Frequently Asked Questions 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.
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.
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 doesn'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 Time Dollars 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!
When you spend an hour to do something for an individual or group, you earn a Time Dollar. Then you can use that Time Dollar 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.
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 Time Dollars 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. Time Dollars excel in building relationships because they place an equal value on everyone’s time.
Time Dollars 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.
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.
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 Time Dollar exchanges are tax-exempt.
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 Time Dollars, and charge the cost of the materials in regular dollars.
The important thing to remember, however, is that in order to maintain the Time Dollar tax exempt status, you can never make an equivalency between a Time Dollar and regular dollar.
First of all, make sure you DO log your time! Check for open requests for the person you are helping. If a request for service is created, then by all means log your working time to this service request, but make sure to log your hours for the potluck that often follows to the recipient "Lathrup Village Timebank" for the service "Community Activities > Help Our TimeBank!" If you are not sure, just ask one of the coordinators at the event.
First of all, make more than one effort to reach them as not all people check their email daily. Even less log into Community Weaver daily, so try making a phone call to their preferred and alternate phone numbers, as listed. Still not getting a response? Then PLEASE let one of the TimeBank Coordinators know, so they can investigate whether the person you are trying to reach is truly available, or may have new contact information. Remember, we all agree, as part of our membership, to respond within two days to TimeBank related communications, but the reality is that people get busy with work and family and travel and may not always have the TimeBank at the top of their life's priority list. So, don't get discouraged, just speak up to your TimeBank Leadership and we will do everything to resolve your issues!
Our Timebank has two volunteer Coordinators (Kim Hodge and Richard Reeves) who help set up exchanges and run the day-to-day business of administering the TimeBanks. The “Kitchen Cabinet” is the leadership group of the TimeBank. See our Kitchen Cabinet page for more details.
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.
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 Community Weaver 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 Time Dollars you earned.
As of Oct 16, 2009 our Timebank has 109 members.
Everyone can join a TimeBank and all kinds of people do.
If you have any doubts, please do not accept the person’s offer to help. Our TimeBank does not currently do background checks. 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.
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.
Theoretically, it is possible that someone could cheat, but, again, we can't remember anyone doing it. 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 TimeBank, so people don't cheat.
Having a negative balance is not a big deal in a Time Dollar account. After all, people have to receive in order for others to give.
Our 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 Time Dollars 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 Time Dollars before you can start spending them again. And, for members in need, our TimeBanks have special Time Dollar funds contributed by individual members that are set aside for community projects or to help out members who are going through a difficult period.