Bank your time in West Seattle
By Alice Kuder
Author and West Seattle Timebank member
“Time is money.” That’s the philosophy behind the West Seattle Timebank, who’s members exchange services for time credits rather than cash.
“The only thing that’s difficult about Timebanking is explaining to others what it is, and how it differs from bartering and volunteering. Once you understand that, it’s really easy,” says member Alice Kuder.
In its simplest form, Timebanking is a system for exchanging services without exchanging money. Members earn time credits by providing services to others and spend them by accepting services from others.
Timebanks put people and needs together, providing an alternative to our traditional, currency-based economy. In a society that is increasingly divided into “haves” and “have not’s”, Timebanking levels the playing field by valuing each person’s time equally.
The West Seattle Timebank operates on the principle that everyone has something of value to offer -- namely, their time. At the Timebank, an hour of gardening is worth as much as an hour of massage or an hour of auto repair. Each hour of service is recorded and exchanged for an hour of time credit.
“Exchanging services is a means of building sustainable communities in a modern, urban society,” says Tamsen Spengler, who founded the West Seattle Timebank in 2012. “Our goal is to build a non-monetary community of support by connecting residents, non-profits and other service providers.”
Another WS Timebank member, points out, “Every community has organizations that need volunteers, but Timebanking goes beyond volunteering. By giving equal importance to giving and receiving, Timebanking encourages reciprocity, which leaves everyone feeling valued.”
How is Timebanking different from bartering? Individuals offer their talents, skills and services to the membership as a whole, creating a pool from which everyone can draw. Most exchanges are indirect.
A typical round of exchanges might look like this:
A member who is a senior citizen on a fixed income and doesn’t own a car, occasionally needs a ride to the airport. Rather than hiring a driver, she logged into her online Timebank account and posted a request for a ride.
A member saw her request and offered her the ride she needed. The senior member paid that member with time credit, which she deposited in her Timebank account. She then was able to choose a service she needed or to learn a new skill she wanted to learn (ex. Guitar playing, knitting, sewing, making Kombucha etc).
No cash changed hands during any of these exchanges.
But exchanging services and learning new skills are just the most obvious benefits of participating in a Timebank. Beyond getting help with physical tasks, members often experience unexpected emotional benefits from exchanges as well.
“I got so much more than a ride to the airport,” says a member. “Another member and I discovered we have a lot in common. Before long, we were walking together, then sending daily texts with words of encouragement and support for whatever was happening in our lives. Her friendship is just one of several I’ve made through my participation in the West Seattle Timebank.”
According to West Seattle Timebank President, Tamsen Spengler, “We know that just thirty percent of our overall health is determined by physical factors. That leaves an astounding seventy percent that is primarily influenced by social circumstances! Many of our Seniors, in particular, struggle with a sense of social isolation, and joining the Timebank is a great way to combat that problem.”
With over 400 members, The West Seattle Timebank is growing steadily, recording an average of 30 exchanges each week. To date, The West Seattle Timebank is responsible for over 4300 service exchanges!
Timebanks also build and strengthen our communities by giving neighbors opportunities to meet and interact. These connections nurture trust and friendship, forging strong community bonds, one relationship at a time.
WS Timebanker, Alexis Zolner, tells of her experiences. “I started off by making a list of things I enjoyed that I would be willing to do for others as well as a list of things I needed help with or wished I knew more about. I posted a few of each on the Timebank’s member website. I also looked at what other members had already posted, in case there was anything I could help with. Since then, a member helped me out with the weeding. A member gave me a knitting lesson. I helped two members brush up their pinochle skills and helped a member create several lush garden containers. I like that the Timebank provides opportunities to recognize people’s talents while helping your neighbor out. I like that it’s local, and I’ve met some interesting people.”
A six-member board of volunteers assists Tamsen with everything from running the website to organizing the monthly potluck gatherings.
According to a member, “The monthly potlucks are a great way to get introduced to the Timebank and all it offers. It’s usually a group of a dozen or so people – a mix of current members and first-time visitors.”
The monthly gathering includes a short presentation by someone from a local non-profit, and lots of informal chat about recent Timebank experiences and opportunities.
Although a majority of Timebank members are individuals, the West Seattle Timebank also welcomes community service organizations as members. This enables Timebankers to earn time credits for volunteer service hours they donate to member organizations. For instance, Neighborhood House is a registered member of Timebank, so when members Beth or Tamsen tutor a student at Neighborhood House, they get time credits in their account. Two other members receive time credits for teaching English As a Second Language classes.
Thanks to the hard work of its dedicated board, West Seattle Timebank was recently designated as a 501(c)(3), tax exempt status, so all contributions are now tax deductible.
Membership in the West Seattle chapter is free. Residents of West Seattle, White Center and Burien can apply online at https://westseattle.Timebanks.org
by providing just their e-mail address and birthdate. To help ensure the safety of the membership, all applicants are required to undergo a criminal background check.
The West Seattle Timebank is based on a model designed by Dr. Edgar Cahn, who started Timebank USA in 1980, and now has chapters in countries all over the globe.
You can find more information about Timebanks at www.Timebanks.org.
Great article, Alice and Tamsen!! Thorough and interesting to read. I'm proud to be a member of West Seattle Timebank!!