A Prescription for Happiness: Give Well and Receive Well

Ross Johnston a digital marketing expert has a guest post on Kivi’s Nonprofit Communication’s Blog about a recent study that confirms the old adage that it is better to give than receive. But it’s more than just a prescription for happiness. In Ross’ opinion, the level of happiness or satisfaction that one has in giving is affected by the person or entity to which you are giving. First, the study.

Two groups of people were each given $20. One group was told “Spend the money on yourself”
and the other was told “Spend the money on someone else”. The study consistently showed that those who spent the money on others were much happier at the end of the day. This confirmed over twenty years of research at the Harvard Business Review which found that spending even as little as $5 a day on someone else made people substantially happier at the end of the day.Prescription for Happiness

Simple enough. Ross goes on to provide anecdotal evidence that it is not just the act of giving that makes people happier, it is giving to someone or something that you feel is deserving and appreciative. Ross tells two stories to illustrate his point. In the first one, he shelled out the fee for transportation for a lady who had her iPhone stolen. Her husband, instead of saying thank you, simply said “I guess someone had to [pay for it].” Ross reports that, in this instance, the act of giving actually made him feel unhappier. He opines that it is not the act of giving that makes people happy, “It is the knowing there is an impact that makes people happy. The proportion of happiness derived from giving is directly proportional to the perceived impact.”

The second story confirmed Ross’ deduction. Ross’ company has donated its services to several nonprofits but there was one that made him the happiest. That was the one where the director of development sincerely showed his appreciation simply by looking Ross in the eye and saying “You are much appreciated.”

Ross posits that philanthropists such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates seem happy with their respective giving habits because they give to organizations which they believe have are having the greatest social impact or good. Giving to a worthy recipient creates happiness.

Mom was right again. Twice. It is far better to give than receive AND say please and thank you.

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