As we approach year's end, your mailbox is filling up with fundraising appeals from various charities and causes, hoping to capitalize on your holiday cheer — or at least, your effort to avoid a bit of 2007 income taxes through deductible contributions.
This is not a false hope: Americans gave nearly $300 billion away last year, and some charities claim to collect as much as a quarter of their annual contributions in the month of December alone. But there is one special reason to give, beyond the noble goals of helping your favorite charity and beating back the voracious taxman. It is that your gifts will give you a happier new year.
It is a fact that givers are happier people than non-givers. According to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, a survey of 30,000 American households, people who gave money to charity in 2000 were 43% more likely than non-givers to say they were "very happy" about their lives.
Similarly, volunteers were 42% more likely to be very happy than non-volunteers. It didn't matter whether gifts of money and time went to churches or symphony orchestras — givers to all types of religious and secular causes were far happier than non-givers.
People who give also are less sad and depressed than non-givers. The University of Michigan's Panel Study of Income Dynamics reveals that people who gave money away in 2001 were 34% less likely than non-givers to say that they had felt "so sad that nothing could cheer them up" in the past month. They were also 68% less likely to have felt "hopeless," and 24% less likely to have said that "everything was an effort."
The happiness difference between givers and non-givers is not due to differences in their personal characteristics, such as income or religion. Imagine two people who are identical in terms of income and faith — as well as age, education, politics, sex, and family circumstances — but one donates money and volunteers, while the other does not. The giver will be, on average, 11 percentage points more likely to be very happy than the non-giver...
Just a gentle reminder about that donation button on the left from the staff at NER.