Balancing Sustainability & Affordability

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How do we balance affordability with sustainability?

I have been doing this for over a year now and one of the biggest things I have struggled with is charging adequately for events and resources. It is really important to me that the things we create are affordable and accessible to everyone. If I could keep giving everything away for free, I totally would! But apparently that’s not a sustainable way to run a organization.

For the past year most of my events and resources have been provided free of charge. As the costs of running Joyful Learning have added up, I began charging a $5 fee for some events.  This was both for offsetting our costs and to managing the high rates of no-shows for free events. I chose to charge the same amount for a family as for a whole class. This is because I know that a lot of teachers are paying for these events out of their own pockets. Which means regardless of whether the ticket is for 30 kids in a classroom or 2 kids at home, most of the time the money is still coming from the pocket of just one family.

The $5 fee for events has been helpful to offset some of the costs associated with running our programs, but is really not enough to provide sustainability or growth.

So here’s my quandary…

Our participants range from inner city schools to prestigious private academies, and everything in between. What one would consider a reasonable cost for events or resources naturally varies greatly from one end of this range to the other.  

I know that most schools don’t have a lot of money.  I know that a lot of teachers spend hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets to support the learning in their classrooms; not because they are expected to, but because they know it’s the little added things that can make such a huge difference in the lives of kids. I also know that some schools are situated in affluent communities, have generous budgets, or active Parent Advisory Councils that are able to provide additional funding to enrich the learning experiences of students. 

Even within the publicly funded education system there is a huge disparity of experiences and opportunities available to learners as a result of the geographic location and the socioeconomic reality that comes along with it.

The suggestion I keep getting is that I should price our events and resources at a rate that is sustainable for our organization and then provide a bursary program for those that cannot afford it. This is a logical suggestion. But here’s the thing: why is it that those with the least resources are the ones that are often expected to jump through extra hoops?  I don’t want those who cannot afford things, to always be the ones that have to do the extra work.

Considering equality vs equity…

So this is what I’ve been internally struggling with for the last few months.  As I found myself unable to determine a ‘fair’ price for our events due to the huge range of demographics, I began reflecting on the principles of fairness, accessibility, equality, and equity. All loaded words that could be the topic of their own blog post.

Equality means everyone is treated the same way whereas equity means treating people according to their needs.  This is a conversation I have had frequently with my students in relation to supporting the diverse learning needs in our classroom.  It is a hard concept to fully grasp but it is such an important thing to understand.  

Our Equitable Pricing Model

We want everyone to have equal access to our events and resources. For us, equal access does not mean everyone pays the same price.  Fair isn’t always equal.  Rather than raising prices across the board, we are going to try something for the next few months. For all our events, there will be 3 ticket pricing options. All of the ticket options will provide you with access to the exact same experience and resources.

Rooted in the principles of equity and fairness, our new pricing model is designed to make our services financially accessible to everyone regardless of their socioeconomic status. For all services, you are invited to choose a rate that is possible for you. The rates will vary based on the associated costs however they will all follow the same structure.

Accessible

The accessible rate is below the cost of providing the service and is open to all - with the belief that access to education should not be restricted by access to financial resources.

Sustainable

The sustainable rate covers the cost of providing the service in a way that is sustainable for Joyful Learning and adequately compensates our guest presenters for sharing their time, talents, and knowledge with us.

Equitable

The equitable rate is above the cost of providing the service and is for those who have access to greater financial resources. This rate helps to ensure financial accessibility for all and allows us grow and improve our program offerings.

Donations

For those who do have access to greater financial resources and are interested in supporting our work we have added a Donate option to the footer of our website. Your generous donation will allow us to continue offering affordable programs and resources that are making a difference in the lives of children around the world!

A quick note on free events...

Our goal is to ensure our events are accessible to as many kids as possible. Free events actually end up restricting access for some people. As our reach continues to grow in the community we are hitting our Zoom Meeting capacity more frequently. Which is a wonderful problem to have! However, when events hit capacity, Zoom tickets are no longer available.  The problem is, when an event is free, many people will sign up for the Zoom Meeting and then not show up. This actually takes opportunities away from other students who would have participated had their still been tickets.

That said, we recognize that even $5 is not feasible for some. For some events we will be able to continue offering free Limited Access Tickets for those who cannot afford the Accessible Ticket cost. Limited access tickets will provide you with access to the Event Livestream and Recording. The hope is that this will provide opportunity for those with limited financial resources while cutting down on the number of people no-showing for the Zoom Meeting.

Unfortunately, we cannot offer free tickets for all events due to the contracts we have with our presenters and the costs associated with running our programs. If there is an event you wish to attend and $5 is not feasible for you, please contact us at hello@joyfullearning.net and we can work something out.