In a complex and interconnected world with a multitude of separate and converging issues rearing their heads at a steady pace, the thought of philanthropic giving can be overwhelming. What organizations do you give to, and is it really worth it?
Though donors may be cautiously optimistic about charitable giving as a means to create meaningful change, the reasons they give go beyond attempts to solve the world’s problems. According to Michelle Cangelosi, philanthropy doesn’t just impact recipients. It also has numerous positive effects on donors themselves.
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Michelle Cangelosi Says Giving Makes the Donor Feel Good
One reward for donors is that giving makes them feel good. Charitable giving activates the brain’s pleasure center. It doesn’t matter what form philanthropy takes; it’s the act of helping that stimulates the brain to release the feel-good hormone dopamine and the mood-enhancing chemical serotonin.
What does affect the degree of pleasure a donor gets is knowing that the donation has a positive impact. People are more likely to give when they are asked and the nonprofit is transparent about how funds are used or when they can see the benefits to those it supports. Altruistic donors love the story and learning how the situation are improved.
Philanthropy Improves Physical Health
Cangelosi also points out that research shows that philanthropy may improve the donor’s physical health. Regularly engaging in charitable giving can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cancer and heart attacks.
If you participate in philanthropic acts, you may also live longer. The chemicals released in the brain when you donate also reduce the impacts of cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone your body releases in response to stress. Higher stress levels lower life expectancy due to the effects cortisol has on structural and physiological systems.
Giving Increases Life Satisfaction
If you want to feel better about life, give more. Michelle Lynn Cangelosi notes life satisfaction is higher in those who participate in philanthropy. Research suggests that older adults and adults dissatisfied with their relationships experience even more significant benefits from donating.
Life satisfaction can extend beyond the individual to include the community. People who live in places where community members help one another are more likely to be happier with where they live. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network utilizes generosity as one of its key measures for determining the happiest countries for its World Happiness Report.
Philanthropy Reinforces Your Values and Builds Connectivity
Michelle Cangelosi is quick to remind everyone: you don’t have to have much money to engage in charitable giving. You can donate your time and talents to causes of importance to you. If you are like most people, your resources are valuable and limited. You must consider where to allocate them. Any time you decide to give, you deem a cause, individual or charity worthy. In doing so, you reinforce your values.
Humans innately want to belong and oftentimes people seek opportunities and groups that are aligned with their values. By demonstrating through your actions that giving is important, you feel more connected to others that support similar causes and are rewarded by this connection.