Message From the General Service Office

November 17, 2023

To: GSB Trustees, AAWS Board, AA Grapevine Board, Trustees Emeriti, Appointed Committee Members, Current Delegates, Past Delegates, Past Trustees, All Conference Members, IGCOs: U.S. and Canada, International GSOs, GSRs, DCMs, Area Officers, Area Registrars, GSO/AA Grapevine Employees    

Dear A.A. Friends:

As a Fellowship, we celebrate and recognize November as Gratitude Month. This is a time when we A.A.s reflect on the many gifts and blessings sobriety has given us. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous encompasses many facets: our home groups, sponsorship, the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Fellowship among each other, service on many levels, and many more. As the General Manager of the General Service Office (GSO), I’m grateful to see firsthand the many services GSO provides that support the spiritual purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous – carrying the message of sobriety to the alcoholic who still suffers. These services assist the many facets of the A.A. program.

With the spirit of Gratitude Month in mind, I write today to share with you the difficult news related to the current financial health of Alcoholics Anonymous and the potential continued challenges ahead as we strive to fulfill our spiritual purpose. I hope this letter will be met with understanding, and that the honesty and sincerity in my heart are apparent throughout. The last four years have been very challenging for A.A. in many respects. This began with the worldwide shutdown in early 2020 due to the pandemic, which immediately forced nearly all A.A. groups to close their physical doors and either stop meeting altogether or find other means of gathering. This was followed by a slow return of groups meeting in person, an economy filled with uncertainty, and a workplace that changed in many ways. During this time, GSO and our Boards, like other organizations and businesses, were forced to change dramatically. We quickly transitioned to working 100% virtual to continue serving the Fellowship.

The office, along with the A.A. World Services (AAWS) and General Service Boards (GSB), have worked hard to manage our finances through these last four years with the hope that many of the challenges we faced would subside and return to pre-pandemic conditions. It is apparent now that the financial challenges we face cannot continue to be met with the deferral of essential projects and office development that are necessary to carry out Advisory Actions of the General Service Conference and support the vital services GSO provides.

Our tradition of self-support has always been vital to the health and future of the Fellowship and been our main source of income. However, there has always been a need for additional support from the sale of our literature. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, the initial impact on our revenue was significant, with a steep decrease in contributions. Income from sales of A.A. literature was also significantly reduced as sales came to an almost complete halt. The Fellowship responded with tremendous generosity, resulting in contributions reaching record levels. That continued in 2021, and contributions in 2022 nearly matched the 2021 level. This year to date, we are on pace to reach similar levels to the last three years. Your generosity is greatly appreciated and heartwarming.

Unfortunately, literature profits have not rebounded back to pre-pandemic levels. In addition to the slow return of sales, inflation has resulted in substantial increases in the cost to produce and distribute literature. Conscious of the challenges facing groups and members, the AAWS board held literature prices steady for as long as possible until earlier this year, when it became apparent the costs to produce and distribute were not going to return to pre-pandemic levels. Despite increased contributions after the pandemic, the loss in literature revenue has left our total revenue short by approximately $1,000,000 compared with per-pandemic times.

The pandemic has also had a significant impact on virtually all our expenses. Of note are increased costs related to meetings, events, and travel, which are a key necessity to support the Regional Forums, board meetings, and the General Service Conference. However, we have managed to reduce total operating expenses to an average of $15,768,000 compared with pre-pandemic levels of $16,258,000. Reducing total expenses below pre-pandemic levels truly illustrates the diligence the office and the boards applied to the budget and operations to offset losses.

Because of the significant decline in literature sales and revenue and the large cash outlay needed to continue printing and distributing our literature, we have also experienced a very tight cash position. Our reforecast budget for this year estimates a loss of $997,000, after depreciation and the GSB support of La Viña.

The office and all three boards have worked diligently to address these financial challenges. A systematic and dedicated approach to budgeting has been developed over recent years and allows for the most informed group conscience possible. Throughout, budget managers and the AAWS Board work together to find the most effective ways to prioritize and execute services, maximizing the use of each A.A. dollar. In addition to the annual budget process, a reforecast is done midyear to adapt to the direction brought forth by the April General Service Conference and other factors impacting original estimates.

As difficult as this letter is to write, I’m hopeful and optimistic for A.A.’s future. Together we can overcome the challenges we’re facing. We need your help to continue to adjust to and plan for the reality of current economic conditions and changes in our Fellowship. As members we often say that when A.A. needs money, the Fellowship will respond. This is one of those times. Your generosity has sustained us through very difficult times in the past. If your group is able, in the spirit of Gratitude Month, please consider a special contribution to the General Service Board. You can make a contribution through aa.org by clicking here or by mail.

Make your check payable to the General Service Board to:

General Service Office
P.O. Box 2407
James A. Farley Station
New York, NY 10116-2407

Moving forward, more frequent, and incremental contributions would be much appreciated as the office incurs many of its expenses during certain parts of the year. In particular, many of our more significant expenses are incurred from January to May, due to planning, preparation, and operation of the General Service Conference each April.

Attached to this letter you will find a summary of the operations of GSO and details of many of the vital services GSO provides. I hope this information gives you a greater understanding of the vital work and services your contributions help to support. Thank you so much for everything each of you do for Alcoholics Anonymous.

With gratitude for all the sacrifices you make for A.A.,

Bob W.
General Manager, GSO

Attachments: Summary of the Operations of GSOMessage from the General Manager

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