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