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A Culture of Giving Offers Something for Everyone

Giving Back



Published on 9/10/2019

Close your eyes and think about the last time you supported your favorite charity, tossed paper in the recycling bin, or helped out a friend. Several examples probably come to mind, and you probably feel pretty good about that!

We don’t have to look far to see evidence that social consciousness is on the rise. Thousands of new nonprofit organizations are launched every year, more consumer brands are supporting causes than ever before, and workplace giving programs are growing. “Doing good” has become an important part of our lives, especially as work, family, community, and wellness have converged in the way we view the world.

Giving and well-being go hand-in-hand
Especially powerful is that as our culture of giving has grown, so has the connection between doing good for others and our own well-being. Of the thousands of people we surveyed in Embolden’s five-year research study, 92 percent reported that reflecting on their own social impact and charitable activities made them feel better about themselves.

We also were impressed with other studies that showed a correlation between “doing good” and better health. For example, data from the University of Southampton tells us that “prosocial spending”—spending money to benefit others—shows positive signs of increasing happiness. Specifically, people who “spend money on others report more happiness.” This shows up in adults around the world, through both physical and mental benefits. The “glow of giving” appears even in toddlers.

Social impact activities come in all shapes and sizes
It’s not just giving money to charity that makes you feel good, either. In a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon, 200 hours of volunteering per year correlated to lower blood pressure. Other studies have found a health benefit from just 100 hours of volunteering a year.

A big factor behind these positive developments is shift in contemporary philanthropy–”love of humanity”–toward practices that include a full range of social impact behaviors, which we call the “10 Ways to Do Good.” The list includes giving to charities, volunteering, serving on nonprofit boards of directors, celebrating at community events, recycling and respecting a sustainable environment, marketing a favorite cause, donating items of food and clothing, purchasing products that support a cause, sharing with family and friends in need, and caring about health and wellness.

What you enjoy depends on your personality
Not everyone prefers the same types of social impact activities, and the data behind individual choices is fascinating. Our research across generations uncovered “archetypes,” similar to personality types, which are based on the mix of social impact behaviors an individual prefers. For example, “activators” enjoy rallying behind a particular cause, while “connectors” gravitate toward community activities that involve getting together with family and friends. “Investors,” by contrast, typically are short on time but may have the resources to give money to charities.

Whatever our preferences for social impact activities, the underlying theme is that we are celebrating what it means to be human. Our shared humanity, sense of connectedness, and good feelings about ourselves and each other are a big part of how we make a lasting difference in the community.

Laura McKnight is a partner at Embolden. She is also an attorney and an author. Laura focuses her work on the effects of today’s work-life-community-wellness mindset on human behavior, communications, technology, productivity, workplace culture, and business development strategies.