One very common question I get when fielding an inquiry from a school, organization, or company about the cost of a training or workshop is, “Why does this cost so much?”
I think it’s a really honest question. After all, people of color, and those who do this work, have often been expected to DO this work because they LOVE this work. And, that’s all. “Well, if you love something, why should you get paid for it?” Hmmm… pretty sure Tom Brady loves football. Shall we not pay him? (side bar: yo, why does Tom Brady get paid so much?? See what I did there?).
But, I get it. I really do. Diversity, equity, and inclusion work IS, in fact, a work of love. It’s work of the heart. And, the work is very personal. Artists often talk about this same experience — they often encounter people who believe that artists should be giving away their art for free or, at least, for ‘not that much.’ (side bar #2: then stop calling artists “poor and starving” if you keep NOT paying them!).
Diversity practitioners, at some point in their career, often come to this big question: Should I be charging money for the work that I do?
Or, stated differently, many diversity practitioners often think “I shouldn’t be charging money for this work because it’s life-work.”
My answer: Do what you want. If you don’t want to charge for your work, then don’t.
My other answer: This is work. It’s like real, actual work that people have trained (ideally) and prepared for and should, like every other profession, also be paid.
So what are you paying for when a trainer, educator, facilitator, or professional comes to do this work at your school or organization?
TIME. Unless you have hired someone who opens up the same exact presentation (like, the exact exact), then you are paying for their prep time to research your school, organization, or company. You might be surprised to find out how much time we spend on your websites - reading your strategic plans, your mission and vision statements, your quantitative data on numbers of people, etc. We also spend a whole lot of time research what you don’t say on your website but what others might say about you. We spend time researching news articles, newsletters, and information on your top leaders. We spend hours and hours learning about your place so that we can meet the needs of your place. That labor is often invisible to you because, when we arrive, the presentation feels so customized. Well, how do you think we made it feel that way? We researched!
EMOTIONAL LABOR. Oftentimes, schools, organizations, and companies bring in outside trainers because there is something that keep the internal people from being able to do this work. That “something” usually falls in one of these (and other) areas: 1) a culture of nice where no one wants to challenge each other but there is unspoken conflict; 2) a commitment to the work but not a clear pathway forward; 3) a leader who is standing in the way even when grassroots groundswell has occurred; 4) leadership who wants to lead but there is a fear around the culture of change; 5) there isn’t diversity (of whatever kind) to help inform a meaningful process.
Because of these areas, outside trainers often have to take on the emotional labor of the organization. In addition to “time and tasks,” the outside person also has to take on people’s fear, anger and hostility. When I work closely with organizations that are trying to get proximate to racial equity, for example, I have to absorb a lot of the white fragility of individuals. I have to take on the anger and resentment of others. I have to take on the smirks and the stares and the belligerence of members of your community. I have to take on being challenged academically, theoretically, and physically (yes, sometimes physically).
As dysfunctional as this is, sometimes the outside person has to take on the hostility of your community so that your community can move forward in this work.
What cost would you assign to that?
EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE. With over 22 years of experience in facilitation and, in particular, race work, there isn’t much left unseen for me. I’ve seen it, been in it, been a target of it, and lived through more than I care to share in this blog. For some facilitators, the cost includes that level of experience in the facilitation. At this point in my career, I have built up the tools, responses, and skills necessary to face just about any situation. Earlier in my career, I didn’t have as many tools nor as much practical experience. When you hear that facilitators and professionals have different fees, it could be because of what they are offering you in terms of skills, situations, and experience.
Now, let me be clear — PLEASE give people new to this field a chance. They, too, need experience and skill building. And, because you don’t get good at this work by just reading a book (side bar #3: please read all the books you can about this work. It actually does have theoretical and academic frameworks to it!), people do need experience. I often, often, often recommend new(er) folks when the situations and conditions are helpful for them to grow and learn.
NAME RECOGNITION AND DEMAND. Yes, there is something to say about name recognition and demand. Some facilitators are booked months in advance. Some can only take a few workshops at a time. People approach their fees in different ways. If a facilitator can only do 3 workshops in a month — and still has bills to pay and a mortgage — the workshops might be at a higher fee or price point than if a facilitator doesn’t have the same demands on their time. While some facilitators have a fixed fee (I do not), others can be more flexible depending on time of year, time of day, how many things they have booked that month or that week, etc. If you are working with a facilitator who has a flexible fee, ask if there are times where their fee might be slightly less than usual.
THE WORK IS WORK. Finally, for many facilitators, this is work. You get paid for your work (usually in the form of a salary) and many facilitators rely on their workshops to get paid. If you have the privilege of a salary, remember that you get a reliable deposit into your bank account every week or biweekly or monthly. That’s not how independent facilitators get paid — we get paid based on our workshops (and the swiftness of your business offices!). We do work, just like you do work.
I hope this provides some insight into what goes into the work of a facilitator, trainer, and educator in this work. This, of course, is just my experience and shouldn’t be broadly applied. Each facilitator has their own foundation, reasoning, and approach here, so don’t let me catch you sayin’, “Well, L-i-z-a said that…” Uh uh. No. Don’t do that. #keepitreal
Peace and love,