1. Give to very specific projects.
When organizations are framed in real tangible ways, you give three times more to support them. And you feel better when you do. When projects are framed in real tangible ways, you give twice as much. And you feel better when you do. When you feel like you’re giving directly to programs (and not ‘overhead’) you give three times as much. And feel better when you do (Note: ‘overhead’ not being a part of the cause is utter nonsense and destructive to charity overall, watch this great TED Talk from Dan Pallotta if you want to learn more).
When your donation is going to something more concrete and tangible it combats a sense of futility (Will my donation even make a difference?) and makes you feel like you are making a more direct impact. This feeling of personal impact makes you more likely to give and increases your satisfaction level after you have given. An added bonus of giving today is that many organizations use crowdfunding tools that often have clearly set goals with progress bars and you are more likely to give to a project that is over 85 percent of the way to its goal. And, yes… you guessed it, you feel better when you do.
Maximize your happiness by giving to a clear, tangible project as it’s nearing completion.
2. Give more frequently in smaller amounts.
Giving, like consumption has diminishing returns.
Giving $1000 doesn’t give you 10 times the high of giving $100.
Because of this you really should be giving more often in smaller amounts so you get that pleasure high more often.
Really good monthly donation programs, like Opportunity International’s, where they break down your monthly donation to show you how many people you’ll impact are great but they don’t give you the actual act of giving every month.
Giving circles, something like Kutoa or a charitable bank account like Chimp that allow you to give regularly and easily but then decide who to support more frequently are a good hybrid that gives you the ease of transaction but the ‘high’ of charity selection more often. You can also just be more conscious of supporting more organizations in smaller amounts throughout the year as you come across good opportunities to give.
Maximize your happiness by giving more often, in smaller amounts to support more causes and projects.
3. Give with no strings attached.
Making a donation to get something tangible in exchange can limit that altruistic high you get when giving.
To a lesser degree it is the same with purchasing decisions where a portion of proceeds goes to charity.
These things can take your decision making from a social market mentality (how can I help others with my resources) to an economic market mentality (how do I get the most utility with my resources). Infusing your economic market decisions with some social good makes you feel better about your purchase but infusing your social decisions with some economic incentives can decrease your happiness.
I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t purchase products that have a charitable angle or that you should avoid making donations if you’ll get a water bottle or t-shirt back in exchange but if you want to get the highest high for your donated dollar, nothing beats a straight up donation directly to a charity with no tangible strings attached.
Maximize your happiness by giving directly to a charity with no additional incentives.
4. Give when you know who your donation will help.
Child sponsorship programs have been putting this to use longer and better than others and while you may not like commercials showing poor kids with flies around them, putting a name and face to the cause gives you a big emotional boost. You will donate 60 percent more just when there was a name, age, and picture of someone who will benefit from your donation. This is what is called the identifiable victim effect where we care more about the one person we know compared to the numerous others that
You will donate 60 percent more just when there was a name, age, and picture of someone who will benefit from your donation. This is what is called the identifiable victim effect where we care more about the one person we know compared to the numerous others that are just numbers.
This is partly why Kiva is so successful because you know who you are helping (they also have smaller project goals with progress bars all over the place!). Or why charity water tells some individual stories even though their campaign may help 100,000 people.
Maximize your happiness by funding organizations that tell you great stories of one person that your donation will help.
5. Give in public ways.
The puritanical side of you may want to keep your donation anonymous but really you want to be recognized and celebrated for your donation. It’s positive reinforcement for a good act and increases your satisfaction of giving.
Letting your giving be made public or sharing it yourself also has the benefit of encouraging others to give by letting them know they are not alone (and providing some friendly social competition).
This is one of the reasons the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was so successful – it happened in public for all to see. It added some pressure on those being asked to participate and increased the social recognition for good acts. So let your information go on honor rolls, share your donation on Facebook and don’t be afraid to call out your colleagues.
Maximize your giving by sharing your donation in public and letting the charity share it with others.
Giving to others gives us pleasure. It makes us happier people which in turn leads us to give more which makes us even happier and… you get the picture.
So as we enter the giving (and consumer) season, think about how you can give more in better ways to maximize your happiness.
It may not be as good as sex and chocolate, but you’ll be half way there.
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