Inevitably good news comes with bad, so let’s deal with the good news first. The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has just released their World Giving Index report, giving a 10 year view of charitable giving around the globe. The good news is Australia and New Zealand’s giving has been consistent, we’re pretty decent folk – go us! And the bad news, we can and need to do more. There’s a multitude of worthy causes that need our support to continue their work. Fortunately, providing that support comes with a massive silver lining: when we give, we get a lot in return.
There are a multitude of reasons why we donate our time and money. Sometimes it’s a cause we are passionately and personally connected to, in our own lives or people we care about. Our own sense of morality and ethics could be guiding us, individually or as part of an organized group. Some are motivated by the pure satisfaction of helping others, they may get pleasure from making their own decision to give, or they simply get a buzz out of being thought of as wealthy and generous by their peers. Don’t hate them, they’re still giving! It doesn’t matter where the motivation comes from, the result is the same – when we give, we act outside of our own interests, demonstrate kindness, compassion and understanding.
It’s a social act after all, we’re becoming part of a community of supporters, all in the spirit of co-operation and social connection. When we see someone else give, it makes us much more likely to give ourselves. Just a gentle nudge from someone we trust, friends, family or even a celebrity that has credibility will influence us too. Giving, it seems, is contagious. We’re even more likely when the opportunity arises or the process is easy and quick. A social link, a website that’s easy to navigate, or even a persistent raffle ticket seller at a charity dinner with tap and go payment – we love effortless altruism!
There’s another reason we’re hooked on giving, and it comes from genuine physiological effects. Yes, the ‘helpers high’ is a real thing. The neurotransmitters stimulated when we give make us feel happier and healthier. We fundamentally feel more grateful for what we have by comparison, and as every wellness coach will tell you, practicing gratitude is integral to happiness, health and social bonding. Our bodies and our minds are both on board and loving it.
Whatever the initial intention, the result is something quite remarkable. Our personal and social relationships are enhanced, our health and wellbeing are improved, and those in need benefit. Who’s to say where the better end of the bargain lies, ultimately that’s not important, we all win.