Visibility For 12 Step (Anonymous) Groups
And Other Support Groups (vis-index.html)

Revised 2/16/2002

A Few Quick Links

Quit Smoking Web Site. Has (1) Many links to quit - smoking Internet discussion groups of various kinds (2) "Card Therapy" -- what to say to yourself when the cravings to smoke won't go away. Includes all twenty two 3 X 5 cards that I carried around while I was quitting smoking.

E-mail: jalars (atsign)    (replace (atsign) with @ and get rid of the spaces)

Contents Of This Site

Index and Summary (this page) -- vis-index.html

Phone book Listing -- vis-phonebook.html

Regional Web Page Directories, Web Pages, Advertising, and Miscellaneous -- vis-webpage.html

Advertising and Miscellaneous Topics -- vis-ads.html


There are many 12 Step (also known as "anonymous") groups and other support groups and non-profit organizations that are very little known to the public. What's even worse, is that even if one knows the name or the organization, it can be very hard to find. In small and medium - sized cities, many such organizations have too small a membership to afford local phone book listings or advertising. Also small local organizations may lack the budget, volunteer time, and the technical ability to build, place, and maintain a Web page, and to link it to local Web directories. (A local Web page is required in order to be listed with most local Web directories like Yahoo Twin Cities or Digital City - Twin Cities). Thus such small organizations do not get listed in the local phone book or local Web directories.

At the present time (2/2002) most 12 Step organizations in the Twin Cities are _not_ listed in the local phone book or in the local Web directories. They are therefore hard to find -- for the most part, one must be lucky enough to hear of them by word of mouth or by referral. Or one must be lucky enough to call the right referral agency.

One might think that rectifying these problems is a matter of a little time and money. Reading this document will probably persuade most that these are rather complex undertakings for small local organizations.

One could hope that some group of donors or a foundation would rectify this problem, as the cost is not enormous. However, 12 step organizations have a tradition (effectively a rule) of refusing to accept donations from outsiders. Thus, local phone book listings, local web pages, and direct advertising must be financed in their entirety by the local membership of such groups. For an organization like AA, this is seldom a problem, as the membership is very large. But for much smaller and lesser - known organizations, such as Nicotine Anonymous, the membership in a particular city or town is usually quite small, and often is predominately lower and lower-middle class financially.

On the other hand, also per the traditions and what has been written in AA literature about the traditions, 12 step organizations rely heavily on referrals from other organizations and individuals who recommend us. If these organizations wish to list us or make us better known in other ways, then this would not be considered a violation of the self-support tradition.

The purpose of this web page is to share ideas with others about how to increase the visibility of small support groups and other small non-profit organizations at low cost. I've done a considerable amount of letter - writing, newsgroup posting, phone calls, and Web exploring to see if there is something out there that addresses these problems. I find many organizations and resources willing to help large non-profits with Board organization, computer networks, fund-raising campaigns, etc. But I have found nobody at all who understands or cares about the problems that small local 12 step organizations have in achieving a reasonable level of visibility.

My limited experience investigating a phone book listing and a web page for the local Twin Cities Nicotine Anonymous is also discussed here. (The Twin Cities are Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota).

What I am wondering is, is there something I am missing or doing wrong? It seems there are many obstacles to overcome in order to get listed in local directories. Are there others plowing the same furrow that I'm trying to plow? How do we provide the information about ours and other organizations to people that are seeking help? I hope that each organization in each city or town doesn't have to build a local Web page just to get listed in local Web directories -- that is impractical for small self-help organizations in small towns.

Later: 2/2002 - a free and ad-free host for small web sites for non-profits is at I haven't investigated thoroughly, but if low cost and ad-freedom are very important to you, I recommend you investigate.

As for me, I've been settled in at the advertising-heavy Geocities for the Twin Cities Nicotine Anonymous home page for so long, and its address so widely distributed that I hesitate to move it, but if I had to move it, I would certainly look at

Summary -- Phone Book Listing

The local phone company, U.S. West, made getting a phone book listing into a complex undertaking, with many options and rates. (This was in 1998). From what I could understand, a simple one line listing in the white and yellow pages, and a phone number with simple voice mail, cost nearly $30/month. The voice mail included an outgoing 90 second recorded message, as well as recording a large number of incoming calls.

Without the voice mail, it cost $16/month. This would involve a phone book listing, and a phone number that would forward the call to an existing phone number (e.g. a member's home phone number).

However, U.S. West, for some reason, makes it very complex and does not have anything in writing to explain things. I guess it is some sort of sales tactic to try to sell extra optional services.

As an alternative, I talked to an answering service (which also offers simple voice mail services not involving a human operator). My limited experience was that they offered the same services for less (even considering that one must still talk to and pay the local phone company for the white page and yellow page listing), and that the answering service endeavored to explain things in as simple a way as possible.

Summary -- Regional Web Directories, Hosts, and Web Pages

I discuss my experience in trying to get Twin Cities regional web directories to list Nicotine Anonymous, or link to the International Nicotine Anonymous page, so that we won't have to build, find a host for, and maintain a Twin Cities Nicotine Anonymous web page. So far, the International Nicotine Anonymous page link has been accepted by UFFDA (now the Star Tribune's Minnesota Guide), refused by Yahoo Twin Cities, and ignored by DigitalCity Twin Cities.

Next, given that I'm not likely (at least in the short-run) to win my fight to get all regional web directories to link to the International Nicotine Anonymous page, I have had to begin looking at building a Twin Cities Nicotine Anonymous web page. I don't discuss the technology of making a simple Web page in this document (although I plan to in the future).

Instead, I discuss my experience in finding a service to host a Twin Cities Nicotine Anonymous web page. I found that the two services that many people recommended -- the Twin Cities Freenet, and the Minnesota Telecommunications Network -- were expensive, at least $10/month. (These two services are non-profit organizations with the mission of providing low cost internet services for non-profits.) The $10/month cost is far too much to pay for a place to put a simple small (maybe 10 kbyte) Web page; particularly considering that the page's only reason for existence is so that we can be included in regional Web directories. (In fairness to the above two services, the $10/month rate includes full or close to full internet access and all the usual internet services, an email address, and many hours of connect time. But we don't need any of that. We just need a place to put a 10K web page).

Later: 2/2002 - a free and ad-free host for small web sites for non-profits is at I haven't investigated thoroughly, but if low cost and ad-freedom are very important to you, I recommend you investigate.

Summary - Other Means of Increasing Visibility, e.g. Newspaper Ads

By increasing an organization's visibility, I mean making it better known and easier to find. Two ways of increasing visibility -- getting a phone book listing, and getting listed in local Web regional directories -- are discussed at length here. However, there are many other possible ways of increasing an organization's visibility, such as running an ad (or notice) in a newspaper. At this time, I simply list some alternatives that 12 Step groups (which decline outside contributions) may take to achieve greater visibility. I plan to expand on that in the future.