I think there are many possible combinations of options here: I think each of us will have a range of possibles, and some things on either end that we would not consider for whatever reason. So, here’s my list, broken down by situation, with some comments about why.
I have a ‘day’ job I care about, am passionate about, and have invested quite a bit of time and money in (yay, graduate school). It’s also a career that I think adds to the betterment of the world.
I’m also fond of a certain amount of safety-net. I’m a single woman, living alone, with some chronic health issues, and it’s hard to manage health care and a stable income in that setting without a day job. (I am deeply in awe of the people who do.)
In other words, I don’t expect my religious or magical skills to pay for my general living expenses, in any way shape or form. While I would like to devote more time to writing and to other creative work in the field, it’s something that needs to be fit around my school-year job for the forseeable future.
My coven and tradition:
I do not and will not charge for training leading (or potentially leading) to initiation or elevation in the tradition. I was not charged money to learn my tradition: I will not charge my students. Also, this kind of work is something I only want to do with friends or with people I can see becoming friends and chosen family over time: how could I possibly put a price on my affection, attention, and time in that context?
I do expect students and group members to take the process seriously, and to contribute to the well-being of the group. There are many ways to do this, and I think that, in general, simply handing over money is not the best one. I’d much rather have people bring interesting things to share, or to fill in a gap they see.
I believe in keeping the direct financial costs of learning clear, and in the hands of the student as much as possible. I want to respect the fact that tight budgets are a fact of life for some people I know, and others may have unexpected demands in a particular week or month. I want to give at least a month’s warning for any new expenses, and in general expect students to buy materials they will keep for themselves.
Beyond ritual basics (bread, wine, candles, incense), I expect people planning a ritual (including me) to plan a ritual they can afford. That might be nothing above those basics and existing personal or group tools. On the other hand, someone might choose to invest a fair bit of money for a particular experience, magical working, or other event. Most of the time, I plan for things that won’t require a lot of outlay, but there are exceptions. (I would, at some point, really like to do a rerun of a all-senses elemental ritual I did a few years back, which takes widely varying food, drink, and other items that get used up as well as a number of items I usually have handy.)
My local community:
I’ve gained benefits and knowledge from people in my local community over the years, without charge (or charges that only cover the cost of the event), and I want to return that to the community in some reasonable way. On the other hand, there’s less of a direct connection to the individuals involved than there is within my coven or tradition. I’m also attentive that there are some areas where people with overlapping skill sets make their living from teaching related skills.
I believe in supporting the events I attend. It takes time and effort to put an event together – there’s no reason a general community event should be doing that *and* shouldering all of the financial costs. I make sure I’m either volunteering to help with the work, or offering financial support if I attend without volunteering. (And often both.)
I also recognise that people offering services to the general public or broader community should get reasonable compensation for that. I pay for services that I either can’t do for myself, or that I really want an outside perspective on. (I cheerfully pay my herbalist, for example, and don’t resent a penny. I’ve paid for a detailed astrological reading, which is not one of my best skills. Etc.)
I appreciate some financial transparency. I don’t need to see an organization’s full books, but I do appreciate knowing what the money’s going to cover. Is it all going to rent the room and provide expenses, or is some going to the teacher? (I can often guess, these days, having a decent idea of the rental costs for commonly used spaces, but not everyone can.)
Advance warning on donations is especially nice. These days, I don’t carry much cash, so it’s very helpful to know what the suggested donation might be in advance, so I can have useful change. Or to give me a way to donate that’s online, so I can do it in advance of getting there.
I also really like it when groups offer options: a sliding scale, different levels of support, or other things that allow people to decide what their contribution would be. There are lots of ways to do this (and I’m going to talk about one in a second.)
And finally, I’m a lot more likely to consider (and thereby support) well-organised events. That means more than a week or two of warning (otherwise, my calendar’s likely booked up, especially these days). It means having easy access to information about time, likely length, cost, and what’s involved. Knowing these things doesn’t mean I’ll come, of course. But it makes it a lot more likely I’ll think about it as an option.
Teaching in other settings:
Coven stuff described above, of course, but I’ve done some workshops in my local community, and it’s not out of the question I might do more. To date, everything I’ve done in my local community has been for free. However, I can see situations in which I might charge. In general, I expect the end result of the questions below would be doing it for free, or be charging enough to cover direct costs (room rental, supplied materials, parking, photocopies) and that’s it.
What am I talking about? Obviously, as stated above, I don’t charge for anything that might lead towards initiatory training or initiation directly. But there are certainly other things I’ve taught in the past, and I expect that list will continue to grow – most notably, the Better Pagan Research class I’ve done locally in several formats. And I keep wondering about putting together a session on Web 2.0 and Paganism at a local computer lab (both talking about what’s out there and how you might use it, and talking about things like digital footprints and privacy, etc.)
Existing commitments: I’m also looking at this with the restrained eyes of someone who a) has a day job with related commitments, b) has a coven with related commitments and c) has limited time and energy for medical reasons, and is trying to share that out sensibly. (And all three points will continue to need attention even after the more forceful bits of part C resolve.)
If teaching a class means I’ve got to significantly limit other things I’d like to do, I’m more likely to charge than if it wouldn’t. (So, when I’m in good health, teaching the research class for free is something I’m glad to do.)
Right now, however, teaching would mean I’d need several days to fully recover. A relatively token cost that would let me buy prepared food, etc. for a couple of nights after, so I didn’t have to think about cooking would do a lot of good.
I also think about:
How often? Is this a one-time event, or something that requires multiple sessions over a period of time? I’m more likely to consider charging for something that has a longer time commitment on my end, espcially right now when regular repeating events mean giving up other things I want to do that same week (as I don’t have energy for everything even if there’s nothing on the calendar.)
How long? And are we talking an hour or two, or a whole weekend? Same as above. A whole day or a whole weekend takes an entirely different kind of preparation and energy than a couple of hours, and I’d be more likely to charge something for the longer event.
Is this supporting a larger community event that I value and want to encourage (i.e. Pagan Pride) which also simplifies getting people to show up, or am I having to set everything up myself? It’s much less work to show up, do my thing, and go away again than it is to find a space, make arrangements, set up, and clean up by myself.
How much new and unique preparation will this require outside of the material I have in regular working practice from my own work, coven work, or related things of that kind. For example, I talk about the Better Pagan Research project fairly regularly, but the previous classes I’ve taught on it were a) a couple of years ago now and b) aimed at being about 2 hours. I’d have to do substantial additional prep for a longer class, or one with a different focus from the general ‘here’s how to solve a lot of common frustrations’ model.
Are there any direct costs to me, in terms of preparation or holding the event? I might decide I care enough about the topic to pay those costs. But I also might decide that I’d rather attendees share the cost, and charge accordingly.
Travel further afield: Ok, unlikely in the near future, but I did grow up with a parent who did this regularly, so it’s always been part of my “But of course people might do that” view of the world.
Sometimes there’s a temptation to see someone from elsewhere as ‘better’ than people in the local community. That might be true – or it might just be that someone in the local community has skills that are being overlooked. For that reason, I think that making sure that someone from elsewhere costs more than someone local (in some form) can help make the “Why are we bringing this person in” question more obvious.
On the other hand, sometimes, what someone can bring in is either unique (like my father, who was the only person doing anything quite like that) or brings a perspective/set of experiences/personal history with the subject that isn’t readily found in the local community (there are lots more ways to do this one.)
And, of course, travel is not cheap: handling expenses if you’re inviting someone to give up their time and energy for a weekend is the bare minimum in my book, unless there’s some mutually beneficial arrangement otherwise. Beyond that, there’s a lot of variables:
– Am I passionate about what someone’s inviting me to do?
– Is it an event that has other things of interest to me as well?
– Will I learn things by presenting it in a new format or to a new audience, that help me get better at the overall conversation about this subject (no matter how good I am to start, there’s always room for improvement, but some situations offer more space for growth than others.)
– Do I know people in the area, or want to visit the area anyway? A chance for dinner with friends I don’t see nearly enough as part of the rest of the weekend is a fairly big incentive for me to put the energy into traveling.
– And, of course, is what I’m offered on parity with other equivalent presenters? Some settings pay for a few special guests, some comp presenters some or all of the registration fee, some welcome presenters, but can’t offer them any financial gain. Since I’m not reliant for the income, this mostly falls into the “Would I want to be there anyway?” sort of category most of the time, though obviously someone offering to pay my way would make an event especially engaging to me.
Some practical ideas:
I’ve collected a few ideas about handling some pieces of the practical aspects of this over the years that I think should get wider consideration.
Work study or scholarship options are commonly mentioned, but they both have some challenges – do you have something someone or this specific person could do? Not every event does. Or you may need someone who can move chairs, and the person who needs help has mobility impairments.
And there’s the other practical issue: What happens if they don’t show up or don’t do a reasonably good job? One option – especially if you’re local, or they’re local to the event – is to have the volunteer time be at a previous event to the one they get a discount at. That way, they’ve already done the work, and you’re negotiating with people who want a discount for the *next* thing they want to do, instead.
Finding ways to be flexible about costs. A good friend who sometimes teaches jewelry making techniques has a solution for this that I really like: she asks people to give her an amount equal to 3 times the amount they’d normally spend on a celebratory lunch or dinner out. Not a big once-in-a-decade type meal, but your general good things happened, let’s share the joy type meal you might do multiple times a year. (Whether it’s lunch or dinner depends on the length of the workshop).
If your ‘celebratory meal out’ is ice cream at the good place down the street because your budget is just that tight, that might be under 10 dollars. If it’d be at your favorite sushi bar, it might be comfortably in 3 digits. I really like that model because it scales well, and it lets people determine their own comfort point. I also think the 3x model is a good one when someone’s teaching a skill, rather than purely sharing an experience. (Since the skills we learn in the class will continue to benefit us much longer than the meal would directly.)
It’s also a better model than “X hours of your take-home pay” because, of course, some people don’t work for pay, some people work in creative fields where ‘hours’ is not a very useful measurement, and people split household incomes in all sorts of ways, and so on.
Is there a chance people will say they’ll show up, and then not come? Particularly painful if *no one* shows up. Been there when teaching Seeker classes a few times. I’ve seen two solutions for this, both of which I like in different settings.
The basic idea is that the student pays up front for the class series. If they show up at all of them, they might either get some of that back, or they might get something related to the class that’s of equivalent value. (For example, extra material, items, etc.) If someone doesn’t show up, they forfeit their payment, but the costs for the space, etc. can still be covered.
I’ve seen people talk about this model both when the people knew that they’d be getting a refund on part of the cost if they showed up at everything, and where they didn’t – both seem to work, but you do need to pick one in advance. (It’s also probably a good idea to have some kind of option for true emergencies, especially if you get warning in advance of the class.)
However, both these models are more challenging to people living paycheck to paycheck in some format: if you don’t have a larger up-front payment for the entire class series in hand at once.
Various other discussions of this issue
(Got more? Feel free to add to comments)
- Three posts from Kenaz Filan’s blog: Paying for Initiations, Paying for Spirituality, a follow-up on Even more on paying for spirituality, and another post on Boundaries, charlatans, and free magic.
- An intriguing post from Rune Soup on The five laws of occult economics: why we suck at money. A follow-up post, Subsections of Occult Economic Laws deals with some issues raised in comments and gives a few more examples and ideas.
- Discussion of the “Five Laws of Occult Economics” post in the above point from Lupa, on her blog.
- A discussion about A Sense of Entitlement from Head For The Red, along with another post on Getting “Paid” for Magic, Teaching, Instruction, and Writing
- Gleamings from the Dawn has a nice simple easy to remember solution in Fees, Dues, and Donations
- Another view of Patrons and Clergy from A Mage’s Blog