Does spending money on others make you feel happier than spending money on yourself? Research say 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 is certainly a big part of American culture. According to the World Giving Index, the U.S. is the second most generous country in the world. In 2015, Americans gave a total of $373.25 billion in charitable donations with the average household contributing an estimated $2,974. It’s the sixth consecutive year donations have increased from the year prior.
Where is all of this money going?
Check out a breakdown of the top 10 categories for charitable donations.
- Religion | 33 percent or $119.30 billion
- Education | 19 percent or $57.48 billion
- Human Services | 12 percent or $45.21 billion
- Gifts to Foundations | 11 percent or $42.26 billion
- Health | 8 percent or 29.81 billion
- Public-Society Benefit | 7 percent or $26.95 billion
- Arts, Culture and Humanities | 5 percent or $17.07 billion
- International Affairs | 4 percent or $15.75 billion
- Environmental/Animals | 3 percent or $10.68 billion
- Gifts to Individuals | 2 percent or $6.56 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 donated 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 donations. 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.
Where can you give this month?
Giving back makes us feel good, it helps others and there are plenty of ways to do it securely. Now you just need a good cause to support.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s a time when charities and organizations come together to increase awareness of breast cancer and support breast cancer research around the world.
About 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer at some point during their life, and an estimated 40,450 women are expected to die from the disease in 2016. With such a high prevalence of breast cancer in our society, there are numerous organizations that accept donations to raise awareness of the disease and support research for a cure.
Here are a few places you can donate to help make a difference:
- Susan G. Komen. The foundation’s mission is to “save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering others, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures.”
- National Breast Cancer Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to “provide help and inspire hope to those affected by breast cancer through early detection, education, and support services.”
- Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to “prevent and cure breast cancer by advancing the world’s most promising research.”
Find a cause that you’re passionate about and give back to feel good each month.