During my time working in the third sector, I had an interesting experience. We entered our project into a competition where our task was to gain as much support from individual donors as possible. For 35 days, I had a busy schedule of meetings, interviews, and efforts to gain financial support. During this period, I discovered some fascinating psychology related to giving, which is discussed in the following article.
Giving gifts is a natural form of communication
Firstly, it was a breakthrough for me to realize that giving is something natural, human, and so to speak, encoded in our DNA. We give gifts, for example, to show our favor to someone, or when we want them to like us. Both as a giver and receiver, we have experienced giving since childhood when we received care from our parents. American psychologist and author of the bestseller The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman, even talks about giving as one of the five basic ways we are taught to express love.
Giving money can make us happier
Giving gifts brings joy to the giver and can even be a path to happiness. It is said that money cannot buy happiness, but as research by psychologist Elizabeth Dunn shows, this may not be entirely true. According to her, the key difference between whether money makes us happy or unhappy is in how we spend it. In a series of experiments, test subjects were given a certain amount of money, and their task was to spend it as they saw fit. It turned out that when they used the money to help someone in need, it brought them a significantly greater sense of satisfaction than when they decided to spend the money on themselves.
Becoming a donor is attractive to us
Many people may question this statement, especially those who rely on donor support for their work or projects. In the beginning, they approach their more financially stable acquaintances, who often reluctantly refuse to donate. However, in my experience, the subjective estimation of whether I was addressing a solvent entrepreneur or a struggling graduate did not necessarily correspond to whether they eventually decided to take out their wallet and share their contribution.
Many people who try to get a donation for a good cause make a mistake by confronting potential donors with reproaches that “it shouldn’t be that much of a problem.” At that moment, the chance of a positive reaction from the donor is almost zero. Even the most generous person in the world is cornered by such a question and threatened with being labeled selfish. In such a situation, they are more motivated to end the conversation as soon as possible than to continue and face an uncomfortable situation.
Offering to contribute to a good cause is an opportunity for the donor (simply put) to become a good person. Dunn’s research shows that giving can make us happy. However, everything can become complicated if the bitterness of the threat is present. For the same reason, some people associate Christmas with the stress of buying gifts, while others look forward to the reactions of their loved ones when they unwrap their presents.
If you ask five people in your surroundings how satisfied they are with their salary, at least four of them will likely admit that they need a few hundred more for complete happiness. Sometimes, in connection with such behavior, there is talk of a consumer society. Personally, it seems to me that it is rather a constant (learned?) dissatisfaction with life. Earnings carry a certain hint of independence – when we have money, we can afford more, and thus we are independent. However, many times we cannot directly influence the amount of our earnings, which, in turn, takes away from our independence. It is precisely because of this that we often paradoxically become dependent and unfree, and control over our happiness is outside of ourselves.
Our dependence on money can be broken by using them to help someone else. At the moment of giving, we say to the world, but above all to ourselves: “I can live happily with what is left for me.” At that moment, we also take control of our happiness into our own hands and create it for ourselves. Such an attitude towards money can liberate us and return control of our lives to ourselves.
Finally, I would just like to add – don’t be afraid to give gifts to the people around you, to make your loved ones happy, or to donate money to charity or a non-profit organization. Not only will the recipients be happy, but you will also be happy, and so will the whole world around you.