The study investigates for the first time how social connection helps turn generous behaviour into positive feelings on the part of the donor. (Agencies)
Lara Aknin of Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, and colleagues at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver and Harvard Business School, Massachusetts, US, wanted to examine when the emotional benefits of giving to charity become manifest.
They carried out three studies of charitable donations, or more precisely pro-social spending, and found that spending money on others or giving money to charity leads to the greatest happiness boost when giving fosters social connection.
They concluded that donors feel happiest if they give to a charity through a friend, relative or social connection rather than simply making an anonymous donation to a worthy cause.
The study has implications for not-for-profit organizations hoping to maximize donations, suggesting that recruiting advocates and helping them build on their social connections could have benefits for the donors too, researchers said.
Extending these findings, it is possible that if donors have a greater sense of happiness when giving involves making a social connection one might imagine that the positive emotions might even lead to more frequent and perhaps bigger donations.
"While additional factors other than social connection likely influence the happiness gained from pro-social spending our findings suggest that putting the social in pro-social is one way to transform good deeds into good feelings," the team concluded.
The study investigates for the first time how social connection helps turn generous behaviour into positive feelings on the part of the donor.