5 Ways Giving to Charity Is Good for You
Aside from paying bills and preparing for your future, you can probably think of a hundred ways to spend your disposable income. Maybe you like blowing your cash on clothes or electronics, or maybe you prefer a vacation or a night out with friends. (See also: 10 Smart Things to Do With $25)
There's nothing wrong with indulging in a little luxury every now and then and enjoying the fruits of your labor. But what if your money and possessions could make a difference in someone's life? Would you share what you have?
Giving to a charity might be the furthest thing from your mind, but if you're fortunate enough to have more than you need, why not give back? Here are five solid reasons why you should give to charity.
1. Giving Can Improve Your Health
Eating healthy, regular exercise, and annual checkups are keys to improving your overall well-being and increasing longevity, but these aren’t the only ways to give your health a boost. Giving to a charity can also be good for your physical health. And while this might seem a bit far-fetched, there’s scientific proof to backup the benefits of generosity.
According to a study at Carnegie Mellon University, "people who were socially connected (i.e. volunteering or giving to charity) reported catching fewer colds." (See also: Why Cultivating Relationships Is Good for You)
Additionally, Stephen Post, author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People, reports that "giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illnesses, including HIV and multiple sclerosis." And in a 2003 study on elderly couples led by Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan, researchers found that "those who provided practical help to friends, relatives, or neighbors, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t (PDF)."
The relationship between giving and health isn’t completely understood. However, researchers have found a link between giving and a reduction of stress hormones. Since stress contributes to a variety of health conditions, the less stress we feel, the better we feel.
"Knowing we’ve done something to improve the life of others not only boosts our self-esteem and gives us a sense of purpose, it also shifts our attention away from our own stresses and worries," says psychology expert Dr. Tony Grant.
2. Giving Makes You Happier
Let’s be honest, giving to a charity — whether monetary or donated goods — feels good. This may sound a bit selfish, but personal satisfaction from giving is quite normal. (See also: Things you Can Do to Be Happier Today)
According to research to be published in the International Journal of Happiness and Development, giving can make us happier. From three studies, "the overarching conclusion is that donors feel happiest if they give to a charity via a friend, relative, or social connection rather than simply making an anonymous donation to a worthy cause."
And the proof of happiness doesn’t stop here. In examining the relationship between spending and self-reported happiness, a study of 46 people "discovered that participants who were directed to spend a small amount of money on others (either $5 or $20) reported greater feelings of happiness than those who were directed to spend the same amounts on themselves."
I don’t know about you, but whenever I make any type of donation, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling all over. And unlike some choices I’ve made with my money, I’ve never regretted a charitable donation — even when I’ve made donation mistakes.
About two years ago I accidentally donated a pair of designer jeans. At first I was mad at myself, and I considered going to the donation center to retrieve my jeans, even if this meant sifting through countless bags of clothes. But then I thought about the possibility of the garment falling into the hands of someone who needed (or simply wanted) a nice pair of jeans, but couldn’t pay full price for them. I imagined their excitement when they discovered the jeans in their size, and I actually started to feel better.
3. Giving Is Tax Deductible
If you're looking for ways to lower your taxable income — and you're OK with itemizing your return — donations of cash and property to qualified organizations might be your ticket to a lower tax bill. (See also: Charitable Tax Deductions That May Surprise You)
Not all contributions are tax-deductible, and the rules for deducting charitable contributions are complex, so you'll need to speak with a qualified tax preparer for advice. Written proof or a receipt is required to claim a deduction for contributions totaling more than $250. Additionally, if you're deducting contributions totaling more than $500, tax form 8283 must accompany your tax return, says the Internal Revenue Service.
4. Giving Can Be Free
There are different ways to make a charitable donation. Some people write a check to their favorite organization, whereas others donate personal belongings. Maybe you’re looking to support a cause but don’t have the bankroll to write a check — no problem. Many organizations accept gently used items, such as clothes, furniture, household items, school supplies, toys, and electronics.
Take Goodwill for example. You can visit their website and make a financial contribution, or donate personal belongings at one of their many drop-off locations across the country.
Donated items are sold in their stores, and the proceeds help fund job training programs and community-based programs for people with disabilities. And this is just one of many charities available to you. Other options might include the Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, Operation Give, or a local organization.
5. Giving Can Support a Cause That's Close to Your Heart
Giving to a charity is also an excellent way to show your support to a specific cause.
Let’s say you’re looking to donate an old wedding gown, and you’re also a breast cancer survivor. Any charitable organization may be happy to accept your gown. But given your history with cancer you might lend support to Brides Against Breast Cancer, an organization that accepts wedding gown donations and uses proceeds from gown sales to fund wellness and educational programs for breast cancer patients and their families.
This is just an example. If heart disease or another disease runs in your family or if your kid has a disability, any gift — big or small — can help fund research and maybe save a life.
Do you have other reasons to donate to charity that I didn't cover here? Please share them in the comments below — you'll feel better if you do!