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  • Katie Jefcoat

Why Charitable Giving Makes Us Happy

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

Today, I want to talk to you about charity. While I have mentioned charitable giving in passing, I want to dive deeper today. You know that phrase “money can’t buy happiness.” Well, it can…as long as you are buying something for someone else.

Charitable Giving Makes Us Happy

A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton found that spending money on someone else provided greater happiness than buying something for ourselves. The pleasure of giving to someone could actually be linked to the release of endorphins, commonly known as a “helper’s high.”

Along with that happiness rush, charitable giving evokes gratitude. Whether you are the one giving or the one receiving, gratitude promotes happiness for both parties. We have talked a lot about gratitude here on Everyday Happiness, so I won’t go further back into that today, but you know the details!

In addition to making us happier, charitable acts increase social connection. As I have mentioned in past episodes, social connections are a critical component of our happiness. Studies have shown that when we are charitable, it promotes a sense of trust and cooperation with everyone involved. We feel closer to those we are helping and vice versa. We also feel closer to those who help along with us, whether family, friends, colleagues, or community members.

As Sonya Lyubomirsky writes in her book The How of Happiness, “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably… it fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”

Lastly, I want to note that kindness is contagious! When you give, it initiates a ripple effect of generosity. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, found that when one person acts charitably, it inspires other people also to act altruistically. Not only does it remind people of the benefits of charity, but it encourages them to give and inspire even more people to do the same.

Hosting a Birthday Fundraiser!

Now, let’s talk birthdays! Birthdays are a blast, but you can make them even happier with a birthday fundraiser! This particular article was inspired by a friend and avid listener to my podcast, Chelsey. Chelsey is hosting a birthday fundraiser for her business, raising money for a local kitty shelter. Rather than asking for presents, she is asking for donations. I think it is awesome, and it got me thinking about birthday fundraisers more!

(To learn more about her fundraiser, click HERE!)

You have likely seen news of children asking for donations to a charity as birthday presents rather than getting toys. It always creates that “awww" moment where you are impressed by the child's generosity and wish you had done something like that. I am here today to tell you that you can, even as an adult. But, first, let's take a moment to review the 3 happiness benefits you will receive.

3 Happiness Benefits to Charity Birthdays

First, you will make yourself happy. Giving to others is the easiest method of promoting your happiness, especially when it is a charity that you feel passionate about. Whether you are helping your local animal shelter, giving to children in need, or aiding wounded veterans, the simple act of making a difference will provide you with glowing happiness for months to come.

Second, you make the benefactors happy. Here on Everyday Happiness, we talk about how kindness is contagious; whether you donate directly to a person in need or to a larger organization, the people who benefit are grateful you are giving them a greater chance at increasing their own happiness.

Thirdly, you provide happiness to donators. The people who donate to your charity birthday will also feel that surge of happiness! On top of that, they are more likely to recognize the benefits of charity and make it a regular part of their life, creating an even more significant impact on the community.

See! Three levels of happiness: you, your loved ones, and your community all in one birthday!

Now, if you have been inspired to host a charity birthday, whether for yourself or your kiddos, I commend you and have a few notes to keep in mind.

Tips on Hosting a Charity Birthday

First, pick a worthwhile charity. I recommend finding a topic you are passionate about and investigating a reliable, honest charity that supports it. If possible, look into your local charities rather than big brand ones. While the big ones are worthwhile, they have greater access to funding than smaller charities. Picking a local one could make a bigger difference in your community.

Second, make a plan. Rather than waiting until the day of the birthday to announce your charity idea, you should let everyone know well in advance. I recommend talking it up, sending emails, posting it on your social media, and getting the word out that you are asking for donations rather than gifts.

Third, make it obvious where to donate. When you host a charity birthday, make it super easy for your friends, family, and circle of possible donators to donate. Send them a link or instructions so they can complete the act in minutes.

So whether you want to volunteer, buy gifts for others, or donate money, I encourage you to consider how to incorporate charitable acts into your Intentional Margins. Got tips on hosting a birthday fundraiser? Share them in the comments with us!

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