May 12, 2020

Dear Conference members,

With so much happening over these past few weeks – including intense preparations for the 70th General Service Conference, committee meetings, board meetings, and other ongoing work in the office (in a virtual/telework environment) – the landscape across our organization seems to change every day.

Among these shifts have been the realities of our own financial situation. It’s no secret that businesses and organizations from every sector have felt the economic impacts of this global health crisis, and we are no different. As a result, due to steep declines over the past two months in revenue from group contributions and literature sales, management and the boards have increased our focus on costs and expenses of office operations.

To that end, on April 22, the General Service Office made a request to the Trustees’ Finance and Budgetary Committee and its chair, Leslie Backus, for an emergency drawdown of $3 million from the Reserve Fund. This request was due to the decrease in book sales and contributions caused by the global pandemic. After a review of the cash flow analysis, the committee agreed to forward the request to the General Service Board. On Thursday, April 30, the General Service Board approved the $3 million Reserve Fund drawdown. Over the past week the office has begun that process and will continue to access funds as they become liquid in our bank accounts.

The decision was made after reflecting upon the primary principle behind the prudent Reserve Fund that A.A. has maintained for decades: “To provide the financial resources necessary to continue the services of G.S.O. and the Grapevine in the event of emergency or disaster… ” (The A.A. Service Manual, page S72). The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, especially in New York City and the downstate region, is a true public health emergency. State and City regulations have restricted the operations of non-essential businesses since March. Our office at 475 Riverside Drive has been shut down to the nonprofit tenants since Friday, March 27, when we moved to 95% telework status for our employees, and there are no immediate indications of when this will change.

Further, the unexpected financial situation brought on by the public health crisis has required several layoffs or temporary furloughs of workers in roles that can no longer be covered by salary continuation. While this has been an incredibly difficult decision, our goal and responsibility is to maintain a sustainable, responsive organization to serve A.A.’s needs and requirements.

In addition to the objectives noted above, we are now focused on providing support for our General Service Conference, which will take place Saturday, May 16 to Tuesday, May 19. We will be utilizing a virtual platform to conduct Conference business, and our team has been demonstrating an “all hands on deck” approach to ensure that the event is successful for the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. While this is not something we envisioned even a few months ago, I am so proud of the resiliency and incredible work that has gone into planning. More discussion and reports on G.S.O. and AA Grapevine finances will be shared with you at the Conference.

This information and all that will be reported at the Conference are intended to be shared with the Fellowship, to keep the groups informed on Seventh Tradition funding of needed services, so that a true group conscience can be achieved in this difficult time for all.

Sincerely, in love and service,

G. Gregory Tobin
General Manager

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