Cool Organization: Time Dollars

Time Dol­lar USA
What are Time Dollars?

Time Dol­lars are a tax-exempt kind of cur­ren­cy that empow­er peo­ple to con­vert their per­son­al time into pur­chas­ing pow­er by help­ing oth­ers and by rebuild­ing fam­i­ly, neigh­bor­hood and com­mu­ni­ty. An hour help­ing anoth­er earns one Time Dol­lar. Time Dol­lars can be used by com­mu­ni­ties, indi­vid­u­als, orga­ni­za­tions, or agen­cies to rec­og­nize and reward doing the right thing for oth­ers. Time Dol­lars mean turn­ing help­ing oth­ers from a one-way street to a two-way street. Every act of help­ing leads to anoth­er act of help­ing, cre­at­ing a web of sup­port and car­ing that rebuilds trust and enhances community.

Any­one can earn Time Dol­lars. All it takes to earn and spend them is to be a mem­ber of a Time Dol­lar Exchange. You can start your own group if there isn’t one in your area. (See the Time Dol­lar How- to and Resources) Time Dol­lars have been called a “cur­ren­cy of car­ing” because they make it pos­si­ble for peo­ple who receive help to give back to others.

Time Dol­lar Exchanges use Time Dol­lars in two main ways. One way is through gen­er­al­ized help­ing. The oth­er is through “spe­cial­ized” activ­i­ties that are tar­get­ed to a spe­cif­ic outcome.

Gen­er­al­ized Help­ing (and Neigh­bor-to-Neigh­bor Exchanges)
Gen­er­al­ized exchanges of Time Dol­lars are most often found in Neigh­bor to Neigh­bor Time Dol­lar Exchanges. I help you, you help anoth­er, and that per­son helps anoth­er. The mem­bers form a web of sup­port like an expand­ed babysit­ting pool. The Time Dol­lars earned through help­ing oth­ers can be used to receive ser­vices or help from some­one else, or they can be used for social out­ings, or events such as a month­ly pot-luck, or for spe­cial dis­counts from busi­ness­es that sup­port the goals of a Time Dol­lar group. Time Dol­lars earned can be saved up for a rainy day or they can be donat­ed to oth­ers. From child care to karate lessons to phone com­pan­ion­ship to being a juror on a youth court, the ways of earn­ing Time Dol­lars are endless.

Spe­cial­ized Uses of Time Dollars
The oth­er way that Time Dol­lar Exchanges use Time Dol­lars is for reward­ing spe­cif­ic con­tri­bu­tions of spe­cial val­ue to the com­mu­ni­ty. In Wash­ing­ton D.C., the Time Dol­lar Youth Court uses Time Dol­lars to rec­og­nize and reward teens who serve as jurors. In the Chica­go Cross-Age Peer Tutor­ing pro­gram, youth earn Time Dol­lars for tutor­ing younger youth and the tutees also earn Time Dollars.

In the field of social wel­fare, spe­cial­ized uses of Time Dol­lars make it pos­si­ble for clients and recip­i­ents of ser­vices to become instead “Co-Pro­duc­ers” of out­comes. When that hap­pens, Time Dol­lars are an extreme­ly effec­tive tool for an approach to social wel­fare that we have called “Co-Pro­duc­tion.”

Com­bi­na­tion of Gen­er­al­ized and Specialized
Like a left foot and a right foot, the gen­er­al­ized and the spe­cial­ized ways of earn­ing Time Dol­lars work togeth­er very well. One mark of mature Time Dol­lar Exchange is that the two ways of earn­ing Time Dol­lars are both present. That hap­pens when Neigh­bor-to-Neigh­bor groups decide to pay mem­bers Time Dol­lars for tak­ing on spe­cif­ic com­mu­ni­ty projects. Or when spe­cial­ized groups like Cross-Age Peer Tutor­ing begin to expand their activ­i­ties and engage the chil­dren, par­ents, and fam­i­lies in sup­port­ing each other.

In addi­tion, we have found that Time Dol­lar Exchanges thrive in com­pa­ny, because they can pro­vide mutu­al sup­port and learning.

Time Dol­lars are not a form of barter
Barter almost always involves bar­gain­ing between two indi­vid­u­als to estab­lish the worth of a good or ser­vice. There is no bar­gain­ing with Time Dol­lars. An hour is an hour.

Are Time Dol­lars a form of volunteering?
In some cas­es, Yes. In oth­ers, No. Time Dol­lars are a way of enhanc­ing vol­un­teer pro­grams by mak­ing it pos­si­ble for those who tra­di­tion­al­ly have been recip­i­ents to become givers and helpers, too. They are a way of acti­vat­ing an untapped nation­al resource—the time of peo­ple who are retired, under-employed, or under-valued—so that we can begin to meet the enor­mous needs that so many com­mu­ni­ties face.

Time Dol­lars Rebuild Community
Time Dol­lars are a way of rebuild­ing the net­works of help­ful­ness and com­mu­ni­ty that once exist­ed in small towns and inner-city neigh­bor­hoods. They are not an excuse for bud­get-cut­ting or get­ting ser­vices on the cheap.

What kinds of activ­i­ties can earn Time Dollars?
Prac­ti­cal­ly any­thing that can help anoth­er! Here is a short sample:

Child care, music and mar­tial arts lessons, com­mu­ni­ty out­reach, com­put­er and office assis­tance, minor home repair, paint­ing, cook­ing, deliv­er­ing meals, run­ning errands, first aid class­es, mas­sage, respite care, tutor­ing, yard ser­vices, mov­ing help, phone com­pan­ion­ship, hair­styling, help, house-clean­ing, trans­lat­ing, teen court jury duty… the list can go on and on.

Are Time Dol­lars Taxable?
The IRS has deter­mined that 1) because an hour is always an hour, regard­less of what is offered, 2) because they are backed only by a moral oblig­a­tion and 3) because they are intend­ed for a char­i­ta­ble pur­pose, Time Dol­lars are not taxable

Cyn is a proud Mommy & Mémé, professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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