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richard b
Fund Raising for Timebanks - Is it Sustaining?

A topic suggested for the TB Hui this year.

There are a few key issues facing emerging timebanks.

One in particular is associated with fund raising to start and run timebanks.  Why is fund raising important?

What is the money used for? Why are some timebankers getting salaries rather than time? What other expenses do timebanks have?  Are you hearing some ...

"Hey let's start a timebank. I hear there's funding and jobs available."  "If you are getting paid... what can I do to get paid?"   "We spend a huge amount of time & effort setting up NPOs so we can get funding. Is there some way we can streamline that process?". 

"Lots of community groups with volunteers, such as Red Cross & Salvation Army, have paid administrators. Why should timebanking be any different?"

Associated with funding - do other agendas come into play? "If we accept funding do we become obligated to other interests, especially when we become dependent on funding term to term?"  "What if I lose my job at the timebank?" 

Opinion.  Are we losing the plot a bit here? Is timebank creation mostly about funding and job creation for a few? If some timebankers are getting paid are they suitable role models for the others that subscribe to the timebank core principles?  Isn't this just hypocracy? What are those core principles again? They don't specifically say anything about getting paid.

What's the backstory here? Its my impression that at least 90% of NZ'ders (most of the time) are entrenched in the material and monetary system. While they see the merits of timebanks, especially when it might result in free care for their children, parents or disadvantaged, they wouldn't actually participate themselves in timebanking.  This is unlikely to change anytime soon. 

The main arguments seem to be that they don't have the time to participate, can't afford to participate, don't feel they can receive significant value themselves from timebanking, or that its something for the unemployed to do.  But most of all, they spend nearly all their time in the material & monetary society all around them.  They have rent/mortgages, petrol/transport, phone/communication charges, food/shoes to buy, school expenses, and so on, the things that timebanking is not going to help much with. So 90% of their time they better be on the ratwheel.  That leaves a trickle of time available. Who can participate giving the most? Probably those with the least material & monetary needs, such as young teenagers and those over 55, and a handfull of others sorta off-the-grid.

Will timebanking ever reach critical mass?  What is critical mass?  Some opinions suggest that maybe 500 quasi-active members in any community might make a timebank self-sustaining.   What is self-sustaining?  That's the point where a vibrant timebank community can stand on its own and no longer require external funding and grants, where no members need get paid, that the other material resources timebanks need such as space and technology costs are being provided for by goodwill.

When will any timebank become sulf-sustaining in NZ?  Well ironically the more funding and salaries there are, the higher the threshold to become self-sustaining, and in some cases so high and entrenched that they will never become self-sustaiining.  Whereas those grass-roots timebanks that avoid expenses (like rent & salaries & technology costs) from the start will be immediately self-sustaining. 

So you think that you can't afford to spend a large part of your time timebanking without getting paid - yes that's very true.  Think about how to spread the load, how to keep your involvement down to the level where it is sustainable for you and the larger timebank community.  What's sustainable?  Many feel that an hour or two a week is sustainable. Imagine a community where 500 members are giving an hour or two a week each. Wow - now that's a vision.

Is it important or even a goal to become or try to become self-sustaining? A good topic.

Should we be talking more about showing emerging timebanks how to identify with the core values, how to become self-sustaining straight-off and avoid the need for funding, NPO status, or needing to pay the core group or administrators?  Putting more emphasis on how to expand the rate of participation, how to manage safety & growth, how to make contributing worthwhile to all, walking the walk by example, getting some consensus on the universal policies & safety strategies that all can adopt straight off, developing exit strategies - how to get out of funding dependence, how to setup new timebanks without needing any money. What would help the mainstream become attracted to timebanking - aside from providing funding?

If we can work out how to make true timebanking more worthwhile to our own administrators and coordinators, as well as the gardeners & hairstylists, then we'd be well on our way to making timebanking worthwhile to everyone.

richard b
Re: Fund Raising for Timebanks - Is it Sustaining?

This seems to be an exciting topic, and there's since been hours of discussions with core timebankers here in NZ and in the USA.  It seems the "topic viewed" count on this site is not working properly. Let me try to develop this topic by trying to summarize some of what's being said.

  • There must be close to a 1000 timebanks around the world. Almost all timebanks are non-profit organizations. Amongst the few exceptions to the non-profit status might include the for profit Fourth Corner Exchange -  Pacific Northwest, though they should declare their own policies and status to be fair. This is probably just a technicality which becomes more clear as you read this.  Although majority of timebanks are technically non-profit as an organization, they are still businesses and have a cash flow.
  • They are saying the majority of successful and longest operating timebanks have paid coordinators to "push" timebanking.  80 hours a week of paid push time is not unusual for a moderately large timebank. They are saying "Its not reasonable to expect to trade away 80 hours to a couple of coordinators each week".
  • But in addition to the cost of paid coordinators, there is usually also a large software or IT cost. While you no longer have to "license" the most common software (as its gone open-source), there is still a substantial "maintenance and support" cost with weekly and monthly software updates and customization by paid software contractors.  Its not uncommon (at least overseas) for the software contractors involved to get paid $80/hour, and if something breaks in their systems which requires specialist interventions, that additional unbudgeted cost is hundreds per incident.  Very few timebanks have their own "in-house" volunteer software support group, the vaste majority have to contract this out to a few specialized groups of software geeks. Many timebanks operate their own servers (directly or indirectly), so that entails an additional "hosting" cost.  Now who said open-source was free?
  • Every timebank has its own safety and membership vetting policies. That's a whole topic in itself, but most do verying degrees of background checks & interventions. This takes time, and in many cases incurs membership fees. The "checking" can occur at increasing levels of thoroughness, each level increasing in cost.  That said in order to minmize costs, a few timebanks don't do any background or identity checks at all on their membership, the members sign an agreement they are entirely on their own when trading. So the whole spectrum comes into play.
  • So for most timebanks, these potential costs mean they are setup as businesses, have record keeping systems, need to balance the cash flows (another cost). Depending on how they go after their funding drives the kind of organization they setup. Most ask for donations. In some jurisdictions, having an official "non-profit" status means that in competing for substantial donations it can be a tax deduction for the donators.  Most ask for an annual membership fee, this amongst other things is intended to "firm-up membership commitment", they are more likely to participate and try and get something out of timebanking if they are "paying for it".  So a "non-profit" status is in the majority of cases has nothing to do with the ideaology of the membership or alternate economies, its about whether the donations (required to fund the operation of the timebank) get a tax exemption.
richard b
Re: Fund Raising for Timebanks - Is it Sustaining?

While all this could lead on to the story The Business of Timebanking - Who is "Pushing" Timebanks and Why?, I'd rather wait for the book to come out. The pushers are easy to find.

A far more exciting topic for the Hui would be about the  Grassroots Timebankers, about those actually practicing timebanking or wanting to timebank, where are they, how many, and what support do they need. Do they really need "herding" as some would have you believe?  Are we really talking about 5-10,000 potentially practiciing in NZ?  Do the real "givers" and volunteers in our communities need or even care about timebanking? Do they want or need to become "members" or join a timebank to do it?  Is the flow of time balanced (ie, reciprocal) or wil it always tend to be one way? 

I really hope to see a lot more contribution around the grassroots topics.  Less about the business of timebanking and fund raising, and a lot more about the actual practice of timebanking.

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