Anne Frank wrote “No one has ever become poor by giving” –but is it possible that giving can make you wealthy? For centuries a number of religious and philosophical texts have described the relationship between giving or being charitable and the generation of personal prosperity. In general there is a lot of evidence and research that describes that the wealthier you are the more likely you are to give bigger gifts to support important causes, locally, nationally and/or internationally. Is there any science to back up the religious and philosophical teachings that might suggest that the relationship between generosity and prosperity goes both ways? Brook (2007) in a paper titled Does Giving Make us prosperous? points out:” A large majority of Americans give of their money and their time. Most estimates place the percentage of U.S households that make charitable contributions each year at about 75%, and the percentage that volunteer about 55 percent.” Brooks in his research goes on to describe:”… charity and prosperity are mutually reinforcing. That is of obvious importance for nonprofit research and management: It gives much greater importance to the role of fundraising in the nonprofit economy, suggesting that it is far more than a simple means to an end- it may be an engine of benefit in and of itself.” Brooks does have an explanation as to how this phenomenon may be created: Many psychologists believe that charitable behavior can provide a productive focus in people’s lives, which enhances their confidence and self-esteem –and consequently their likelihood of prospering.”
I don’t think most of the people I know give because they want to prosper; actually I think most would describe just the opposite. They would describe their giving or generosity is designed towards giving without any expectation of a return. Interestingly Brooks (2007, pp409-410) concludes:”…many philosophical and religious teaching have asserted that it is charity that leads to prosperity. This article has sought to test the direction of this relationship, and has found strong evidence that money giving does in fact, influence income. “For those who believe that real prosperity is really related to happiness, there is certainly research to suggest that giving can create some happiness. Dunn, E.W. et. al. (2008) thought that spending money on other people may have a more positive impact on happiness than spending money on oneself. When these authors considered this question they found that;” …spending more of one’s income on others predicted greater happiness both cross-sectionally (in a nationally representative survey study) and longitudinally (in a field study of windfall spending). “
So there you have it-giving to charity can make you both prosperous and happy. Two more reasons to support your favorite cause.
Brooks, A,C. (2007) Does giving make us prosperous? Journal of Economics and Finance: Vol. 3 N.1; pp.
Dunn, E, W. Aknin ,L,B & Norton ,M.(2008) Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness; Science 21
March 2008: Vol. 319 no. 5870 pp. 1687-1688 DOI: 10.1126/science.1150952