Social giving makes us happier

People usually feel good when they make a charitable donation, but they feel even better if they make the donation directly to someone they know or in a way that builds social connection. Research to be published in the International Journal of Happiness and Development investigates for the first time how social connection helps turn generous behavior into positive feelings on the part of the donor.

Lara Aknin of Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, and colleagues at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver and Harvard Business School, Massachusetts, USA, wanted to examine when the of giving to charity become manifest. They carried out three studies of , or more precisely pro-social spending, and found that spending money on others or giving money to charity leads to the greatest happiness boost when giving fosters social connection. The overarching conclusion is that donors feel happiest if they give to a charity via a friend, relative or social connection rather than simply making an anonymous donation to a worthy cause.

The research has implications for not-for-profit organizations hoping to maximize donations, suggesting that recruiting advocates and helping them build on their could have benefits for the donors too. Extending these findings, it is possible that if donors have a greater sense of happiness when giving involves making a social connection one might imagine that the positive emotions might even lead to more frequent and perhaps bigger donations. Extrapolating further from the research happy donors might themselves be more likely to become advocates for a given cause or benefit it through their spontaneous word-of-mouth marketing." The findings also complement earlier research that has demonstrated a positive effect on happiness of and taking part in voluntary work.

"While additional factors other than social connection likely influence the happiness gained from pro-social spending our findings suggest that putting the social in pro-social is one way to transform good deeds into good feelings," the team concludes.

More information: "Does social connection turn good deeds into good feelings?: On the value of putting the 'social' in pro-social spending" in Int. J. Happiness and Development, 2013, 1, 155-171

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cause marketing lowers charitable donations

Mar 31, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Cause marketing -- when firms share proceeds from the sale of products with a social cause -- reduces charitable giving by consumers, says a researcher at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. ...

Give away your money, feel happier?

Jan 21, 2013

(HealthDay)—Having pots of money doesn't necessarily make you happy, study after study has found. But giving away money—even if you're not rich—is likely to make you feel wealthier, and thus happier, ...

Resilience in trying times—a result of positive actions

Jun 12, 2013

Communities that stick together and do good for others cope better with crises and are happier for it, according to a new study by John Helliwell, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, and colleagues¹. Their ...

Recommended for you

Our brains are hardwired for language

17 hours ago

A groundbreaking study published in PLOS ONE by Prof. Iris Berent of Northeastern University and researchers at Harvard Medical School shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language univer ...

User comments