If you’re in a position to help others in need through your donations of cash, goods or time, that’s great – for them and for you! While it’s clear how others can benefit from your generosity, did you know that giving is proven to be just as good for you, as well?
Research shows that giving to others imparts a variety of physical and mental health benefits. For example, giving has been shown to reduce your blood pressure, similar to the way that a healthy diet and exercise can create positive health results. Adults who volunteer are 44 percent more likely to live longer, over a 5-year period, than those who do not. Volunteering can also reduce your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can make you feel overwhelmed or anxious.  
On the mental health side, acts of giving contribute to the brain’s production of “feel good” neurochemicals such as oxytocin, which imparts a sense of connectedness, dopamine, which gives a sense of pleasure, and endorphins, which have a pain-relieving effect. Giving also provides us with a sense of meaning and purpose, which has been shown to be psychologically beneficial. No wonder a major study found a positive connection between giving and happiness in nearly 90 percent of 136 countries studied.
Crafting Your Personal “Giving Plan”
To enjoy the greatest personal benefits of giving to others and make it a habit, it pays to set up a specific giving plan in which you’re regularly engaged. After all, you’re more likely to find giving gratifying when you’re personally involved in the process versus, say, making a charitable contribution through an automatic monthly credit card charge that you hardly ever see.
How to begin crafting your giving plan? For starters, if you have a spouse, significant other or other family members in the house, consider including them in your planning. Having an open discussion with others in your household about your shared values and areas of charitable interest can be illuminating and ultimately bring you closer together. For younger members of your home, this activity can also provide an important lifelong lesson around the value of helping others.
Whether internally to yourself or in dialogue with others, ponder your potential reasons for giving. Sample questions to ask include:
  • What sort of charitable groups, events, needs or causes inspire you the most, and why?
  • How, where and when did you come to appreciate the value of giving? Did it come from a family member or trusted adult, such as a teacher or coach? Or were you yourself the recipient of someone’s giving at some point in your life?
  • Why give now, versus later? Are you thinking of a one-time gift or something recurring, and if so, why?
  • What do you hope to impart, accomplish, demonstrate or leave behind through your giving?
Based on your answers to these questions, you’ll have a much clearer idea of those you’d like to benefit through your giving, and why. From here, consider how and how much to give. As you may already know, often the most difficult gift to give is time, through volunteering, due to the scarcity of time versus other commitments like work, family and personal activities.
Then again, a gift of time can be immensely personally pleasing, as it can directly engage you with your charitable designations of choice. Through donations of time and effort, you can typically directly see how your efforts are making a positive difference. Plus, depending on the organization, your gift of time may be far more valuable than any cash donation. For example, consider the immeasurable benefit of volunteering at your local senior care facility, community center or school library.
If you have sufficient means or materials to donate cash or goods to an organization or cause, that’s wonderful. If you’re considering donating money to an organization you’re unfamiliar with, such as in response to a phone call or mail solicitation, it’s a good idea to first check out that organization to ensure that it’s reputable and will use your contribution sensibly.
Nearly all charitable organizations of sufficient size maintain up-to-date web sites that detail their mission and goals, their principal areas of focus, and their outcomes. Many charities also publish online their most recent IRS Form 990, “Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax,” which details all of their financial information, including the salaries of their principal staff members. This is important to know, as charities that pay outlandish sums to staff members, at the expense of providing services, might not use your contributions as you intended.
Online charity evaluators such as GiveWell, GuideStar and Charity Navigator maintain current, comprehensive databases of charities from across the country, to help you find charities that meet your giving goals and help differentiate well-run charities versus those that are lesser so.
Advancial’s “Save Up for Good” Program
As an Advancial member, whenever you use your Visa® debit card for a signature-based transaction, our Save Up for Good program will round up the dollar amount of that transaction and transfer it to Advancial’s Save Up for Good donations account. Within that account, your contribution will be combined with other members’ contributions, then given to a worthy designated charity.
To help encourage member participation in Save Up for Good, Advancial will match every $1,000 donated by members, up to $30,000. This is Advancial’s way of helping its members more easily contribute to charity while also making a significant community impact.
Click here to learn more and enroll in Advancial’s Save Up for Good program.