Sliding Scale Guide

The following has been adapted from this article by Alexis J. Cunningfolk, and two sliding scale models put out by the nonprofit organizations, Embracing Equity, and The Catalyst Project. Sliding scale models such as these invite individuals to move away from binary thinking to lean into the responsibility and vulnerability of their intersectional power identities. 

Consider Investing at the Standard Rate if:

  • you are employed and make $25-40k
  • you are single and/or without dependents
  • you are able to repay your student loans, are in repayment, or have paid off your student loans
  • you have employer health insurance and/or employer benefits
  • you have daily reliable transportation
  • you are able to miss work either for sickness or leisure and are still able to bay next month’s bills
  • you travel when needed, especially for an unexpected occasion like a family funeral or emergency
  • you have or will have inherited wealth, and/or had access to wealth and gave it away
  • your family has many assets, including some which are paid off (i.e., investments; a house)
  • someone else pays/paid off your rent/mortgage
  • all of your education was paid for

The standard rate for class tuition is the actual cost of the class. 

This rate is for those who are mostly able to meet basic needs and have some discretionary income.

Consider investing at the Reduced Rate if:

  • you make less than $25k, you are on unemployment, or are unemployed without UI or disability
  • you are eligible for public assistance
  • you are employed marginally or in a criminalized sector (not by choice)
  • your family has minimal or no assets
  • your family has more debt than assets
  • you sometimes help your family of origin or chosen family with money for basic living expenses
  • you have no access to family
  • you are supporting children or have other dependents
  • you have significant debt from basic living expenses such as food, rent, utilities, healthcare, childcare, etc.
  • you have medical expenses not covered by insurance
  • you have immigration-related expenses
  • you are an elder with limited financial support
  • you are an unpaid or low-income community organizer
  • you are a returning citizen who has been denied work due to incarceration history
  • you experience discrimination in hiring or pay level
  • you are descended from enslaved people and/or indigenous peoples
  • you have student loans over $20,000 and were the first in your family to go to college

This rate is for those who frequently struggle to meet basic needs or are facing temporary financial crisis.

Consider investing at the Redistribution Rate if:

  • you are employed and make over $40k
    you own the home you live in
  • you have investments (i.e. a house you are paying mortgage on), retirement accounts, or inherited money
  • you travel for recreation
  • you have access to family money and resources in times of need
  • you work part time or are unemployed by choice, including unemployment due to full-time school in a degree-earning program
  • you have a relatively high degree of earning power due to level of education, gender and racial privilege,
    class privilege, etc., even if you are not currently exercising your full earning power
  • you have student loans and most of the people in your family have higher education (college or beyond)

This rate is for those who comfortably meet their basic needs and have significant discretionary income.


“[A sliding scale] is intended to be a map, inviting each person to take inventory of their financial resources and look deeper at their levels of privilege or systemic barriers. It is a way to challenge the classist and capitalistic society we live in and work towards economic justice as a community. The goal is to create an organization where everyone is able to fully participate and the organizers are compensated fairly.” —Little Red Bird Botanicals

“At the end of the day, the sliding scale thrives on trust. Trust is a pretty amazing thing. I trust you to be honest in your assessment of your economic reality. Since the sliding scale is a tool of accountability, it is an ongoing conversation and I remain committed to helping folks figure out how to talk about their own economic experiences, since it has been such a helpful language to learn on my own journey.” –Alexis J. Cunningfolk

“If it feels uncomfortable, it should. Our discomfort is required for justice.” –