Frequently Asked Questions
• What can TimeBanking do for me?
TimeBanking does many things for different people. Here is a short list of some ways people have used TimeBanking to achieve their goals across the world:
- Neighborhood renewal
- Community safety
- Health improvement
- Mutual support for single parent families
- Peer self-help, especially young people
- Involving older people as active citizens
- Integrating people with physical and learning disabilities
- Respite for caregivers
- Intergenerational understanding
- Community colleges
- Residents participation
- Environmental clean ups
- Rehabilitation of substance abusers
If you like to volunteer and give time to your community, TimeBanking is a way to get something back in exchange for your time.
If you want to build a network of support within your neighborhood or community, TimeBanking can help you do exactly that. Instead of paying professionals to look after your children, care for your aging parents, and do the work that family and neighbors used to do for one another, the members of your TimeBank can do those things for each other. TimeBanking creates connections through sharing skills.
• Why should I care and what is so special about TimeBanking?
Many folks are looking up from their busy lives and wondering if something essential hasn’t gone missing. Is the nuclear family enough to feel fully alive?Some of us can remember a time when family members lived close by each other and we knew most of the people living in our neighborhoods. Some of us have only heard about it.Helping each other out was a given, something we did for each other every day. From watching someone’s kids for a few hours, dropping off meals for a sickly neighbor to potluck suppers and barn raisings, communities were full of exchanges and mutually supportive networks of family and friends.
Few people would disagree that times have changed, that these networks are gradually disappearing and few of us have family members nearby or neighbors we know well enough to turn to for support. There are so many things we do that would be more efficient, fun, and meaningful when shared.
• What services can I buy with TimeBank hours and what can I do to earn TimeBank hours?
The list of possibilities is endless.From walking a neighbor’s dog, oiling a squeaky door, raking leaves, stuffing envelopes, braiding hair, cooking meals, giving music lessons, running errands to lending professional advice, everyone in a TimeBank has a valuable skill to share.
• Isn’t this just one more thing that’s going to eat up my extra time?
Not unless you want to give extra time!Many of the services people exchange in a TimeBank are the types of things they are already doing every day. For example, those of us who have children are already cooking for them, driving them to activities, and helping them with their schoolwork—among other things. Cooking an extra portion of food for someone down the street who is housebound, picking up your neighbor’s kids on the way to soccer practice, or helping the child down the street with his homework don’t add work to your day. Or, if you have a dog and take it for a walk every day, why not pick up your neighbor’s dog along the way?For professionals like doctors, lawyers and business people, TimeBanking is a way to give back to your community without having to go someplace else on someone else’s schedule. For example, you can just set aside 10% of your appointment calendar for TimeBank members.
Even better, TimeBanking helps you gain extra time because down the road, you can spend the TimeBank hours you’ve earned and have someone else do something for you that you can’t fit into your schedule or simply don’t know how to do!
• How exactly does it work?
When you spend an hour to do something for an individual or group, you earn a TimeBank hour. Then you can use that TimeBank hour to buy an hour of a neighbor’s time or engage in a group activity offered by a neighbor. See the Circle of Giving
page to see the details of how TimeBank exchanges work.
• Why is everyone’s time given the same value?
At first glance, it seems crazy that someone is paid the same for web design and pulling weeds, but this turns out to be the core of what makes TimeBank hours really work. In the “Yin” or “caring economy” everyone’s time is valued equally – just like it is inside a family. You wouldn’t ask your cousin to give you two hours of dog walking for every hour you spend fixing his computer.Putting a price on people’s time separates us by making some people more valuable than others. TimeBank hours excel in building relationships because they place an equal value on everyone’s time.TimeBank hours aren’t meant to replace standard dollars. They are designed to counterbalance the market economy where people may have invested in special training to make their time more valuable. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just taken over too much of our experience of the world. Almost everything is monetized. We are building a parallel economy where people take care of each other as families. We build extended families by geography, not bloodlines.
• Isn’t TimeBanking like bartering?
It is, but the big difference is that you don’t have to pay back the person who does you a favor. It is a “pay-it-forward” system. That’s one of the reasons why people find it so much easier to do things for others in a TimeBanking system. You don’t have to figure out what to give back to the person who helped you. You can choose how to pay it forward doing what you want, when you want.
• Are TimeBank exchanges tax-exempt?
Yes, and this is another reason why TimeBanking is different than bartering: it is not taxable. In normal bartering, you have to declare the value of the good and services you receive to the IRS. We have an IRS private letter
ruling that TimeBank exchanges are tax-exempt.
• Can you buy or sell things with TimeBank hours?
Yes, and many TimeBanks do sell things.In general, most TimeBanks follow a simple formula for selling things. You charge for the hours it takes to produce something in TimeBank hours, and charge the cost of the materials in regular dollars.The important thing to remember, however, is that in order to maintain the TimeBank hour tax exempt status, you can never make an equivalency between a TimeBank hour and regular dollar.
• Who runs the TimeBank?
A TimeBank has a coordinator who helps to set up exchanges and runs the day-to-day business of administering the TimeBanks. The “Kitchen Cabinet” is the leadership group of the TimeBank.
• How do people connect to each other?
People either connect to each other online via our TimeBanks web software or through their Coordinator. You can post a request for services online or call your Coordinator to ask them to make a match for you. Because our Coordinators are volunteers and not paid staff, they really like people to find and make their own exchanges but are happy to help if assistance is needed.
• How do you keep track of the exchanges?
There are two ways to keep track of the exchanges.
All you have to do is record the exchange and the number of hours in the TimeBank internet software, and it will be credited to your account.Or you can just call up your Coordinator when the exchange is completed, and she/he will record the hours and TimeBank hours you earned.
• How many people are in a TimeBank?
There can be as few as 15 or as many as thousands. The bigger the TimeBank, the more diverse the offers and requests will be.
• What kinds of people join TimeBanks?
Everyone can join a TimeBank and all kinds of people do.
• Can I trust the people in a TimeBank to come into my home?
If you have any doubts, please do not accept the person’s offer to help. Some TimeBanks do background checks and some do not. It is up to each member to get to know and feel comfortable with another member coming to his/her house. If you have a question about a member, the Coordinator may be able to give you some information. You can also check the testimonials page
to see what other members have said about the member.
• What if someone falsely bills me?
TimeBanks are built on mutual respect and trust and this type of thing is very rare. In fact, we can’t recall a single incident except when someone has made a mistake and debited the wrong member’s account. If you think that that someone has falsely billed you for services, all you have to do is call the Coordinator who will straighten things out.
• Can people cheat?
Theoretically, it is possible that someone could cheat, but, again, we can’t remember anyone doing it. Whenever one person earns TimeBank hours, there is a corresponding debit for the same amount in someone else’s account. This makes it pretty easy to know if someone is cheating or not. No one is anonymous in a TimeBank, so people don’t cheat.
• What happens if you go into debt?
Having a negative balance is not a big deal in a TimeBank account. After all, people have to receive in order for others to give.Each TimeBank sets up its own limits on how far a member’s account can go into debt, and it is explained in their Member Handbook. People who have a history of earning lots of TimeBank hours are generally allowed a bigger debt limit.Generally, not much will happen other than a call from your Coordinator to remind you that you will need to earn some TimeBank hours before you can start spending them again. And, for members in need, our TimeBanks have special TimeBank hour funds contributed by individual members that are set aside for community projects or to help out members who are going through a difficult period.