New York Times op-ed: Why You Should Give Your Money Away Today, by Tish Harrison Warren (Anglican Church Priest; author, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life):
[R]elatively few individuals and families make charitable contributions: For example, in a typical year 45 percent of Americans give not even a single dollar, and 75 percent spend no time volunteering.
And this is a shame, because giving is an important way to help others, contribute to the public good and build the trust that glues a society together. One important step to encouraging more people to give is increasing our understanding of what motivates giving. When we better understand why people donate, we can be inspired to be more generous.
Charitable giving involves a complex array of motivations. I recently reviewed 14 projects funded by the University of Notre Dame’s Science of Generosity initiative [The Science of Generosity: Causes, Manifestations, and Consequences (2020)].
Some people give because of tax incentives (which may explain why charitable giving was down a bit last year: Changes in the tax code made giving less advantageous for some families). A second motive also has to do with economics: Many people feel they simply can’t afford to give.
Their willingness to give also depends on whether they view charitable organizations as honest and efficient. People can also give simply because they want to make the world a better place.
In my research, I’ve discovered that the most compelling reasons for people to give are social and relational benefits beyond the self.
My colleague Heather E. Price and I found that people exist in a web of giving affiliations. People are more likely to give to charitable and religious causes when they have parents who were givers and partners who are supportive of giving, and when religious affiliations regularly expose them to religious-based calls to give. Living within generous social contexts matters. So, too, do friend groups. My colleague Song Yang and I found that people are more likely to donate when they have friends who donate and who ask them to donate. ...
Paradoxically, giving money away also brings joy to the giver. My colleagues Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson found that givers are happier and healthier and have a greater sense of purpose in life. This is not just in terms of giving money to formal charitable organizations but also extends to informal acts of kindness. For example, they found that Americans who were regularly generous with their neighbors were twice as likely to agree that they have a purpose than those who were less generous to neighbors.