Editor’s note:  Last July, Kim James provided an article with information from DoulaMatch.net on which doulas received the most referrals and charged the highest fees. Her article, Certification Matters: CDs and PCDs Get Higher Fees and More Clients, was based on six months of data (January – June 2015).  In this update, Kim draws from a year of data from DoulaMatch.net with the same conclusions. Our thanks to Kim for sharing this update with expanded data. Evidence-based information is important for your doula business too! — AG

Certification Still Matters:  DONA(CD)s Earn Higher Fees & Attract More Clients

From the doula availability database, DoulaMatch.net, we have solid evidence that DONA International certified doulas consistently earn a higher fee and receive more referrals than non-certified doulas and doulas certified through other organizations.

From July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016, 5,258 active doulas in the database received at least two or more referrals.  See chart below:





DONA International certified doulas commanded a 25% higher fee than non-certified doulas and a 7% higher fee than doulas certified through other organizations.  DONA International certified doulas also received twice as many monthly referrals.

What’s more interesting is to look at how DONA International certified doulas compare to other doulas with the same amount of experience.  See chart below:image004



At all levels of experience, certified doulas, and DONA International certified doulas in particular, earn higher fees and attract more clients.

For new doulas, achieving a meaningful certification means you are more attractive to potential clients, especially when you’re just starting out. When you don’t have a lot of births under your belt, having a recognized certification demonstrates to potential clients that you are an effective doula. You’ve achieved a major professional milestone that gives you an edge over doulas with the same amount of experience who are not certified or are certified through lesser-known organizations.

For established doulas, experience is the great equalizer and decreases the fee and referral gaps.  However, achieving and maintaining certification demonstrates your professional commitments and validates your higher fee, even when your practice is established and thriving.

Families who use a database to reach out to doulas are probably looking for mid-priced doulas with moderate experience. When faced with a lot of choices, whether or not a doula is certified seems to matter. For doulas with moderate experience of two to seven years, 60% of all referrals went to certified doulas. Of those certified doulas, 50% were DONA certified.image006

Whether you’re just starting out or firmly established, achieving and maintaining certification is solid business decision that benefits not just families and our profession, but you as a doula business owner.

James, KimAbout the Author

Kim James has run a successful birth doula business for 16 years in Seattle, Washington. Kim’s roles in the birth community include: DONA-approved birth doula trainer at the Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations, childbirth and parent educator at Parent Trust for Washington Children, DONA International Washington State Representative and Lamaze International membership committee member. Kim is also the owner and operator of DoulaMatch.net