What do you think when you see or hear the words "pro bono"?
Perhaps you imagine a lawyer donating time at legal aid without the expectation of being paid. Besides, they make enough money as is; they could use to forego a paycheck or two, right?
That is one way of looking at it. But consider this: pro bono doesn't actually mean "free." What I am going to say next may surprise you.
Pro bono is actually short for "pro bono publico" which means, "for the public good."
It doesn't mean free, necessarily. At least, that's not the purpose of it.
See, there are people in the world that have a skill needed by society. Arguably, everyone is in possession of such a skill. Often, this skill may be needed (or at least deemed highly beneficial) regardless of one's ability to pay for it. In cases such as these, the possessor of the skill may decide that the benefit to society offsets what would be lost in revenue if it were to be offered for a reduced fee or for no fee at all.
That is the meaning of pro bono. It is not a sale. It is not a promotion. It is not a limited-time-offer. It is a gift, given at the discretion of the giver, for the purpose of providing goodness where it might not otherwise exist.
When a doula offers services "pro bono" it is because that doula believes that all childbearing families should have access to doula care. It isn't because that doula is looking for more work; they are often quite busy as is. It isn't to undercut someone else's business; we're all on the same team. It certainly isn't because doula services aren't valuable. It is because they are believed to be part of a basic need. Many certifying bodies include the promise to consider a prospective client's ability to pay.
In pro bono cases, the doula and family agree upon a set service and a set fee. In some cases, there is no obligation to pay, but the offer to contribute to a fund, whenever able, to provide for families who would benefit from doula services but simply cannot afford them for any number of reasons.
We do this because we believe that empowering families can, in turn, empower our society.
For the public good.