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So Much To Do, So Little Time

March 17, 2013 in Making a Difference

Summary:

  • A TimeBank is a place where members can post the services they have to offer and/or a request for assistance.
  • Members receive a credit for each hour they volunteer and a debt for each hour they use a service.
  • One can provide added value to your volunteers and create an instant database.

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Welcome to our guest blogger, Lisa Viles, from the Area Agency on Aging for Northeastern Vermont. Lisa answered the Call for What’s Working issued by the Aging Network’s Volunteer Collaborative in the spring of 2012, and her project, Volunteers Win, was honored for its success.

In our community, a TimeBank has brought together neighbors with various needs, and it has allowed us to give volunteer hours where they count.

For example, have you ever felt like you just don’t have the time to do one more thing? Or maybe you know someone who is homebound and feels helpless, isolated, and that he or she has nothing to offer that others in the community would need? Someone else may be recently retired and have a skill to share but is unsure how to connect with those who might be interested in learning that skill.

I have met each of these people in my local TimeBank (and I might just be one of them).

Why a TimeBank?

So why would we all end up at the same community potluck to learn more about something called a TimeBank? There were about 30 of us at the first potluck, and we ranged in age from 30-something with young children to 80+. We came together to learn about TimeBanking, meet other members, and share a meal. This is how TimeBanks begin to build community one hour at a time.

What is a TimeBank? In a nutshell, it is a place where members can post the services they have to offer and/or a request for assistance they are seeking. Members can than “shop” from these posts to find a match to their skills or needs. When exchanges are complete, members log their time and receive a “Time Dollar” credit for each hour they volunteer and a debt for each hour they use a service. Going into debt is encouraged to keep the circle of giving moving, as volunteers “pay it forward” by sharing their time.

TimeBanking is the brainchild of founder Edgar Chan, who established TimeBanks USA in the early 1990s to share his vision. Today, there are more than 350 TimeBanks around the world. Each is unique to meet its community goals, but all share a core value: Everyone has something to contribute.

What We Had to Share

At our potluck, here’s what we found:

  • The 80-year-old retired jazz DJ found someone interested in learning from his wealth of knowledge who was very happy to drive him to concerts. He was thrilled to earn time toward pet sitting provided by another member.
  • A woman who didn’t drive anymore and felt she had nothing to offer learned there were many nearby neighbors who would welcome her help with light housekeeping and baking and others who could drive her to appointments.
  • We learned that math tutors and childcare was a need, and someone was offering horseback riding lessons.
  • Our organization even connected with a member who developed a website for our meals-to-pets program.

Benefits

You might have guessed I often feel too busy to do one more thing, but like so many other members, I found sitting down to enjoy a shared meal and the opportunity to meet new neighbors and connect with old friends was a welcome break. I also have found sharing garden chores with someone else is fun and relaxing. I am still looking for advice on how to build a rock wall. It is a little like a treasure hunt with 80 members and growing. We can easily search the database to match skills with needs.

Members can be individuals or organizations, and small businesses have even joined. It is all about sharing our time with each other. If your organization joins, it can provide added value to your volunteers and create an instant database.

If you would like to learn more about TimeBanks, view the Volunteers Win webinar slides, webinar recording, and replication guide. There is much more to share about this great platform for engaging volunteers and building communities.

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