Surviving Capitalism: Our Approach to Ethical Financial Practices in the Arts

Sep 12, 2022

by Marie C. Percy

In this post, I’m going to dig deep into our financial practices as an arts organization looking to do good in the world. We believe that transparency is important when it comes to surviving in a capitalist economy - and we want to hear from you!

Blog Highlights!

  • IDC is a for-profit-for-impact organization committed to creating sustainable fiscal practices that challenge capitalistic norms and prioritize employee financial welfare.
  • Our business model re-invests the profit from workshops and services back into the business for future development.
  • IDC is only in its second year as a profit-generating company.
  • Over 75% of our current operating budget goes directly to paying teachers and staff.
  • IDC prioritizes an equitable pay range within the organization. The average pay gap between the CEO and the median worker is 670 to 1. At IDC the pay gap between the CEO and the median worker is 1.2 to 1.
  • Since opening, IDC has allocated approximately 15% of potential revenue towards our scholarship program - the purpose of which is to support underrepresented individuals in their pursuit of a career in intimacy direction or coordination.

What does it take to survive capitalism?

It's an unfortunate truth that talking about money is wrapped in shame and mystery, especially for women. I listened to the first season of the Financial Feminist podcast, and host Tori Dunlap says it again and again. People, especially women, and especially Black and brown women, don’t have the same access to important financial literacy information as their male counterparts and tend to carry more shame around money and have a harder time talking about money.  According to Tori, a great financial education is the best tool we have to fight back against white supremacy and the patriarchy because when more money is in the hands of women, and especially women of color, then we have more power and freedom to build the life, the systems, and the society we want to live in. 

The stigma around money is even more complex within the performing arts - where the title of “struggling artist” is often worn as a badge of honor to prove how passionate someone is about their craft, while others are labeled as “selling out” when they opt for steady income at the expense of artistic freedom. The realities of surviving gig to gig, auditioning, networking, and turning your creative passion into a business that can sustain you are not for the faint of heart. It takes tremendous grit, determination, and sacrifice. Even incredibly successful artists may have times where they struggle financially, fighting against scarcity. And yet, “The global movies and entertainment market size was valued at USD 90.92 billion in 2021”. (Source) That’s a lot of money moving through the industry! 

The illusion (and very real experience!) of scarcity and the stigma surrounding money is a powerful tool that exacerbates the wealth gap between the consolidated wealth at the top of the entertainment industry, and the struggle of individual artists. As an organization seeking to create cultural and structural change in our industry, it's important for IDC to transparently share how money moves through our internal systems. 

So let’s talk about money. More specifically, let’s talk about how money flows within IDC and in our industry - and how ethical capitalism makes survival possible while still creating the opportunity to make big change.

Ethical capitalism is “A focus on creating long-term economic and social value, and a commitment by business to act as stewards of the full spectrum of its constituencies -- customers, employees, suppliers, investors and society. Ethical Capitalism seeks to build deep, trust-based relationships in the service of society as well as the bottom line. In other words, it is a business model with a "higher purpose." (source)

First and foremost - let's talk about business classification. At IDC we are classified as a C-Corp, which means that we are a for-profit company. We like to say we are a for-profit for-impact company which means we are committed to doing good for our community and the industry at large with the momentum we are generating. 


With social impact at the core of our mission, why not become a not-for-profit?

When we began IDC in 2019, we spent a lot of time debating between starting IDC as a C-Corp or a 501c3 non-profit. The biggest difference between C-Corps and nonprofits is that nonprofits rely predominantly on fundraising. Not-for-profits can, of course, sell products and services, but the main sources of income are typically charitable donations. As Edgar Villanueva lays out in his book Decolonizing Wealth, the fundraising culture and methods of the non-profit industry are just as deeply problematic as those that can be found in the for-profit sector. Significant time gets spent justifying the not-for-profit’s cause, which means catering to the funding bodies who have the power to donate.

We believed (and still do!) that we can make a bigger impact by structuring IDC as a C-Corp because it allows us to devote all our energy, unique skills, and knowledge to bring valuable training to our industry, rather than dividing that time and energy fundraising to support our efforts. Within our business model, we use the revenue we generate from the products and services we sell as a tool for change within the entertainment industry, and hopefully with that change comes healing too.  

Let’s take a closer look at how IDC is well-positioned to accomplish that.


In 2021, 40% of US businesses were women-owned (source). Hispanic-owned businesses made up 18% of all women-owned businesses (source), and these ratios are woefully below the US population as a whole. IDC is proud to be a 100% women-owned company and partially Hispanic-owned. 

As one of the co-founders of IDC, I don’t often bring up my Hispanic heritage because I am also white. My lived experience is largely one of privilege and abundant opportunity, and I don’t want to distract from the complex cultural and racial conversations our industry is having, related to systemic oppression and the need for greater representation in intimacy work. In the context of this blog post though, I also don’t want to erase that part of my identity. My grandmother Catherine Mateo rolled Cuban cigars in Ybor city when she was a girl and made the best homemade Cuban food I’ve ever eaten! I am her only granddaughter, and the first woman to attend college on that side of my family. I am incredibly proud to be a part of the 18% of women-owned businesses that are also Hispanic-owned.

IDC is part of a bigger movement in the US for women and minorities to take control of their financial future by starting a company. And we believe that part of taking full advantage of this opportunity is to build integrated and sustainable company-wide systems that can operate ethically within an inescapable capitalist framework, promote employee financial stability, and increase community access to career-changing education.  

What do those systems look like? I’m glad you asked.

Forward Thinking Work-Life Balance for Employees

If we learned anything during the pandemic, it's that work doesn’t have to look like showing up in an office from 9am-5pm, trudging through tasks day in and out. We are a fully remote company and offer lots of flexibility so that folks can prioritize their wellbeing, their families, and their creative career. Here are just a few of the ways that we’re doing that:

  • Access to a company-sponsored tax-advantaged retirement savings benefits regardless of full-time or part-time status.

  • Unlimited paid time off for full time employees

  • The opportunity to audit advanced Intimacy Professional training

  • Individual Access to the Consent Studio and All Community Education Courses

  • Access to IDC’s “Anti-Racism Daily: At Work” subscription through their IDC email

  • Flexible work schedule and ability to work from anywhere in the contiguous United States

Equitable Payment Across all Positions

The narrative surrounding working in the arts is that artists should starve for the work that they love - and we wholeheartedly reject this narrative. We believe that sustainable work/life balance can only come from adequate pay - which is why we prioritize adequate compensation for our teachers and staff. We also monitor the pay scale within the company with an equitable salary distance for its team.  Almost 75% of IDC’s budget goes to paying its team; and 62% of that to non-officers. Basically we’re not buying into the late stage capitalist mindset that says the people with power need to gather all of the money from the workers and hoard it. We’re building the kind of system that we want to exist! 


Sources: Wage Gap Between CEO and Workers Jumped, SDC Agreement Rate Schedule 

Financially Supporting Equitable Hiring Practices

In early stages of an organization, it is common to rely on informal networks - and IDC was no different. The building and implementation of an equitable search process takes an immense amount of labor, and from our inception, we have actively sought to compensate individuals for their contributions. However, in the Fall of 2021 we were finally able to allocate the resources necessary to build this process!  

Our team devoted well over 300 hours of labor during a search for new teaching artists - sorting through resumes, checking qualifications, and conducting two rounds of interviews toward hiring a diverse and qualified teaching team. Our internal fiscal policies allowed us to budget for that time, and prioritize the cost of the labor it would take to reach beyond our informal network and fully vet new hires. We also used this hiring process as an opportunity to practice what we preach by publishing all compensation and benefit information and ensuring that the required qualifications were equitable - this means that we did not (and never will!) require certification to apply to teach with us.* This has further opened up IDC’s platform to a diverse range of voices and approaches to the work, and we couldn’t  be more grateful to have every single one of our teaching artists on our team and to offer them an equitable rate for their work. 

We have since been able to replicate this for our Level 3 application process, staffing a diverse and qualified team of reviewers to thoroughly review and interview level three candidates. We believe that investing these resources into the application process will ensure the most qualified candidates are able to be identified, recognized, and supported through their work. And because of that - we incorporate this into our budget and financial practices.

*As a quick side note: We highly recommend other companies looking to hire an intimacy professional go beyond their informal network, post the job, and list requirements as “Certified OR Qualified Professional Experience”. You’ll get an amazing batch of candidates to choose from! 


Connected to our mission, IDC is committed to creating an accessible pipeline for training diverse and qualified intimacy professionals. However, systemic white supremacy negatively and disproportionately affects Global Majority and transgender professionals from accessing career-changing training and professional development opportunities.  For this reason, IDC built our scholarship program - the purpose of which is to support underrepresented individuals in their pursuit of a career in intimacy direction and/or coordination in the United States. 

Our scholarship program is internally funded, meaning IDC does not solicit sponsorships from outside funding sources, and instead, we bake it into our operating expenses and yearly budget.  Since we began in 2020, we allocated roughly 15% of our potential revenue to scholarships for Black, Indigenous, Artists of Color, and/or Transgender participants.  

*Please note - our scholarship program is NOT a financial aid program. Anyone who is Black, Indigenous, a Person of Color, and/or Transgender is welcome to apply regardless of their financial status

Reinvested Capitol

Part of our growth and pricing strategy relies on reinvesting funds generated from current sales towards the building of future educational opportunities and products. If you’re curious,  here is how the income from a Level 1 class breaks down. You can see that IDC is purposefully investing in our employees, in the quality of our curriculum, and of course, paying our fair share of taxes. 


At IDC, we are only in our third year of operation - and in our first six months of operation, we lost money due to the global health crisis of 2020. This means we have only been a revenue-generating organization for less than two years. And in that time - we are incredibly proud of the work we have accomplished and the structures we have been able to set up that we hope will build a sustainable and equitable financial future for our employees. 

As a team, we are continuing to find ways to do better and make incremental change over time to build a future that benefits us all. As Tori Dunlap points out - we won’t have the power to change the system from within until we understand how it works, create financial opportunities for underserved populations, and leverage that financial power to make real change. 


We want to hear from you! 

  • What do ethical financial practices mean for you in your current position?

  • What else do you want to know about how IDC’s business works?

  • Share with us examples of other businesses leading the way in ethical financial practices!


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