We often think of giving to charity as an act of self-sacrifice, something we ought to do given the huge amount of suffering in the world, but something that involves sacrificing our own wellbeing to increase the wellbeing of those less fortunate. However, recent research has challenged this assumption. It indicates that giving to charity tends to significantly increase a person’s wellbeing.
Imagine you are given some money. Do you think you would increase your happiness more by spending it on yourself or giving it to others? Research suggests that while most participants believed they would experience more happiness by spending the money on themselves, those who gave the money to charity or spent it on others experienced significantly more happiness.
A related study examined the spending decisions of employees in Boston, Massachusetts, who had received a bonus from their company. Those who chose to spend the money on others reported significant gains in happiness from doing so, whereas this was not the case for those who spent the money on themselves. It has been found that in most countries, charitable giving correlated with an increase in happiness equivalent to a doubling of household income.
Donating money to charity is not something that will only grant you increased happiness if you are already affluent. Research suggests that even when controlling for income, those who spent money on others rather than themselves reported greater levels of wellbeing.
RAG and Giving What We Can Oxford are currently running a ‘Big Match’ campaign to raise money for two of the world’s most effective charities: Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI). SCI helps run national prevention programmes against Schistosomiasis (a disease caused by parasitic worms). AMF hands out insecticide-treated bed nets to people in areas at risk from malaria. Student societies from across Oxford have collaborated to put together a matching pot of £10,000. For every £10 you donate, a further £10 will be released from the matching pot. If £20,000 is raised, this will be enough to treat over 20,000 people for parasitic diseases and to provide almost 5,000 mosquito nets.
Find out more by searching for the Big Match campaign online.