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Starting an Intergroup
Suggestions and ideas to consider
First Things First
Starting and running a DRA Intergroup in some ways is like starting and running a small business. Many of the same considerations must be made in order for an Intergroup to be useful to the local DRA Fellowship. Good records must be kept, costs must be covered, and adequate personnel is needed to share and rotate the service positions,
DRA Intergroups need adequate local resources. This includes not only 7th Tradition funding but enough interested members who have the time, personal recovery experience, and willingness to serve. A DRA Intergroup may appear to non-members and newcomers in the community as a representation of the DRA Fellowship as a whole. It could be said that an Intergroup is the “face of DRA” within a local community. If an Intergroup were to be run by only one or two people, careful planning and consideration must be given to what happens to the Intergroup, and its image in the community, should one or two of those Intergroup staffers relapse or have a serious flare-up of psychiatric symptoms. Who will answer the phones, make call-backs, or be available to answer questions about our Fellowship, offer support to a newcomer. Also, can so few individuals justify a Group Conscience taking on issues that potentially may affect all the Groups in their service area?
It is ok to start small with limited resources. However one needs to carefully consider whether the DRA Fellowship and the local community might actually be better served by putting the energy that would be required to start and run a fledgling Intergroup, into service work at the group level. For instance, sponsorship can play a significant role in the recovery, growth, and healing of newer members. Is the need for sponsorship in your area getting met? Are there enough experienced members to help newcomers understand the Steps and Traditions? Does your area have or need any Step or Book Study meetings? Members should have a serious discussion as to whether these needs are best met through the service structure of an Intergroup, or at the level of the local groups.
Before starting an Intergroup, several DRA members from local area groups should get together and assess the real need for such an organization. They may ask themselves if there are enough local Groups who are willing and able to support the Intergroup. Would it be a drain or an asset to the local group’s service work committees. How will it be financed and what services will it be able to provide based upon the resources that are available. They may want to draw up plans and organizational charts. They may want to apply with the IRS for a Tax Identification Number for banking purposes and ask for advice from a knowledgeable accountant or tax professional in regards to matters of money, record-keeping, and any possible tax issues. In some areas, a telephone answering service or an area meeting schedule committee to print and distribute area meeting schedules may be all that is needed for now. It is important to make sure that there is enough interested parties so that all of the service positions and responsibilities do not rest on the shoulders of too few. Enough local groups need to be represented at the Intergroup business meetings so an Intergroup’s group conscience accurately represents the desires and needs of the DRA community it serves.
Members may wish to write a set of bylaws or guidelines that are agreed upon by all Group Representatives before actually committing resources and spending money to start an Intergroup. An Intergroup may wish to define service work committee positions and officers. It may wish to have certain set requirements for positions of responsibility in terms of recovery or clean time. How will those position be filled should they become vacant. Is there a limit on how many service positions any one member can hold at a given time or for how long.
It is clear that an Intergroup will face issues and make commitments for service work projects beyond the normal scope of a regular DRA 12 Step Group. Issues may arise such as finding office space; paying phone bills, printing costs for area meeting schedules, and getting office supplies. Intergroups require money and careful management to maintain their usefulness.
Supporting Local Area Intergroups
An Intergroup carries the message of DRA to the extent its resources allow. It is strongly advised that an Intergroup not incur debt even if it’s a loan from one of the founding members.
Nor is it wise for members to substantially contribute funds out of proportion with the rest of the members and groups involved. When local area groups can afford to invest in an Intergroup and are willing, that may be the best time to undertake such an endeavour.
Carrying the message of DRA at the level of an Intergroup does cost money. Intergroups are guided by the 12 Traditions and Group Conscience in matters of finance. They are also guided by local, state, and federal tax and business laws.
There are several ways an Intergroup may generate revenue, however, it is not a commercial profit-seeking enterprise. The goal is to be self-supporting through the contributions and service work of area members and groups, for the single purpose of carrying the message of Dual Recovery Anonymous.
Area groups may decide, after they have met their needs through the Seventh Tradition and having established a prudent reserve as defined by their individual Group’s Conscience, to divide and send their extra monies on up the DRA Service Network to help support their local Area Intergroup and World Network Central Office. This is entirely voluntary and on an as able basis.
Intergroups may sell books and supplies to Groups within their service boundaries at a modest profit to help sustain their services and usefulness.
Intergroups may coordinate special functions such as pot-lucks, picnics, or dances with a secondary agreed upon purpose of utilizing any extra monies generated by the event to support the activities of the Intergroup.The primary purpose of all such events is always to carry the message of DRA. DRA meetings including speakers meetings are never to be charged for.
DRA meetings that are incorporated into a paid event should ultimately meet the requirements for membership and attendance as suggested by our Twelve Traditions.
For Example, a person may attend a meeting without being required to pay an entrance or ticket fee to a dance. This does not mean they can stay for the dance for free, only attend the meeting.
Intergroups are independent entities guided by the principles of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions just like Groups.
They may hold business meetings and pass the basket according to the Seventh Tradition just like any other DRA meeting. Intergroups may hold Group Conscience meetings to decide such things as what is their “prudent reserve” and what percentage of revenues, if any, to send on up the DRA Service Network.
Intergroups may elect Group Treasurers who maintain the Intergroup’s bank account and keep records.
Intergroups should keep meticulous records, keeping all receipts and accounting for how they handle the resources that the local Fellowship entrusts them with. Good bookkeeping is an important tool to keep disputes over money from destroying the usefulness of the Intergroup.
Groups develop skills to coordinate their service work activities and manage their Group’s finances. They expand their efforts to carry the message and offer contributions as they are able. Some local DRA Groups may not pass extra funds up the ladder to an Intergroup.
In these cases, the spirit of voluntary service remains. When Groups can’t or won’t help share the costs of running and maintaining a local Intergroup, they should not be denied its services.
Perhaps when the Group grows and over time, they will then decide to help support the Intergroup and or become more involved in its service work committees.
Donations and contributions that come with any strings attached are best avoided. Intergroups may utilize office spaces donated by Institutions such as local service providers or advocacy agencies while maintaining a boundary appropriate relationship.
There must always be a clear boundary separating the work of DRA from the work of chemical dependency and mental health professionals.
An Intergroup should never incorporate an institution’s or service provider’s name within its own. It must keep up an obvious appearance of being a separate entity.
How an Intergroup might fill service positions
DRA Groups from the local area might decide to have one or two service positions each in which their members are represented at the level of the Area Intergroup or take turns helping the Intergroup function.
Like all service positions, these should be rotated occasionally to give more members a chance to participate in service work.
These positions might be combined with other responsibilities in small Groups or broken up in larger Groups to offer more service opportunities. Some Groups may elect a Group Representative to sit in on Intergroup business meetings and vote the conscience and express the needs of their Group at that level.
Service positions are best if rotated periodically to maintain the spiritual basis of service in accordance with our Steps and Traditions.
Intergroup steering committees will best serve the area’s needs of they consist of members from the widest possible selection of DRA Groups within the service area.
All DRA members are reminded to put their personal recovery first. DRA Service Work is generally a good thing that is conducive to our recovery goals.
However, when we take on too much or find ourselves “doing it all” or repeatedly using our own personal funds to support a service activity, it may be time to reevaluate. Perhaps the area is not really ready for an Intergroup or some goals need to be scaled back for a while. This is fine.
None of us needs to shoulder more responsibility than is fair or we are able. The DRA Fellowship is best served when we make our personal dual recovery the priority.
Some things DRA Intergroups don’t do
Intergroups do not charge for Twelfth Step Work.
Intergroups do not break any public, business, or tax laws.
Intergroups do not provide professional services such as mental health or addiction counseling. They do not diagnose psychiatric or emotional illness, chemical dependency, or substance abuse.
Intergroups do not make decisions or take any actions that will affect the Fellowship as a whole, except in giving a generally positive impression to the community when carrying the message of DRA.
Intergroups do not govern or control the local DRA Groups that they serve.
Intergroups do not compete with local groups or other Intergroups. Their relationship with local DRA 12 Step Groups and other DRA service work committees is one of cooperation to better carry DRA’s message. Our relationships should all be complementary.
Intergroups are not affiliated with any outside organization, nor do they use the DRA name in any way that might imply an endorsement or affiliation with any other organization or institution.
Intergroups are not advocacy organizations. They do not engage in politics or public controversy, nor do they support or protest any outside cause or issue.
Intergroups are not mental health or addiction education services. However they may educate the public about the program of Dual Recovery Anonymous.
The following suggestions come from members of our Fellowship who have experienced starting, maintaining, filling service positions for, or otherwise running an Intergroup.
DRA World Network does not necessarily endorse all of these ideas. We pass them along in that they might be useful to those members who are considering or are in the process of forming a DRA Intergroup. We will be adding to it as more Intergroups are formed and more members share their experiences.
- Elect at least two members to go to the other Group meetings and discuss the benefits of Intergroup.
- Make sure to keep the minutes (a written record or outline with highlights) of all business meetings and read the important or relevant parts back at the next business meeting.
- Keep even the smallest receipts for petty cash, coffee, and stamps. Stamps need to be treated just like the fellowship’s money and their use recorded.
- Set up your bank account so that it takes two signatures to sign checks or withdraw funds.
- Make sure not to ignore Groups who may be a little farther away, unregistered, or are very small. Use the phone, Internet, or regular mailings to help make them feel part of the Intergroup. Include them in your printed schedules and newsletters whenever possible even though they may not yet offer much support to the Intergroup.
- Keep your finances a matter of public record. The Groups that you serve deserve to know exactly how their money is being used and how the message is being carried by the Intergroup.
Keep in Touch with DRA World Network!
An Intergroup has certain responsibilities. They are an excellent two-way conduit for communications between area members, individual groups, and the World Network Central Office.
When DRA World Network does not hear from Intergroups it cannot recognize or continue to register them as official DRA Intergroups. DRA Intergroups must keep their registration information up to date.
Intergroups must understand and be guided by the principles in DRA’s Preamble, Traditions, and Steps. An Intergroup’s purpose must be aligned with DRA’s Primary Purpose and Founding Vision.
For these reasons, new Intergroups must seek dialogue with DRA World Network, and permission from DRA World Network, to register and call themselves an Intergroup of the Fellowship of Dual Recovery Anonymous.
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