Slideshows | March 19, 2013

Why do we give to charity?

There are many ways to give to a worthy cause – think raffle tickets, regular donations or ad hoc events such as sponsored runs.

But why do so many of us give to charity? It’s likely the organisation will promote ideals that we hold dear or “do good” for a cause we care about. But research suggests there are also other influences that can play a role, including some that are out of our control.

Warm glows
Giving to others seems to benefit the donor as well – in the form of increase happiness and a “warm glow”. Moreover, if you know other people are donating large sums, it seems that you’re likely to be more generous yourself. Our slideshow details these and other surprising insights about why we give to charity.



You gave how much?

A study on donations to a public radio station in the United States showed that donations increased 12% when potential donors were told others had been very generous and given US$300. It might be that positive peer pressure is partly behind the rise or that anchoring pushed up the donors’ starting point. Plus, a year on, the study says people who had been told of the US$300 donation were three-times more likely to renew membership to the station than those who were not told of it.


Giving feels good

Research proves what many already know – giving to charity feels good. Academics here call this sensation the “warm glow” effect and here explain how gifting boosts happiness. For all the good that giving to charity does for the charity, this shows that donors also get something too; the benefit of the warm glow in return.


We like showing off

Although many people talk of giving from the heart, research by Amihar Glazer and Kai Konrad highlights how charitable donations can be a signal of the wealth of the donor. They examined donations that had to reach a certain amount to get a certain tier status. The finding that more donations were clustered at just over the status thresholds suggests donors were at least partly driven by the desire to attain the next level of donor status.


We’re enjoying the weekend

As strange as it might sound, the day of the week could well play a role in how much donors give to charity. A study by Canadian and New Zealand researchers details the “Sunday effect”. They found that the average donation to an art gallery collections box was 51% higher on Sundays compared to every other day of the week.


eZonomics team
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