or Intergroup Offices
The A.A. Guidelines below are compiled from
the shared experience of A.A. members throughout the U.S. and Canada. They also
reflect guidance given through the Twelve Traditions and the General Service
Conference. In keeping with our Tradition of autonomy except in matters
affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole, most decisions are made by the group
conscience of the members involved. The purpose of these Guidelines is to assist
in reaching an informed group conscience.
WHAT IS A CENTRAL OFFICE?
A central office
(or intergroup) is an A.A. service office that involves partnership among groups
in a community‑just as A.A. groups themselves are partnerships of
individuals. A central office is established to carry out certain functions
common to all the groups‑functions which are best handled by a centralized
office‑and it is usually maintained, supervised, and supported by these
groups in their general interest. It exists to aid the groups in their common
purpose of carrying the A.A. message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
FUNCTIONS OF A CENTRAL OFFICE
experience has demonstrated that central offices are helpful, particularly in
populous areas. There are nearly 1000 central/intergroup offices throughout the
world, performing vital A.A. services. These constitute a network of service
outlets and A.A. contacts to help carry the A.A. message.
however, central office ventures have bogged down in disputes over money,
authority, and like matters‑ thus becoming less effective in carrying the
A.A. message. It's not always clear why these troubles have come up, but often
it's been because the proper functions of a central office were not clearly
explained or understood, or there was some disregard of the principles in A.A.'s
Twelve Traditions. So the following suggestions have been made to outline the
basic services a central office might offer:
Inquiries-By providing an Alcoholics Anonymous listing in the local
telephone directory, the central office may receive inquiries from those seeking
help. They will refer the caller to a nearby A.A. group, where sponsorship may
be arranged, or have a twelfth stepper contact them.
Facilities-The central office can maintain a conveniently located office in
which paid workers and/or volunteers are available to carry the message of A.A.
to the alcoholic.
Lists-At regular intervals, the central office may publish and distribute
up-to-date lists of meetings and other information about local A.A.
Exchange-The service office may function as a clearinghouse for the
circulation and exchange of information among all the A.A. groups in the
community. In this same connection, a logical function of the central office is
to provide "program exchange" meetings, where group program
chairpersons meet regularly to exchange meetings with other groups.
5) Local Committees on Public Information (P.I.) and
Cooperation With the Professional Community (C.P.C.)
in cooperation with district and area P. I. and C.P.C. committees-The
central office is an ideal contact with those in the community seeking
information about A.A. Thus, A.A.'s relations with the public and professionals
in the alcoholism field are often handled through the cooperation of the area
committee and central office. In general service areas where P.I. and C.P.C.
committees are under the auspices of a General Service Committee, the central
office works in close cooperation with these committees. A.A. Guidelines and
Workbooks on P.I. and C.P.C. are available from G.S.O.
6) A.A. in
Correctional and Treatment Facilities-The central office can maintain contact with local groups in
correctional facilities and treatment facilities, offering literature and
prerelease A.A. contacts and arranging for A.A. speakers and visitors to
meetings. When there is a correctional or treatment facility committee for this
purpose, the service office may assist it through close cooperation with local
hospitals and prisons.
handling institutional contacts are also urged to send for G.S.O. material,
Guidelines on Correctional Facilities Committees and Guidelines on Treatment
Facilities Committees and the Correctional Facilities and Treatment Facilities
7) Local A.A. Events-An
A.A. central office is a logical body to manage the details of an annual dinner,
picnic, or convention, if the participating groups wish it.
Bulletin or Newsletter-The preparation of a publication for periodic
distribution to A.A. groups is often a function of the central office.
Needs Services-Many central offices carry information on groups that
are wheelchair accessible, or signed for deaf members. Some offices have TDD/TTY
equipment for communicating with deaf alcoholics.
well-meant ventures in A.A., central offices sometimes suffer because they
are conceived and established without advance planning. The unhappy and damaging
experiences of such ventures indicate that a few questions should be raised
before a central office is opened.
should concern actual need. Is there a sufficient number of groups in the
community to justify opening a central office? Are they able and willing to
support it financially? Have they been consulted as to whether such an office
could serve their needs? Will they cooperate with it and support its aims and
purposes? (If, after such consideration, an office seems impractical, a
answering service may fill the needs. G.S.O. has Guidelines on A.A. Answering
also be raised about proposed locations for the central office and the personnel
and equipment needed. It's sometimes tempting to consider moderately priced or
free facilities supplied by agencies or organizations working in the field of
alcoholism or in other fields. But it's better to forgo this short-term
advantage if there's any likelihood that A.A. would lose its independent status
in the bargain or appear-in the public mind at least-to be sponsored
or controlled by the other organization.
The question also
comes up whether to buy property or a building. A.A. traditionally does not own
property, "lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our
primary purpose." Experience also indicates that it is not fair or wise to
commit A.A. members of the future to financial obligations for which they have
not initially assumed responsibility, so renting a facility has proved best.
It may also
appear attractive to consolidate the central office with the facilities and
operations of a club. But the risks and pitfalls involved in this are almost too
numerous to mention here. One reason for discouraging this is the possibility
that the problems of operating the club and the service office will become
intertwined to the detriment of each activity. An even more important point is
the need for keeping a clear separation between club operations and A.A. group
activities; any strong identification with a club may impair a central office's
ability to serve the groups.
location for the office is usually desirable, if finances permit. It's also
well to take in possible future needs at the same time the original quarters are
being considered; sometimes it's possible to rent facilities in buildings where
adjoining rooms may become available later. Sufficient room should be provided
for copying, mailings, committee meetings, and consultation with newcomers.
Since a central
office is intended to provide services for all A.A. groups in a community,
experience indicates that it is best for the office not to give or rent space to
any one group for meetings. The decision, however, is really up to each office,
Once some of
these preliminary matters have been satisfactorily disposed of, the road is
clear for the formal organizational work. Here's a suggested plan that has
Each group in the
community is asked to send both a representative and an alternate
representative to a special meeting to form a central office committee (also
called a steering committee in some places). In large communities, it is
sometimes necessary to divide the group into zones, with a zone representative
serving several groups. Once formed, the committee takes over the responsibility
for the project and outlines its aims and purposes for approval by the
participant groups. Such an outline might cover these points:
1) Listing of all groups in the community
that want to participate.
2) A reminder
that financial support is voluntary and not a condition of membership (in
keeping with A.A. tradition).
3) A clear
explanation that responsibility for the maintenance of the service office rests
with the groups. Therefore, each group should name a central office
representative and an alternate to serve a specified term as the connecting link
between the group and its central office.
4) A summary of
the functions of the central office and an explanation of how it will be
staffed and operated.
5) A discussion
of how the service office will handle such vital matters as inquiries from
newcomers, relations with the press, and similar duties.
6) Assurance that
the service center will be operated in keeping with A.A.'s Twelve Traditions.
REPRESENTATION AT A CENTRAL OFFICE
usually have no authority on their own account; they derive it from the
participating groups. Local group representatives reflect the groups' conscience
in the service center operations.
communities, a central office committee or steering committee is set up to
handle the administrative activities of the service office. The steering
committee holds regularly scheduled meetings and deals with general policy and
plans. Periodically, the steering committee reports to group representatives on
central office problems and accomplishments. It is extremely important to keep
a two way flow of information going between the central office and groups.
Most A.A. central
offices now employ at least one paid full-time secretary or manager, as
well as A.A. volunteers-members who respond to Twelfth Step calls at the
office, answer the telephone, and often carry out other service office duties.
Large offices may also have paid clerical workers on the staff to assist the
principles involving certain paid employees of A.A. service centers are now
widely known in A.A., it is still helpful to review the appropriate A.A.
Tradition at the time of opening a new service office. As it states in Tradition
Eight: "Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our
service centers may employ special workers." It should be clear from this
that the paid secretary functions as a paid employee of the central
office--not as an A.A. member-during duty hours and is hired
largely on the basis of professional skill.
compensation for paid workers, Bill W. writes in "Twelve Concepts for World
Service" as follows: "We believe that each paid executive, staff
member, or consultant should be recompensed in reasonable relation to the value
of his or her similar services or abilities in the commercial world."
Also, Social Security and certain insurance benefits are provided, as well as
sick leave and vacations.
suggested that the central office full-time secretary also be accorded a
vote as well as a voice on the steering committee. This policy is successfully
followed by A.A. World Services, Inc.: The staff coordinator -a paid
employee as well as an A.A. member also serves as a director and thus has a
vote on policy matters.
SUPERVISION-MAKING THE OFFICE SERVE
It's plain that
the success of the central office requires community wide agreement on matters
concerning administrative responsibility and authority. The steering committee
should reach an early consensus on this; if necessary, they should explain it
in the bylaws or some other set of guidelines. For, while it's difficult to
establish hard-and-fast rules and then live by them, it's at least
reasonable to clarify such matters as the functions of the office and the extent
of the paid secretary's authority and duties.
can be entrusted to the paid secretary. In other cases, it may be wiser for the
steering committee to maintain full oversight of many matters. In any case, it's
important that problems get an early review by someone who is authorized to deal
with them and can solve them as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the service
office operations are bound to suffer.
might be given to the following matters in the operation of the office:
distribution of Twelfth Step calls. However tempting it may be to assign
follow-up calls to those individuals and groups that seem especially
willing, the Twelfth Step work is something all the groups in the community
should be encouraged to share. But it's also important that calls are
distributed according to the location of the group; that is, newcomers should
usually be put in touch with the group nearest to them.
closing hours, a telephone answering service-carefully
chosen-should handle incoming calls. (See Guidelines on A.A. Answering
and responsibility should
be related. It is unfair to assign certain responsibilities to a paid
secretary or volunteer without giving commensurate authority.
FACING FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Incorporation: By its very
nature, a service office involves making financial commitments quite different
from those usually encountered in the operation of an A.A. group. Office
facilities have to be leased; a secretary must be hired and paid; office
supplies must be purchased; the telephone bill has to be paid regularly. To
take care of these responsibilities, it is generally wise to incorporate
separately special facilities, such as a service office, which require money or
purposes, local conditions, and state laws vary, it is suggested a local lawyer
be consulted regarding such incorporation. At the same time, the following
points might be emphasized: If possible, eliminate the name "Alcoholics
Anonymous" from the corporate title. (This name is the sole property of
A.A. as a whole.) Limit the activities of the corporation to the one locality
Expenses create a
need for financial responsibility that should be recognized at the outset; if
properly understood and dealt with, it never need become a source of trouble.
methods of financing a central office:
Collections. A.A. groups participating in the financial support of the
service office may choose to make their contributions by setting aside fixed
sums from their regular collections. Many groups pledge a fixed amount, which is
paid periodically. This assures the central office of a regular income, and
certainly helps it to plan the best means of meeting its own obligations.
there are groups that do not support a central office. In these cases, the
spirit of contributing voluntarily, that prevails throughout A.A., applies. If
groups can't or choose not to pay their share of the costs, they shouldn't be
denied the services of the office.
Contributions. Some groups provide
a special collection box or basket in a convenient place during meeting times,
inviting members to contribute. In that same vein, A.A. members may make
individual contributions, on a pledge or voluntary basis, directly to the
service office, keeping in mind, however, that such contributions should not
exceed $2,000.00 in any one year.
3) Sale of
Literature. Many service offices publish their own meeting lists; others
also produce introductory pamphlets explaining A.A. These can be sold at a
slight profit to help defray office expenses. It is also possible to buy books
from G.S.O. for resale at the retail price, the profit going to support the
central office. The Conference approved literature catalog describes various
4) Special Events. Some service
offices hold yearly banquets, conventions, and similar events, using the
"profits" for support of the office. Also, many A.A.s make
contributions to their central office in celebration of their A.A. birthday or
For help in
financial planning, the 1977 General Service Conference recommended that "a
suggested prudent reserve . . . preferably be one to 12 months' operating
expense, depending on local needs."
OFFICES AND G.S.O.
experience has shown that A.A.'s worldwide unity is best served if A.A. groups
maintain their own separate contacts with G.S.O. Direct group contact with
G.S.O. doesn't take the place of services provided by a local service office,
but helps G.S.O. to keep in closer touch with all groups.
however, some important areas of interest in which close contact between the
central offices and G.S.O. is not only desirable but necessary. Some central
offices, for example, like to be provided with New Group Information Forms so
that newly formed groups can be immediately listed with G.S.O. These forms, as
well as forms for changing group information, are available from G.S.O. on
Groups should not assume that if they list themselves with a central office they are automatically listed at G.S.O. New groups are encouraged to send a Group Information Form directly to the General Service Office, P.O. Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163.
For its own part,
G.S.O. also seeks to keep central offices well informed. As a regular policy,
the G.S.O. newsletter, Box 4-5-9, as well as A.A. Directories, are
sent to each central office. G.S.O. also keeps a record of all central offices
and is interested in assisting them wherever possible. The staff member on the
Group Services assignment is the liaison with central offices and intergroups.
NEWSLETTERS OR BULLETINS
bulletins published by central offices may include not only office news and
events, but similar information about the groups and committees served by these
offices (such as meeting times, openings of new groups, or changes of group
meeting locations or officers). Frequently, material from A.A. literature is
reprinted and discussed, and articles on subjects of interest to A.A.s also are
published. Experience indicates that, as in most A.A. service activities, it is
prudent to make a committee (rather than one or two individuals) responsible for
the format, planning, and content of the bulletin.
publications quote from A.A. literature such as the Big Book, the Twelve and
Twelve, The A.A. Service Manual, and
Conference‑approved pamphlets. Any A.A. newsletter, bulletin, or meeting
list is more than welcome to use this material. Please be sure to include the
proper credit line in your publications, in order to insure that the copyrights
of A.A. literature are protected.
The A.A. Preamble
is copyrighted by the A.A. Grapevine. Beneath it, these words should appear: Reprinted
with permission of The
A.A. Grapevine, Inc. The
same is true for other material reprinted from the Grapevine.
The Steps and
Traditions should be followed by these words: Reprinted with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.
After a quotation
from an A.A. book or pamphlet, these words should appear: Reprinted
from [name of book or pamphlet, page number] with permission of A.A. World
The initials A.A.
and the name Alcoholics Anonymous are registered trademarks and should be
followed by the ® mark, to comply fully with trademark law. Please indicate the
symbol ® with the first prominent use of the name, for example: Alcoholics
Anonymous @ or A.A.@ All entities, other than A.A.W.S., Inc., should also state
in a footnote that the symbol or name is a registered trademark of A.A. World
A list of
Newsletters in the Fellowship is available from G.S.O. upon request.
More suggestions you might consider, based on local
experience with A.A. newsletters and bulletins.
• Scheduling a
"theme issue," centering on some aspect of the A.A. program and using
excerpts from Conference-approved material (with proper credit) relating
to the theme.
for and publishing letters from your A.A. readers.
highlights of minutes from various committee meetings-central office steering
committee, institutions, public information, etc.
committee financial reports and records of group contributions.
occasional appropriate cartoons. (If these are from the A.A. Grapevine or
Conference‑approved pamphlets, please remember that illustrations, too,
are copyrighted, and the proper credit should accompany any of these that are
• Running a
"Calendar of Events" feature.
• Conducting a
subscription campaign (perhaps making announcements at group meetings), to build
the key to working together--Central Office or Intergroup Office and
General Service Area Committee or the District Committee and the General Service
Office of A.A. In 1990 the General Service Conference stressed the importance of
communication and recommended that delegates establish and maintain contact with
offices in their areas to share Conference information and assure that
central/intergroup offices have a voice in the Fellowship through their existing
Try to find out
what is going on by getting together from time to time with corresponding
committees in your area. It is important to share ideas and discuss activities
so as to avoid duplication of effort. It is not important who does the work (the
General Service Committee or the Central Office or Intergroup Committee in your
area) but that the work gets done-that help is there for the next
alcoholic who needs us and our Fellowship.
and general service area committees are complementary, rather than competitive,
A.A. operations. Both exist to help insure A.A. unity and to fulfill A.A.'s
primary purpose of carrying the message.
There is a great
deal of work for intergroup or central office committees concerned with public
information, cooperation with the professional community, correctional and
In 1986, the
first A.A.W.S./Intergroup/Central Office Seminar was held to discuss questions
on literature distribution, pricing and discounts, and to share ways to work
together. Seminars are now held each year. Reports are available from G.S.O.
GOOD LUCK AND SMOOTH SAILING
We hope these
suggestions will help make your central office venture a vital and fruitful
addition to the A.A. activity in your area. These are suggestions only, and it's
the spirit and cooperation behind the central office idea that will make it
If you are
starting a new office please write to G.S.O.; your office will be added to the
mailing list and you will receive a Central Office Kit and some
literature‑and also a card for you to complete. Your office will be
included in the U.S. and Canadian Directories so that you may share A.A.
experience with others and be available for any alcoholic seeking help.