Does spending money on others make you feel happier than spending money on yourself? Research says yes, and there’s a good reason why. A 2006 study by Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found a strong connection between giving to charities and an increase in positive feelings. The study revealed that the act of giving stimulates areas of the brain connected to pleasure, trust, relationships, and more.
How much do Americans donate and where’s the money going?
Giving a big part of American culture. According to the World Giving Index, the U.S. is the most generous country in the world. Still not impressed? Well, a study from Giving USA last year found that Americans gave a total of $449.64 billion in 2019, one of the highest years for giving in recorded history.
Where is all of this money going?
Check out this breakdown of the top 10 categories for charitable donations:
- Religion | $128.17 billion
- Education | $64.11 billion
- Human Services | $55.99 billion
- Gifts to Foundations | $53.51 billion
- Health | $41.46 billion
- Public-Society Benefit Organizations | $37.16 billion
- International Affairs | $28.89 billion
- Arts, Culture and Humanities | $21.64 billion
- Environmental/Animals | $14.16 billion
- Gifts to Individuals | $10.11 billion
How to give safely and securely
As you consider donating to support a cause, use these tips to keep your information safe online. These tools will also help minimize the risk of your donations falling into the wrong hands.
- Do your research! Know the charity you’re donating to. Read through their website, check their social media pages and talk to friends and family who have contributed to them before.
- Avoid cash donations. Use checks and credit cards when possible since it’s easier to track these transactions.
- Verify the URL. Safe URLs begin with “https,” with the “s” meaning “secure.” These websites are encrypted so that sensitive information is kept private.
- Check for a secure payment icon. Donation sites should have a padlock icon or some sort of symbol or badge at the bottom of the page to verify that the site is secure.
- Record your donations. Keep receipts and email confirmations of your gifts. Some are tax deductible, which will require your receipt when you file your taxes.
- Get contact info. Reputable organizations have an active email, phone number and physical address posted on their website. You can check by calling and emailing with questions before you decide to donate.
Find a cause that you’re passionate about and give back to feel good each month.