This is the season of giving. Gifts pile up under trees, are exchanged during Hanukkah celebrations and given to close friends and family over the feasts of Diwali.
Anyone who’s ever given a gift to a loved one, and seen that person light up with joy, knows that it’s as rewarding to give as it is to receive.
The same is true when it comes to donating to charities.
A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that neural activity and “warm glow” both increase when people voluntarily make transfers (of money) to organizations.
Other reports indicate that giving can improve one’s health, possibly by shifting attention away from our daily stresses and onto the needs of others. Studies that actually involve brain scans (MRIs) illustrate that the brain responds to charitable giving with the same pleasure as eating.
In my opinion, in order to get the most “glow” out of giving, it’s important to pick nonprofit organizations that are close to your heart. In my case I focus on access to education, gender equity in education and enhancing cultural and arts appreciation, especially in regards to South Asia. That’s why I serve on the board of the PowHERful Foundation, Teaching Matters, Room to Read and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, part of the Smithsonian Institution.
Remember, though, you can give from the heart and still be smart. CharityNavigator and GiveWell let you do your homework and make sure your money is going where it will do the most good.
On the other side of the coin, there is a practical and financially beneficial reasons to give. Donations to a qualified 501(c)(3), among other qualified organizations (check irs.gov to confirm information for specific groups) are tax deductible.
Fortunately, the U.S. seems to be low on Scrooges.
Individual donors in the U.S. were more generous in 2016 than in 2015, donating a total of $281.86 billion to philanthropic organizations. That was an increase of 3.9 percent over 2015.
Clearly, the season of giving lasts longer than the final weeks of each year. But, in these final weeks, it’s a joy to look inward and find a cause that calls to you, and give them the gift of continuing their work next year. You’ll be rewarded in ways that have nothing to do with money, and everything to do with humanity.