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Time Is Money

Time banks draw interest as they help people swap services.

Did you ever wish you had someone handy to drive you to the airport, fix your computer, or teach you yoga? If you lived near Madison, Wis., you could join the Dane County Timebank and earn “time dollars”—one dollar for each hour you spend providing a service for someone in the community. Then you could spend those dollars having someone do something for you.

The organization is one of 400 such banks in the United States and 26 other countries. Some are run entirely by volunteers, such as the 372-member Time Trade Circle in Cambridge, Mass.The Dane County bank has three paid staffers, 20 coordinators paid in time dollars, and 1,350 members. Its Web site, which tracks transactions, logged 14,000 hours’ worth of shared services last year, among them language teaching, massage, and Indian cooking.

The Dane County bank’s membership is exploding because the recession has increased the number of people who have more time on their hands and less spending money, according to Executive Director Stephanie Rearick.

The SHiFT Time Bank in Minneapolis is part of a network of individuals and groups supporting people in midlife who are making career transitions. “Oftentimes, bank members start selling products or services as sole proprietors. They trade their products or services for time bank credits, and also gain customer feedback and marketing outreach,” said cofounder Jan Hively. Said member Scott Simpson, “The possibilities are endless.”

To find a time bank in your area or resources to start a program, go to TimeBanks USA.

Leah Dobkin writes on social, civic and consumer issues. She lives in Milwaukee.

 

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