Sliding Scale Prices
"The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members." - Coretta Scott King
For a sliding scale to work it relies on the principles of truthfulness, respect for complexity, and accountability. I do not ask for income verification. I trust my clients to be honest. Community thrives when accountability is a central value, because that is where trust grows and depth work can be done. Service providers deserve to get paid and clients deserve services which recognize the multiple realities of economic access and privilege that exist.
Recently, someone shared with me the idea of sacrifice versus hardship when examining access. If paying for a class, product, or service would be difficult, but not detrimental, it qualifies as a sacrifice. You might have to cut back on other spending in your life (such as going out to dinner, buying coffee, or a new outfit), but this will not have a long term harmful impact on your life. It is a sacred sacrifice in order to pursue something you are called to do. If, however, paying for a class, product, or service would lead to a harmful impact on your life, such as not being able to put food on the table, pay rent, or pay for your transportation to get to work, then you are dealing with hardship. Folks coming from a space of hardship typically qualify for the lower end of the sliding scale. I find the idea of sacrifice versus hardship to be a very useful nuance when talking about class and access because it recognizes and respects that paying for something might still be a challenge even if it is just a short-term one, while giving appropriate space for those who are dealing with financial hardship.
Here is a general guideline about how I currently price my sliding scale and to help you determine where you fall on it.
Tier 1 cost reflects the true cost of the service. It is the cost that the doula would charge all clients in the absence of a sliding scale. If you have access to financial security, own property or have personal savings, you would not traditionally qualify for sliding scale services. If you are able to pay for "wants" and spend little time worried about securing necessities in your life. This price is for you.
The middle cost reflects the doula's acknowledgement that paying the full cost would prevent some folks from being able to participate, but who do not honestly find themselves reflected in either descriptions for the highest cost or the lowest. If you are struggling to conquer debt or build savings or move away from paycheck to paycheck living but have access to steady income and are not spending most of your time thinking about meeting basic needs such as food, shelter, medical care, child care, etc., you belong here. If you, however, can ask others for financial support, such as family members, partners, or friends, please consider using those personal resources before you use the resources of the sliding scale and limit opportunities for others.
Tier 3 cost represents an honest acknowledgment by the doula that there are folks whose economic circumstances would prevent them from receiving services if there were not a deliberate opportunity made that was reflective of their economic realities. If you struggle to maintain access to needs such as health care, housing, food, child care, and are living paycheck to paycheck or are in significant debt, you probably belong here. Even when the lower tier is still prohibitive, I will work with folks to offer extended payment plans and other solutions.
Derived from Alexis J. Cunningfolk, the designer of "The Sliding Scale: The Tool of Economic Justice"