Much has been pontificated about charitable giving and whose responsibility it is to take care of the poor and less fortunate. Who is more effective at caring for the poor? Is it the private individual who feels compassion and a duty to give back? Or the government who’s often forced- paternalism compels a redistribution of compulsory equality which tends to erode freedom? Who has been the most charitable? What’s the real motive? How about you? What have you done to help those less fortunate? Do you have anything left to give after your own obligations are met?
It’s hard to find anyone these days who has not been affected by the economic downturn. Wages have been reduced, healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, unemployment lingers year after year, and many families continue to feel the pinch of tightening financial demands. There’s often nothing left at the end of the month to save – much less donate to help others. Or is there? How can charitable giving be possible during these strenuous financial times if you can barely cover your own bills? Many people look at charitable giving as a luxury or a sacrifice.
Can we afford it? It may surprise you to learn that you can’t afford not to! There are countless benefits of serving and helping others beside the fact that it’s the right thing to do. The downturn may have affected you and your family, but you should continue to be charitable and give. In fact, you may reap more rewards than those you serve. Let’s compare effectiveness of charitable giving through government programs with the volunteerism and/or giving from the private sector. Who really cares?
Despite what you may have heard lately, America is the most charitable and giving nation on the earth. Private charitable giving and the spirit of volunteerism have been essential bulwarks of the American character, and they remain indispensable to our national success.
Most of us empathize with those caught in a devastating natural disaster, terrorist attack, or other crisis. We jump to their aid and give what we can, often more. Caring for our fellow man has been a hallmark that has marked America as an exceptional nation and made us who we are.
There are countless examples of people from all economic classes sacrificing and giving their all to those in need. Just last month in my own little neighborhood, a friend’s 40 year old husband of seven weeks died of massive heart failure playing basketball with friends. A “Gofundme” account was immediately set up for her and raised over $20,000 in 5 days to help with funeral costs. We could cite hundreds of large and small scale examples just like this.
People care about people. But an economic downturn often results in people being less able to give. Many even argue that this very reason is cause for big government programs because funds will theoretically be distributed equally and those in need will not be dependent on the generosity or greed of others.
However, though often well-intentioned, government programs focus on groups as a whole instead of individuals. They are praised for their consistency, but unfortunately, human beings do not thrive from these one-size-fits-all programs. These same studies also show that recipients value much more the giving of individual volunteers than that of the government. They feel that they are “entitled” to government handouts whereas help from individuals is much more meaningful and appreciated. People are more apt to share their substance given to them by private individuals but tend to hang on to it if it comes from government. Interesting.
You might be surprised to learn that, ultimately, it might be you who reaps some of the best rewards of your donation. Here are nine positive effects of giving to charity. (from “The Life You Can Save”. Monday, July 13, 2015. Jay Robertson of Money Crashers)
- Experience More Pleasure
In research conducted by the National Institutes of Health, participants who chose to donate a portion of $100 they were provided enjoyed activated pleasure centers in the brain. Although this experiment was controlled and scientific, it did show that donating money simply makes you feel better, which is something we can all benefit from. Giving our time and money to others tends to have significant implications for our individual well-being and that of our local communities and nation. Charitable giving is associated with higher levels of health and happiness, increased prosperity and strong community organizations.
- Help Others in Need
We don’t live in a perfect world, and there’s never going to be a perfect time to give—but there are always people out there in need of help. Whether interest rates are rising, the economy is in the doldrums, or even if you’re experiencing financial difficulties of your own, the reality is that when you donate your money, you help others who need it.
- Get a Tax Deduction
If you give to an IRS-approved charity, you can write off donations on your tax return. Certain restrictions do apply, though. To learn more about them, along with whether or not a particular charity has IRS approval, check the IRS website about tax deductibility. Donating your cash is a great way to reduce the amount of money you send off to Uncle Sam, and for a good cause, to boot. Giving also increases personal and well as national prosperity. Pointing to a survey conducted in 2000 that controlled for education, age, race and all the other outside explanations for giving and income increases, Brooks reports that a dollar donated to charity was associated with $4.35 in extra income. Of this additional income, $3.75 was due to the dollar given to charity. At the national level, a 1 percent increase in national giving appeared to increase real GDP by about $36 billion.
- Bring More Meaning to Your Life
When you donate money to charity, you create opportunities to meet new people who believe in the same causes that inspire you. That, and making a real impact on those causes, can infuse your everyday life with more meaning. If you’ve been stuck in a rut, whether personally or professionally, sometimes the simple act of donating cash can do the trick and reinvigorate your life. Without charity, Americans would become more dependent on impersonal government for a vast array of services. This, in turn, would foster a social relationship where one side perceives aid as a forced penalty rather than a voluntary offering and the other side views aid as a right rather than a gift.
- Promote Generosity in Your Children
When your kids see you donating money, they’re much more likely to adopt a giving mindset as they grow up. I write from personal experience. I’ve donated money to a variety of charities over the years and have always made sure to inform my eight-year-old son of my efforts. Last Christmas, when he and I were shopping at a mall, he spotted a kiosk for a charity and rather than spending some of his allotted money on Christmas gifts, he asked if we could sponsor a hungry child overseas. We signed up then and there. Do the same with your kids and you might see similar results. In addition to charity’s effects on health, happiness, income and community life, giving’s most powerful influence may lie in its ability to shape moral vision. The practice of voluntary giving fashions the way we see wealth, poverty, and personal obligations toward those in need.
- Motivate Friends and Family
When you let your friends and family know of your charitable donations, they may find themselves more motivated to undertake their own efforts to give. It takes a village to address issues such as world poverty, scientific advancement, and early childhood education. Stoking passions in the folks around you is a very positive and tangible effect of your own giving.
- Realize that Every Little Bit Helps
You don’t need $10,000 to make a difference in someone’s life. In developing countries, even just a few U.S. dollars could result in a week’s worth of meals for a starving child, much-needed medical attention, and even improved schooling. Don’t just think of your cash donation from an American economic perspective. Often that money can go a lot further elsewhere in the world.
- Improve Personal Money Management
If you set a scheduled $100 donation each month for a particular charity, that can motivate you to be more attentive to your own finances in an effort to ensure you don’t default or fall behind in your monthly donations. Anything that gets you to pay closer attention to your bank account is a good thing—especially when it helps those in need.
- Give, If You Can’t Volunteer
This might not necessarily be a positive effect of charitable giving, but if you’re too busy to volunteer or otherwise donate your time, giving money is the perfect workaround. Never think that you can’t improve someone’s life or the world itself if your personal or professional schedule won’t allow the time. Writing out a check is a simple way to show you’re willing to help others in any way you can.
Besides being a great physical, mental and emotional help to others, you may be the great beneficiary. Look at the great benefits of what serving others can do for you.
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased self-esteem
- Less depression
- Lower stress levels
- Longer life
- Greater happiness
Some studies even found a direct correlation between serving others and lowering blood cholesterol. How do you put a price on that? Well… I’m convinced. I hope you are too. We have only to look in our own backyards for opportunities to serve others. It almost seems a little selfish now to see that we may be the great beneficiaries. I’m willing to take that chance. You?