Cool Facts About Why and How We Give

Every year in the United States, 70% of people give to a charity and a total of 3% the nation’s income goes to charity. In fact, non-profit organizations put over $666 billion for into the nation’s economy every year, so when you donate clothing to a Red Cross donation center or send money to a charity, you’re actually helping to boost the economy. There are a lot of reasons that people make clothes donations or monetary gifts to a Red Cross donation center or other non-profit. If you’ve ever wondered why people give, there is a science behind it, and there are scientists who’ve tried to understand it. Here are some of the cool facts they’ve discovered.

  • There are three broad reasons almost everyone cites for their giving. When asked, almost everyone responds with a variation of one of these three things:
    1. We value the social good accomplished by a donation or an organization.
    2. We want to show off how much we have.
    3. We feel increased personal worth because we have done good.

    The three motivations stated above are slightly simplistic, though. The reality is that people are complex and our reasons for making clothing donations to a Red Cross donation center, for example, aren’t always as simple as just one thing, even if one motivation is uppermost in our minds.

  • Giving is highly contagious. One way that giving is complex is in the way it tends to spread. Seeing other people give makes us more likely to give ourselves, and encouragement from someone we respect or admire has a strong effect on our motivation to give. One study even found that encouragement from an important person in your life can quadruple your gift! That important person can be a celebrity or sports star; or it can be a parent, teacher, or friend. This means that when you arrange something as simple as a clothing donation pickup, you’re sending a message to your children and neighbors that might inspire them to do more, too.
  • We want some guarantees with our giving. That is, we want to be sure that our donation is going to do some good. When fund-matching campaigns are run, for example, we will donate a lot more if the match comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or even our local supermarket chain, than if it comes from an anonymous or unknown donor. It seems that we feel some security knowing that a trusted name has verified that a certain charity is worth supporting. The same is true when considering which charity to donate to on our own. A Red Cross donation center is more likely to get used clothing donations than an unknown entity.
  • We like the personal touch of giving. A large number of people prefer to donate to personal appeals from individuals rather than to organizations, and we respond a lot faster to specific pleas from an individual than to general statistics about a need. We also like to give tangible things other than money. Clothes donations to a Red Cross donation center can seem more personal than a check, and giving of our time to volunteer is more fulfilling than sending money by text.
  • Giving influences our behavior and our health. Habit is strong, and those who get into a habit of giving continue to do so. People who have volunteered at some point in their lives are much more likely to volunteer again than a person who has never volunteered before. And lots of research shows that when we spend money on other people, or when we do something tangible to help others, we report being much happier than when we spend our time and money on ourselves.

There are a lot of good reasons to give to others, both for us personally and for the people we’re helping. Whether you’re giving time or clothing at a Red Cross donation center, writing a check for disaster relief, or responding to a personal appeal, your help does you good, helps and inspires others, and even boosts the economy!

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