by Sarah McGowan Dear
Some of you remember when the Echo Park Time Bank and Arroyo Time Bank were the only games in town. Back then our numbers were few, but we were motivated and inspired by a new paradigm for community building.
That was 6 years ago and since then, we’ve grown into 21 neighborhoods with over 1,300 members. Now we are a national best-practices model that has made some amazing impact on the communities where we are active and in the lives of our members. We have over 10 incredible member-led projects, a handful of really committed neighborhood coordinators and passionate Care Committee leaders. To put it mildly, we are thriving.
It’s amazing (if not miraculous) that we’ve managed this explosive growth with virtually no paid administration. To date, all annual fundraising efforts have provided us with a shoestring budget to pay for materials, our software subscription and program expenses. (To all the people who have given their time and talents to helping with those efforts, we thank you again as we have thanked you before!) We have consistently existed on annual operating budgets of sometimes less than $2,000, but with tens of thousands of time dollars!
But further growth means the need for more development, infrastructure, partnership and funding as the need for time banking in Los Angeles continues to soar. The writing has been on the wall for a few years, providing the impetus for the creation of the ASNTB and the first step in what ASNTB co-founders Janine Christiano and Autumn Rooney knew would ultimately lead to securing our own nonprofit status.
So a few years ago, Janine and Autumn started working with member Sarah McGowan Dear on grant development, securing a string of funds from the Metabolic Studio that created the California Federation of Time Banks, the Salon Series, the Community Revolving Loan Fund, and the Local Economy Incubator and provided Neighborhood Kits full of potluck materials and supplies for all active coordinators.
We did all of this under the wing of our fiscal agent, Lois Arkin (of the LA Eco-Village/CRSP), who nurtured and mentored us for five years. Knowing that we were growing out of her incubator, Janine, Autumn and Sarah began working with member Nancy Berlin to prepare paperwork to apply for our own 501c3, or nonprofit, status so we could pursue the kind of funding that supports general operating expenses.
We make a compelling case as one of the most effective, low-cost service delivery models in our communities: a part time administrator making the living wage of $15/hour costs just $9.37 per member, per year at our current membership numbers.
It has taken us two years of planning, a lot of consulting with the Sustainable Economies Legal Center (SELC) in the Bay Area and hours of research to file the necessary paperwork.
As of May 30, 2014, the Arroyo Sustainable Economies Community Organization (Arroyo S.E.C.O.) was granted nonprofit status by the Internal Revenue Service! We can hardly believe that the dream is now reality.
Very few time banks have successfully achieved this status and so many of them are anxiously awaiting review of our paperwork so they may follow in our footsteps. SELC amazingly and graciously agreed to guide us pro bono with the stipulation that they could publish our application and make it open source to anyone who wants it.
True to our time banking roots, Arroyo S.E.C.O. was created out of a desire to merge and cooperate, share and collaborate rather than compete for resources. ASECO offers a variety of programs: the ASNTB, the California Federation of Time Banks, the Community Revolving Loan Fund and the Local Economy Incubator - all of which benefit the ASNTB community. The nonprofit has a larger scope, with a vision to eventually help Los Angeles become a go-to Sharing City capital. That means that as we pursue slow, scalable growth, we will reach out to more Angelenos, attract more partners and implement programs that offer as much promise as time banking.
We are so grateful to TimeBanks USA for their inspiration and support, Lois Arkin for mentoring us, the Metabolic Studio for funding some of our early initiatives, Janelle Orsi and her amazing team at the Sustainable Economies Legal Center for helping us develop a compelling case for the educational value of Arroyo S.E.C.O. and to each and every ASNTB member who has helped this network grow, innovate and improve quality of life for its members.
Visit the soft-launch of Arroyo S.E.C.O.’s website to learn more about our new nonprofit!