Eighty-eight percent of households give an average of $2,213 annually to charity. Some people give to charity because they want to make a difference; others do it because they feel obligated, some do it to get credit, and others do it because it’s socially expected of them. Others who cannot give financially give their time by volunteering at nonprofits that are important to them. In 2011, the estimated dollar value of volunteer time was $19.54 per hour, and in addition to the financial impact of volunteering, many people who benefit from volunteers appreciate actual volunteer hours because they feel more personal.
Still, whether you can give financially or volunteer your time, your donation will make a difference to an organization, and, most likely, to at least one individual. Although there are several reasons why different people donate, there are many specific reasons that you should donate — here are just five.
1. Give because it will make you happier
According to PBS, kind acts benefit the giver even more than the receiver. As long as acts of kindness don’t become obligatory or overwhelming, they can enrich the giver and the whole community. Altruism in all its forms – kindness, generosity, compassion, volunteering, and donating money — has the potential to reward the giver as much or more than the recipient. Research suggests that altruistic giving, including kindness, generosity, and compassion, help us be happy. This is especially true of random acts of kindness, which boost happiness in the person completing the act. When we are generous, we perceive others with more compassion; we also feel a greater community with others. It makes us recognize our own good fortune, boosts our self-image, and allows us to use our strengths in a helpful way (including financial strengths).
A recent study found that volunteering lowers depression, increases well-being, and is correlated with a 22 percent reduction in the risk of death. However, some people claim that too much volunteering can actually be stressful and bad for your health. You should only volunteer as much as makes you happy and content – when you start to feel obligated, you won’t experience as many of the benefits.
2. Give because you think the organization is making a difference
There are so many organizations out there seeking donations. You can find an organization that specializes in almost anything to donate to financially or to volunteer at. If you pick an organization that you care about, you will be more likely to feel good about your money going to them. If you know their mission, if you’ve read their testimonials, or – even better – if you’ve seen them make a difference in your community, then you can find relief and comfort in knowing that your money will be well used. If you donate your time, you will witness firsthand how the organization makes a difference, and that can be very rewarding. Seeing an organization make a difference in person also might help you to keep coming back to donate your time.
If you want to give but you don’t know where to start, consider an organization like Charity Navigator. You can search by category or view its top 10 lists.
3. Give because every bit helps
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the problems in the world and feel like you can’t make a difference. There is a lot of poverty, millions of underserved children, and many, many abused animals. While you can’t save every child or every animal, you can make a difference. Research charities to determine which do the most good. Sites like Give Well have already done the work for you – you just need to pick a charity. Even if your donation only helps one sick child, that still makes the world a better place. Even if you can only donate one hour per month to help make blankets for kids with cancer, you still might provide multiple blankets each year.
Every little bit helps. Many nonprofits are underfunded and understaffed, and as cheesy as it sounds, the truth is that if every person gave a little, our world would be a lot happier and a much better place. Just getting the word out makes a difference. Use Facebook. Use Twitter. Share what you believe with others. Who knows, one of them might become inspired and make a large donation that makes a huge difference.
4. Give because it spreads like wildfire
Volunteering is contagious. When you volunteer your time and other people know about it, they may want to volunteer, too. You can even make your volunteer day a chance to catch up with friends too (if you can still do your volunteer job well), or a way to bond as a family. In addition, even doing kind things for others is contagious. Something as small as paying for the person’s coffee who is standing behind you may cause them to pay it forward. If not, hopefully they will be in a good enough mood that they will choose kindness over criticism at least once in his or her day. You never know what doing something kind will bring about, and it benefits the person receiving in addition to the person giving.
Donating money can be just as contagious. If you see an important cause, share it over social media. Dare your friends to pick an important cause and donate. Give a donation as a gift instead of buying a useless gadget. Donate in honor of a loved one.
5. Give for a so-called selfish reason
If we were able to administer a lie detector test, we would probably find that the majority of people volunteer or donate for the perks. First of all, most donations are tax deductible, and if you have to spend money on travel or any other added costs just to donate your time or money, those items are usually tax deductible as well. Just be sure you know as many details as possible and follow the rules carefully when you claim your donations. Many nonprofits also offer incentives like prizes.
In addition to donating for tax purposes, you also might want to donate as part of a work event. Many employers offer employees one day off per year paid that is to be used just for volunteering. Others will offer paid time off for employee volunteer projects when multiple people go together. Participating in these events will help you bond with your coworkers, and, yes, get recognition for your efforts, if that is really important to you.
As long as when you put your time in you are doing it with a good attitude and being kind, getting recognition won’t stop your good deeds from being good. Again, there are many reasons you should donate. Whether you donate because it makes you feel good, you need a tax break, or you have another reason, do it with a kind heart, and make your time (or money) count.