A new study has found that the joy of giving to charity is real and that in most cases the more you give, the happier you are. The very highest "life satisfaction" score comes from couples in which the wife influences charitable giving of a significant percentage of the household income.
Women Give 2017, released recently by the Women's Philanthropy Institute of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, uses data from more than 10,000 individuals who are participating in the longest-running survey of philanthropy in the United States. While Women Give 2017 is about annual giving, the findings that increasing giving increases happiness and that couples are happier when women are part of charitable decision-making can be useful for planned giving and major gifts professionals.
In the study, participants rated themselves on a 5-point life satisfaction scale. Donors of both genders and in all income categories rated themselves significantly higher than non-donors. Couples and single women who gave more than 2% of their income to charity rated themselves as significantly happier than those who gave less than 2%. For single men, increasing the percentage did not increase the happiness score - it was giving in the first place that made the difference.
"Giving makes us happy," the study concludes. "Giving to charitable organizations is positively related to life satisfaction. The more a household gives as a percentage of income, the higher the household's life satisfaction."
Wife-influenced giving scores the highest
The highest score (4.17 out of 5) was from couples giving more than 2% of their incomes to charity when either the wife made the charitable decisions or the couple made the decisions jointly.
"When the wife is involved in making the charitable decisions, life satisfaction is highest," the study authors wrote.
The life satisfaction scores were lower when the husband made the charitable decisions alone or when the husband and wife gave to charity separately. The scores were even lower for single givers - but still higher than non-donors.
The complete study is available here.