What Is Time Banking

What Is Time Banking?

We have been asked “What is time banking?” by many non-profits. The phrase “time banking” can cause confusion. It may sound like a complex concept, but it is in fact simple. In time banking, people exchange time, instead of money, to receive a service.

Time Bank Definition

Each hour of time someone gives to help someone provides them with an hour of time credit. This time credit is exchanged to have an hour of help from someone. The person who banked the time may use the time credit. They can also donate it to someone else. The time bank records the time each member banks. Members receive a regular statement showing their time credit balance.

One hour of time given always equals one hour of time credit. This is regardless of what service is provided. With time as currency, all services are of equal value in time banking.

To give an example:

Alan teaches Spanish to someone on the time bank scheme for an hour. He banks an hour of time for this. A few weeks later, he needs help in his garden. He cashes in that hour of credit for an hour of help from Sam via the time bank. Sam then banks an hour of credit for her time with Alan.

Time Banking Values

There are 5 key values at the heart of time banking. These are:

Asset: We are all assets. We all have something to offer. Each person’s input is of equal value. Thus, someone doing laundry for an hour is equal to an hour long cello lesson.

Redefining work: Some work can be beyond payment. Time banking rewards and honours all work. This includes work where payment is not usually given. For example, building strong families, advancing social justice.

Reciprocity: Helping each other is a better form of giving. It empowers both the giver and receiver. Those who receive can also help others with their strengths. All are equals.

Social Networks: We are stronger working together. We need community. Using time banking can strengthen support networks and trust between people.

Respect: All people deserve respect. Everyone deserves to be listened to and heard.

All time banking schemes should aim to adhere to these values. A good time banking scheme will build community and mutual respect.

Time Bank Types

There are three types of time banks:

Person to person: Individuals set up this time bank. They operate it and use it to help each other. No organisation is involved in its running.

Person to organisation: An organisation, such as a non-profit, sets up a time bank. People are then recruited as members to carry out the jobs it wants doing.

Organisation to organisation: An organisation sets up a time bank. It gives access to some of its resources to others. Those other organisations can then trade their services for use of the resources.

What Is Time Banking With Volunteering?

To fully answer the question, “What is time banking?” we need to look at how it works with volunteers. Timebanking is a method for getting volunteers involved whilst rewarding them. With volunteering, giving is one way. The giver helps the receiver and does not receive a reward in kind. With time banking, the giving is two way. The giver helps the receiver, who then helps the giver. The time-based system rewards people for taking part. Thus, those who may not normally volunteer receive an incentive to entice them to get involved.

Many non-profits have used time banking to expand their reach and keep within budget. By interweaving time banking into their organisation, non-profits can achieve their goals. They may set up to specify the tasks that the volunteers need to do. Or they could let the members request the tasks to make positive changes to their community. Or they could use a time bank to share resources with other organisations. The system is flexible and there are many ways to utilise it.

There are costs involved but these are limited. In some cases in the UK, local authorities have covered the costs. Charges for office space, admin and insurance need to be taken into account. A time broker will also be required. This person will manage the day to day running of the time bank. They will interview new members and get references. It is important to vet all members as they could be working with vulnerable people. A member or members of the time bank could act as a time broker. The position can be a paid or voluntary one.

To function, the time bank needs members, as many as possible. Awareness needs to be raised to get people involved. Holding events can help to attract new members to the scheme. There may also need to be software for recording each members time credits. Time Bank UK provides software for a fee. Yet, a pen and paper or spreadsheet may suffice. This should all be considered when thinking about set up costs.

Benefits of Time Banking for Non-profit Organisations and Volunteers

The benefits of time banking can far outweigh the costs. We have listed below some of these for both non-profits and volunteers:

Non-profit organisations

  • Make a large impact with less expense. The cost of running a time bank is far less than it would be to pay wages. You can increase or enhance your services without the usual cost. This means that many more people can be reached and helped.
  • Improve your social networks. Time banking brings people together. By doing this, it can get you a foothold into the local community, getting people behind your cause.
  • Increase awareness. Time banking builds social networks in the local area. The more people who use the time bank, the more will talk about it. The more who talk about it, the more will know your name and your cause.
  • Improve your profile. People who are helped through the time bank will spread your good name. Positive attention from social media and local press will increase this.
  • Increase your pool of volunteers. If you are struggling to recruit volunteers, time banking could entice people to join. Rather than relying on altruism, the scheme rewards volunteers with skills and services. People are more likely to volunteer if they are rewarded for doing so.
  • Tap into an untapped resource. With its flexibility and rewards, time banking is able to reach those who are hard to recruit. This includes groups such as the elderly or unemployed. It can be particularly helpful if there are high numbers of such people in the local community.
  • Make use of new skills. Members bring with them their skills, which can be specialised. With access to a large pool of skills, you may be able to achieve tasks unattainable before.
  • Reach deprived areas. Time banking can be used in places where there is a lot of need but little money. Local people can work to help each other, without outsiders coming in. Thus, areas who are insular can also greatly benefit.
  • Have a greater impact. With a larger pool of volunteers, you can have more of an impact. More volunteers and more work being done means more positive outcomes.
  • Enthusiasm. Rewarding people and building community through reciprocity will ignite passion. Your volunteer’s passion will feed into their work and give you a good name.


  • Get services without the cost. Through the time bank, people have access to services that they may never have been able to afford before. Members are able to access these and offer payment in return with their own time. For those with little money, this can be life-changing.
  • Access to skills. A time bank may have people on it with skills that others may not have been able to access before. People may find new opportunities to expand their knowledge or enhance their lives.
  • Build support networks. Time banking provides a network of support for its members should they need it. It empowers people to be able to call on services at precisely the time they want to. It gives them autonomy in choosing what help they receive and when.
  • Builds social networks. For isolated people or those who wish to make new friends, this can be very appealing. Time banking brings people together to help each other. It can also be used to set up events or clubs.
  • Teaches respect for others. Helping others can stop social divides and prejudice. Time banking does not feel like charity as the service given has been earned through work. In this way, no one needs to feel pitied. People can keep their sense of self-respect and pride. Everyone both gives and receives help. Thus, all are equal.
  • Builds a sense of community. People working together on a task creates a sense of pride and togetherness. Members helping each other, get to know each other and bond. People get an understanding of each other’s struggles. Compassion and harmony are increased.
  • Builds confidence. In time banking, everyone’s skills are valuable. By using them to help others, people gain a sense of self-worth. They may also grow in confidence as they meet new people and are able to help them. Time banking can empower those who may have felt that they have nothing to offer. Each hour of service received is earned so there can be pride in receiving.
  • Flexible way of helping others. People can give as much or as little time as they want. Members can put themselves forward for only tasks they want to do. They know upfront about the task and how long it should take. This means that those who may find it harder to volunteer can get involved, such as the elderly and ill.

Time banking in practice has a positive impact on all who take part. Gemma Sheridan, Community Connections Adviser at Community Action Bedfordshire explains:

“Research shows that individuals, specifically disabled and older people, are increasingly faced with social isolation. Time banking can help reduce isolation and bring communities together. It’s about sharing skills – I could help an elderly neighbour with their weekly shopping in exchange for asking another member for help with my daughter’s maths homework. It enables people from different backgrounds who may not otherwise meet, to come together and form friendships.”

I hope this article has answered any questions you have around what is time banking. If you have any further queries in regards to volunteer recruitment or retention, as a charity marketing consultant I can help – Get in touch.