meeting financially viable. It could be necessary for a group to eliminate extras, such as coffee and doughnuts, if it is struggling.

In my opinion it isn’t a literal violation of Tradition Seven but it does go against the spirit of the Tradition. We are self-supporting. I’ve run into this problem of struggling to pay the rent many times and seen 7 meetings close because of it. At one meeting, I had to do all the jobs for 6 months and switch to a cheaper meeting room to keep it going– it was in danger of closing and came within an inch of doing so, but others stepped up and more people came to the meeting and now it thrives. I compare another meeting paying the rent to my Dad paying for my gas credit card. It seemed perfectly fine that he cared about me enough to do that and I needed the help, but my sponsor forced me to give it up because I wasn’t learning to be self-supporting. The self-esteem that I gained from knowing I was paying my own bills cannot be replaced.

For the meetings in danger– the people who care about them should go to other meetings and announce that it needs support and is in danger of closing. Maybe it’s at a bad time or difficult location. It can be a lesson in asking for help.

I agree that everything that has been shared can appropriately apply to some or many groups. However, to apply any of this particular experience strength and hope to all groups is going a little too far for me.

I live in a large city where large areas of the city are diversified by race but not by economic status. In this town a meeting can be largely populated by people living on a fixed small government issued income. They have major challenges that make them unemployable. They may attend two or more 12 Step meetings a day. They do not have enough money for rent, food and out of pocket medical expenses. A dollar per meeting would be 60 to 90 dollars per month. They do not have these financial resources. I see no problem with a meeting from another area, paying the rent for a meeting in another neighborhood on an ongoing basis as long as the meeting is clearly carrying the SLAA message to others. Perhaps the meeting that pays the rent might want to also send members to the meetings to help with other needs and to help keep the quality of the meeting high.

Perhaps we could have an “adopt a meeting” program where one meeting carries the message to others by starting and maintaining a meeting in an area where lots of limited income and challenged people would attend. These people might not be able to start and maintain a meeting without outside assistance, both financial and experience.

I personally received financial assistance from my parents until their money ran out and now I receive help from the government. For me the alternative to receiving financial assistance is being homeless. I always worked as much as I could, however, my illness kept me from keeping a regular 40 hour a week job. With what little I was able to earn and what little my parents were able to help me, I managed to avoid homelessness.


What do you think?
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.