Treasurer Spreadsheets?

From that ten-cent phone call and a cup of coffee to AA's General Service Office. What's your take on service?
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Treasurer Spreadsheets?

Post by Karl10 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 6:09 am

Hi All,

Still a relative newbie at just a little over 2 years sober; based in New Hampshire.

I was just handed the "church-key/setup/coffee-maker/treasurer/bookie" job by an old gent who's done it for many years, but is having to give it up due to failing health. I'm not sure why he picked me; I do setup at another meeting and have been chairing this one for over a year now, and am a relative newcomer compared to most of the regulars, who may well already have done their stint in this group. I've always been a pretty solitary creature, and still remain largely so despite my time in AA... it's getting better, but it's a slow process, but anyway, this is why I don't know a whole lot about what's going on behind the scenes in this group, so to speak.

My main question here is: does anyone use spreadsheets to keep track of the group's finances? This is a variable-sized group, anywhere from 5 (rare, but happens, usually around the Holidays when weather's not good) up to 40 when one of the local recovery Houses attends, which is more often than not. So, while not a big group, I'd still like to use a spreadsheet to track the intake and expenses. I'm a "type A," and a stickler for detail, so maybe this job is right up my alley. Like many of us, though, I've got issues, and the thought of having someone question my integrity or making accusations gives me the horrors, so I want to keep a scrupulous accounting, and the best way I can see it a spreadsheet. I say this because I'm comfortable with them, and have never worked with paper ledgers. Besides, if I use OpenOffice, I can have the spreadsheet right in my phone, so any issues can be examined and hopefully cleared up instantly.

If anyone has a sheet they'd be willing to share, I'd love to have a look at it; there's little point in re-inventing the wheel if there's already a good one out there. I can scratch-build one, but not having run a treasury before, I'd welcome input from people who have done so.

Secondary question/s: Would you say it's advisable to break out some of these positions to other people (assuming anyone's willing to take them on)? He didn't really say why he was covering all of these positionsl, but maybe that's because he couldn't find anyone to step up. 'Til I came along, anyway. I'm more than willing to continue along as he has been, but I'm wondering if it's fair to others in the group for me to be wearing so many hats, when others might want to do service too? I just feel a little uncomfortable taking over his spot and then immediately changing everything around... it feels a little disrespectful to me, if you can see that. I'm sure it's not, as he's stepped away from it and it's mine now, but changing everything seems to say that I don't agree with how he was doing things and that doesn't sit well, given our relative times in AA and all he's given -vs- the little I've done. Probably me just being overly sensitive, but that's how I'm wired, and some wiser/more experienced input and/or reassurance would certainly help this alcoholic out! Any input here is very much appreciated, thanks!!

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Re: Treasurer Spreadsheets?

Post by Brock » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:32 am

Welcome here Karl, thanks for the question.

I will give an opinion on the spreadsheet, in a roundabout way. Because from my experience; and just like you having taken over pretty much all the duties of a group, when I was newer to the program, I got both the satisfaction of serving, and quite a load of surprises.

I have found two main types of trusted servant in AA, there are those who almost make an identity out of service, I have seen a coffee man argue to keep his job for years, insisting it’s his position until he says it’s not. Then those who simply will not do service, both when they are new, and also when they have some years. When you say - “...'compared' to most of the regulars, who may well already have done their stint in this group...”, it is understandable that some think service ends with time, but it should not. After doing all the chores for about three years at my group, I asked for help. Someone said, ‘I have been here too long to make coffee,’ but I found a posting from a well known early AA member, (I think in the grapevine), that said words to the effect of - ‘AA is about the only organization, where we go from sweeping the floor to chairman, then back to sweeping again,’ I copied and put it boldly on the groups notice board, still no volunteers. Long story short, I couldn’t get anyone to take over any of the positions, a few months later I sort of lost my cool, and placed the accounts book and money on the table at a group conscience meeting, I simply said I am done and walked out. So I think you might every now and then, let the members know, that the various service positions you hold, you would be happy to share with others. This covers the secondary question you asked, but also it covers you in my opinion. Because if your group is anything like the experience I had, and you find yourself doing all these things for too long, you can at least say I have offered the positions in the past, and nobody stepped up, now I am stepping down.

So my first surprise was a lack of others being willing to help, my second was the almost complete absence of interest in how the accounts were kept, how the money was spent, how the room was opened and set up etc etc. I am afraid my experience says, that the only time the average member gets interested is if things go wrong, if the treasurer says we are broke, or maybe the room is opened late and somebody was kept waiting. AA service can be a lonely business, with little thanks, but it is a valuable learning tool, and something I never regret doing. As usual I have rambled on, but in direct answer as to if a spreadsheet should be used, I say it most likely makes no difference to the members in general. For the old timer you took over from, you could simply say you have employed a computer to help you, I don’t see him getting upset, and as you say it’s your position to do as you see fit.

I hope this all works out well for you, AA needs members like yourself.
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Re: Treasurer Spreadsheets?

Post by ebear » Fri Oct 04, 2019 11:59 am

First, Service is one of the Three Legacies, and it's not just about 12th stepping. The group that foists the lion's share of group service on one member is missing its importance to the other legacies, Unity and Recovery. You are wise not to overload yourself with service responsibilities. You would also be justified in telling your group that all members deserve the blessing of doing humble service. You are therefore divesting yourself from some of your services to stop overextending yourself and to allow other members the opportunity to support Group Unity (we're all rowing together) and improve their Recovery.

Second, good on you for using your special skill set to handle the finances in the best way you can. I cannot imagine anyone complaining of a new methodology that ensures accurate (and quickly sortable) data! There would be absolutely no need to apologize or feel disrespectful for doing that. (In fact, apologizing might even come across as condescending.)

Just my thoughts.
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Re: Treasurer Spreadsheets?

Post by Karl10 » Sat Oct 05, 2019 9:38 am

Thank you both for your kind words, and for your advice.

@Brock: I guess, technically, that coffee guy's job IS his until he says it's not, or until someone else wants the job and challenges him on it, but it certainly misses the mark on the spirit of AA. It's another example of selfish thinking, which is at the root of what brought almost all of us to AA in the first place. It's kind of sad that he doesn't even see that. And as well as AA seems to work, I see that as one of the drawbacks of a 'leaderless' organization: everyone has their own ideas of what constitutes "service," and what doesn't; who's obligated, and who's not, and they're free to act accordingly. Given what AA gives us, I personally feel it's reprehensible to not give back in some fashion... what price sobriety? I understand, some people just barely have time to make meetings (might want to have a look at your life, there....), others (such as myself) have personality/psychological issues that make it really hard to step forward out of the safety of anonymity... but isn't that a part of the personal growth that AA fosters? If you just stay in your comfort zone, you aren't going to make a lot of progress, or if you do, it'll be a greatly protracted process. Well, what's the hurry, I suppose? And there are certainly those who have put in time in service, and are enjoying a 'vacation' or sorts, just claiming a seat. But as you say, there are some that just won't, for whatever reason(s) they might have. It's too bad, because not only is it AA's loss, but it's theirs as well. It's an opportunity for growth that's just ignored, or even more sadly, isn't even perceived. I feel sorry for the guy who thinks he's been here too long to make coffee... he's feeling entitled, above the 'menial' work that keeps the group going. Apparently he's fallen out of the practice of self-examination and reflection/meditation; otherwise, he would most likely see that that kind of thinking is just plain wrong, and again, a wasted opportunity for further growth. Or for just plain setting a good example. Lessons are literally everywhere, in every situation, if we have the wit to see them, and the desire and willingness to learn.

I'll take to heart your advice on trying to open up some of the service positions to the group, and especially on just putting it down if I feel it's been long enough or too long. Never occurred to me that I could do that, but then, why couldn't I? Wouldn't be the best way to do it, and wouldn't set much of an example for others, but then, neither would playing doormat, and being the long-suffering contributing member.

You're almost certainly right about the average member noticing things only when they go sideways. Same vein as people piping up only when things go bad, or when if you do something well, a few people will pass that information around, but if you do something poorly or just wrong (or not at all), then lots of people will tell anyone who will listen. Human nature at work, I guess.

I don't see it as a ramble at all; it's a comprehensive answer, which I greatly appreciate. You may have noticed that I tend to ramble myself... =biggrin
It's one of those things that seems to come with getting older (66.) I'm sure you're right about the old-timer: one of my many character defects is an overblown and frequently misplaced sense of loyalty, both to people and things, and coupled with a major sense of insecurity and self-doubt and the ever-present fear of rejection and/or ridicule, that's probably all that I'm seeing/feeling and worrying over. Monsters under the bed, as it were.

I'm sure it'll work out as it should; it'll be a valuable learning tool, that much is certain. It'll be a chance to work on acceptance, if nothing else!

And again, I'm grateful for your thoughtful and thorough input!

@ebear: I like your take on the Three Legacies, and I'm going to be spending some time reflecting on it (I'd meditate on it, but I'm still just so bad at it.....) I'm not too deep into the 'nuts & bolts' of AA yet... still chewing on the Twelve Traditions (every first week of the month, we do a tradition... the other three weeks, we do the steps); I find it informative and enlightening, and I'm really glad we do it, as left to myself, I'd probably deem them too extraneous to recovery, and not read them at all. I'm taking your suggestion to heart as well: once I've settled into my new role(s!), and I work up the courage to do so, next time we get to the "Does anyone have any AA-related announcements," I'll have one. I'm not going to lecture the group; I just don't have the chutzpah (sp?) for that yet, and aside from that, it's not my place to lecture anyone at anytime for any reason... like I know anything, right? If I really knew anything, would I be here? But I'll point out the fact that one person is holding ALL the service positions for this meeting, and that that isn't fair to that individual or to the group as a whole, as it denies anyone else any chance to be of service in this meeting, and that being of service is a chance to grow, so I'm denying people the chance to grow, as well. I'd like to point out that age and/or time-in-sobriety need not be a barrier to taking service positions, and that no service position is beneath anybody, as they're all things that need to be done to keep the group going. I'd also mention that it's just plain bad practice in general to "put all your eggs in one basket." As I've shared in my Step Meeting on occasion, if I come here prepared to take, shouldn't I also come here prepared to give? Balance, in all things, whenever possible. If meetings are vital to keeping one sober, shouldn't one be obligated to continue to give back if one continues to keep coming? Is there some amount of service that, having been reached, relieves one from obligation to serve any further? No, it isn't necessarily fun, but growth seldom is, but it's needful, and gives a great example of AA's spirit to newcomers, and if nothing else, it gives back to that which has given so much and continues to do so. It's only fair. And as you mentioned, it serves to keep one "right-sized," or humble.

I don't know how much of that I could manage to choke out, at this point anyway, or how much to include, but I think you're right in thinking that it or something like it needs saying. What's that old business adage, "A new broom sweeps clean," or something like that? Maybe the group needs a shake-up, and it's fallen to me to be the agent of that change. I guess we'll see. Worst that could happen is that I'd be invited to leave, and that would solve this problem, wouldn't it? While I do realize that I'm not obligated to leave, in practical terms, who wants to stay where he's not wanted? I did that once with a job I'd held for nearly thirty years, and it was probably the most unpleasant time I've spent in this life... thus far, anyway.

Hadn't even occurred to me that an apology could be perceived as condescending. Condescension implies a feeling of superiority, and with an inferiority complex the size of mine, it would be impossible... but I can see that someone might not know that, and take it as such... so I thank you for that observation.

And again, thank you both for the valued input!

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