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Three Rivers Timebank

Frequently Asked Questions

What is TimeBanking?


TimeBankers share their skills by offering and receiving services. Each hour that is spent giving a service equals an hour in the "bank" that can be redeemed for an hour's service received. 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. Time Banking creates connections through sharing time and skills.  


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:



* Community safety

* Respite for caregivers

* Intergenerational understanding

* Community colleges

* Residents participation

* Environmental clean ups

* Neighborhood renewal

* Health improvement

* Mutual support for single parent families

* Peer self-help, especially young people

* Involving older people as active citizens

* Integrating people with physical or learning disabilities

* Rehabilitation of substance abusers


Who runs the TimeBank?

The Three Rivers TimeBank is run by enthusiastic volunteers. The Three Rivers TimeBank welcomes members to become active and help shape our very young TimeBank. All TB members determine the goals of the TB. Membership is free.


What services can I buy with TimeBank Hours and what can I do to earn Hour Credits?

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.


What if I don't have time for volunteering? 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 Time Bank 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 Hour Credits 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 Hour Credit. Then you can use that HC to buy an hour of a neighbor’s time or engage in a group activity offered by a neighbor.


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 HCs 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. HCs excel in building relationships because they place an equal value on everyone’s time. HCs 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 Time Banking 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 community building exchanges are tax-exempt.


Can you buy or sell things with Hour Credits?

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 HCs, and charge the cost of the materials in regular dollars. The important thing to remember, however, is that in order to maintain the TimeBank tax exempt status, you can never make an equivalency between a HC and regular dollar.


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.


How do you keep track of the exchanges?

There are two ways to keep track of the exchanges. If your TimeBank uses the web software, all you have to do is record the exchange and the number of hours, and it will be credited to your account. If your TimeBank has a Coordinator who organizes the exchanges for you, you can just call up your Coordinator when the exchange is completed, and she or he will record the hours and HCs you earned.


How many people are in a TimeBank?

Time Banks can range anywhere from 5 to 10 people to several hundred.The Three Rivers TimeBank currently has over 60 members.


Are there different types of TimeBanks?

Yes, there are, but regardless of your ultimate goals, most TimeBanks start off with Neighbor-to-Neighbor Exchanges. Once you get going, you can tailor the exchanges of your Time Bank to suit the more specific needs of your community or the types of populations your agency or volunteer organization is working with.


What kinds of people join TimeBanks?

Everyone can join a Time Bank and all kinds of people do.


Can social service agencies use TimeBanking to deliver services for less?

Certainly they can, and many agencies have found that TimeBanking does help them reduce costs because their clients become active participants and service providers for one another. But, even more importantly, the reciprocity that is naturally built into every TimeBank helps clients to become more engaged in directing and creating positive outcomes for themselves and all the members of the program. This sense of ownership and empowerment is often of far greater value to an agency than delivering services at a lower cost because their clients are creating their own path toward meeting the program's goals.


Can I trust the people in a TimeBank to come into my home?

The Three Rivers TimeBank offers free membership to everyone in our community. There are no background checks done. It is suggested that you use your own good judgment when arranging a service exchange with another TB member. The best scenario is to meet other TB members at an event and discuss the project beforehand.


What if someone falsely bills me?

Time Banks 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 your 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. Whether your Time Bank uses the web software or a Coordinator to keep track of the exchanges, whenever one person earns Time Dollars, 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 Time Bank, 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 HCs 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 HCs before you can start spending them again. And, for members in need, many Time Banks have special HC funds contributed by individual members that are set aside for community projects or to help out members who are going through a difficult period.


Thanks to NOLA TimebankEcho Park TimeBank and TimeBanks USA for this material.