The Five Core Values of TimeBanking

There are core values underlying TimeBanking. TimeBanks have found that paying mind to them helps to nurture a sense of purpose and reminds members of the deeper meaning of TimeBanking. Here they are:


We are all assets.
We all have something to give.

Redefining Work
Some work is beyond price.
Work has to be redefined. To create “the village” that raises healthy children, builds strong families, revitalizes neighborhoods, makes democracy work, advances social justice, and even makes the planet sustainable is valuable work. It needs to be honored, recorded and rewarded.

Helping works better as a two-way street.
The question: “How can I help you?” needs to change so we ask: “How can we help each other build the world we all will live in?”

Social Networks
We need each other.
People joined in shared purpose are stronger than individuals. Helping each other, we reweave communities of support, strength & trust. Community is built upon sinking roots, building trust, creating networks. Special relationships are built on commitment.

Every human being matters.
Respect underlies freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and everything we value. Respect supplies the heart and soul of democracy. When respect is denied to anyone, we all are injured. We must respect where people are in the moment, not where we hope they will be at some future point.

What Do TimeBanks Do?

The Life of a TimeBank

OK. So “pay it forward” sounds easy in principle. But how does that happen? What does a community TimeBank look like? How is it set up? Who does what, and how?


For TimeBanks that focus on building community, there’s a generic list of “to-do’s” and it’s a short one. But, just like every snowflake is different, every TimeBank is unique, even though the basic activities are shared by all.

TimeBank Giving and Receiving

The giving and the receiving forms the pay-it-forward that lies at the heart of every TimeBank. Most people immediately think of individuals doing things for one another. But there are also group exchanges. In the language of TimeBanking, there are four main kinds of exchanges:

  • 1:1 –  example: one person helps another.
  • 1:Many –  a yoga class with one teacher and ten students.
  • Many:1 –  A garden clean-up for a single senior by a group of five.
  • Many-Many — A pet-parade for an elementary school. (For the purposes of earning and spending time credits, we turn this into many – 1. The school would count as just one member – even though many are involved.)

Track Exchanges

So that TimeBank members can keep track of their exchanges, there is TimeBanking software that makes it possible to manage all the information . Members use the software to enter data about themselves, learn about each other, record their exchanges, track their hours, and learn about TimeBanking events. Members unable to use the internet are usually assigned a TimeBank “buddy” to do that for them. TimeBank coordinators use the software to keep track of the activity in the TimeBank, sign up new members, inform members of events and special projects, help members when difficulties arise, make reports, and so on.

TimeBank New-Member Orientations

This is where members sign up and learn about TimeBanking. Orientations can be really well organized and structured. The agenda is set. There are planned activities that help people learn about the core values of TimeBanking and the dynamics of an exchange.

Or they can be pretty informal: sit in a small group, listen to the coordinator describe what it’s all about, learn about the software, and then ask questions.

TimeBanks do group orientations, and many try to make sure that by the end of the orientation each new member has agreed to enter into an exchange – maybe 1-1, maybe a group project.

TimeBank Pot-lucks

Community-building TimeBanks use member potlucks as a way to build up exchanges between members.  They work best if they are held regularly so that members can plan for them in their calendar.  For many TimeBanks, the pot-lucks are a KEY component, because it’s here that people get to meet and become familiar with other TimeBank members and find out who’s exchanging what.
Monthly potlucks help build the relationships that power the TimeBank. They are also useful for outreach, and so they are generally open and inviting to non-members who are interested in joining the TimeBank.

The potluck is the place to celebrate and share. To be reminded of the core values. To announce events. To have fun and activities that will help TimeBank members come to know all the wonderful things that other members do.

TimeBank Projects, Events

TimeBank projects and events bring a life of their own to a TimeBank. To find out about the projects and events being offered by TimeBanks, check out on the web what TimeBanks are doing around the country.  Use a search engine like Google or Bing, or go to our TimeBank Directory to explore what different TimeBanks offer.


Yes. Even in the world of time credits where TimeBanks live, there are money costs. Depending on the size and activity levels, annual costs for a member-led TimeBank with no paid staff may range between $500 and $5,000 or more per year.  Most member-led TimeBanks secure these funds by asking members to donate a small amount each year and by organizing fundraisers.  The members and coordinators who do the organizing can earn time credits from the TimeBank for taking on this work. For more on the diversity of TimeBanks and how they seek to cover their costs, click here.


How Are TimeBanks Organized?

So those are things that a TimeBank does. But to do them, it also needs some structure. There are some key pieces that comprise a TimeBank — but how TimeBanks structure those pieces varies greatly.

TimeBank Leadership
TimeBank leadership operates on different levels. There’s the coordinator, who leads on a day-to-day basis and helps with membership exchanges. There’s a leadership team, or advisory board, or board, that makes decisions for the TimeBank. TimeBanks vary enormously in how they set up their leadership.

The TimeBank On-Line Presence

TimeBanks use software to manage all the information that members supply and to keep track of exchanges. The software provided by TimeBanks USA is open source, and is called Community Weaver.  Many others exist; we have counted more than 30! Some TimeBanks have software exclusive to them. The software that is provided by the  hOurWorld network of TimeBanks is called Time and Talents. Community Forge is another open source software.

Most TimeBanks nowadays have an online presence besides the software. It may be just a facebook page. Or a website AND a facebook page. Or more. Much depends on whether there are media-savvy members willing to take this on for time credits on behalf of the TimeBank.

The TimeBank Handbook
TimeBanks have policies and information they need to share with members. The policies may concern membership requirements, or how TimeBank exchanges should be conducted (such as, strive to be on time.) They will concern liability, disputes between members, the form of leadership, and so on. Even to say “we will have no policies” is a policy!
TimeBanks vary tremendously in the level of formality in relation to their policies and the procedures they put in place for new members, like orientations.

The Handbook is where to find that information. It may be printed. Or your TimeBank may prefer to have that available online.

Keeping It All Organized

The focus of a TimeBank is the giving and receiving that it generates between members (and, in some cases, between TimeBank members and the larger community.)  The underlying idea is really simple. But making it happen takes organization.  The number of decisions to make, the need for planning, and the necessity of record-keeping can take people by surprise when they start up a TimeBank.  Best to expect it and be ready for it going in. Along with the “people-persons” who are passionate about connecting people, the start-up team for a TimeBank should include at least one person who is happy doing the work of keeping records and  information in order.

Summing Up: The TimeBank Tree
These are the core elements. Just like trees, TimeBanks are organic. They have roots (the mission, the goals, the core values of TimeBanking.) They have a trunk (the roles, policies, and activities to keep it organized.) They bear fruit (all the wonderful things that come out of the potlucks, the exchanges, the orientations.) They grow. And they need to grow in proportion. A thicker trunk is needed to carry a large crown.  To learn more about the diversity  of TimeBanks, click here.

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