Many people understand how individuals can use a time bank to exchange services (in case you don't, check out this 58 second video). This blog post focuses on how organizations can use a time bank.
I have a personal account at the Sonoma County Time Exchange (SCTE) for my personal sharing (I am saving up Time Dollars (TD) by sharing editing and Cantonese mah jong lessons for a future hand sewn flag for my boat, Apsara. I will pay $US for the fabric and other supplies). I also have an organizational account for the Sonoma State University (SSU) Center for Community Engagement (CCE). For example, writing this blog post has taken more than two and a half hours so far, so the CCE will be charging the SCTE TD2.5 for this work. We currently have a Minerva Project pro bono consultant assessing some of our service-learning programs who we are paying in TD, so we need to charge time dollars in order to pay our time dollar bills.
There are several benefits of time dollars for organizations. One is philosophical in that it allows organizations to practice what we preach; Time Banking is a social justice model that builds community. It dismantles the charity model by recognizing that everyone has needs and everyone has something to give. This authentic reciprocity radically defies the concept of those with resources and power giving "selflessly" to those without and those without or with less humbly accepting. Instead, we're all sharing.
Perhaps because no one likes to feel like a charity case, some organizations have found that when "clients" and "volunteers" are less distinguishable, there is more loyalty to the organization. Social service organizations find that the folks who benefit from their services and those who help provide their services are more likely to support them when times are tough (like now). No one gets anything for nothing and no one gives anything for nothing. There is no shame in sharing and exchanging. Instead there is pride in community building and a celebration of our affluence and resourcefulness.
A second benefit to organizations is that time banking can be an important tool for measuring and developing sustainability. Perhaps you've been thinking about a triple bottom line budget. We have so many tools to measure the economic bottom line and more and more for the environmental. But how do we measure the social bottom line? The Time Bank can do that accounting for your organization!
A third, more immediately practical benefit of time banking is in the volunteer program management arena. Many nonprofit organizations spend a lot of time (often compensated by $US spent to pay professional volunteer program coordinators) collecting time sheets, counting hours of volunteers, etc. Because the Time Bank provides "volunteers" (anyone not being paid $US) an incentive to communicate with you about what they've done, this can free up so much of professional volunteer program managers' time that they can do a new level of professional work providing some organizations with a substantial return on investment (ROI). Dane County Time Bank, the closest model to what we're doing here in Sonoma County, says this is the case there (but there are no numbers to show just how great the return on investment is -- it's qualitative at this point). In a year or two when we're better established, the SCTB will ask a Minerva Project pro bono consultant to do an assessment of ROI for volunteer program coordinators -- in exchange for time dollars, of course.