The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article titled “Can Money Buy Happiness?” which, among other things, showed that people were a lot happier when they shared their wealth than when they kept it all to themselves, that “experiences” were far more fulfilling than material acquisitions, and that there were benefits to giving even when people were struggling to meet their own basic needs.
In one experiment, researchers gave the same amount of money to people in two groups and told the first group to spend it on themselves and told the second group to spend it on others. What they then found was that the second group – the one that was asked to give the money away – was way happier than the first group that was told to spend it on themselves. They repeated this experiment across the globe – in rich and poor countries – and their findings stayed the same… givers were happier than keepers!
Researchers also found that “experiences” provided more long-lasting happiness than acts of acquiring material possessions. Experiences made us feel better connected to people and communities, were more emotionally fulfilling, and left us with long-cherished memories. But purchases, after a brief initial thrill, provided little lasting joy and were soon taken for granted.
Finally, after experiments in poor nations, researchers found that there were emotional benefits to giving even when people struggled to meet their own needs. What mattered more than the dollar amount was seeing that the little money they gave made a positive difference in other people’s lives.
So, clearly, our happiness and emotional wellbeing gets a sizable boost when we donate our money, time, possessions and/or our expertise to help others. The act of giving brings happiness, even when the quantum of giving is small, so we should all give to charitable causes for our own good, in whatever way we can.
Research additionally shows that corporations that encourage workplace giving programs benefit from better employee engagement and workplace pride, which translates into improved corporate branding, customer perception, sales and profits. Therefore, companies – big and small – should encourage and support workplace giving, through monetary and/or non-monetary programs such as Matching Gifts, Dollars for Doers, Individual and/or Team Volunteering and In-Kind Giving that leverages a company’s expertise, products, workforce, etc.
Shared experiences make people feel more connected with each other so corporations should promote Team Volunteering and other team-based giving initiatives to increase workplace camaraderie, and consider engaging corporate philanthropy experts to bring about this “halo effect”.