<img src="//bat.bing.com/action/0?ti=5065582&amp;Ver=2" height="0" width="0" style="display:none; visibility: hidden;">
Ryann Miller 5 min read

Can Happiness Impact Philanthropy?

Happiness is a better indicator of philanthropy than wealth is. And we shouldn't be surprised.

The Charity Aid Foundation, based in the UK, reported this finding in their first-ever study, called the World Giving Index. Released two days ago, they looked at 153 countries; the largest ever study of global charitable behavior, relying on data largely from Gallup's Worldview World Poll.

The index analyzed generosity in terms of giving money, giving time as a volunteer, and helping strangers. 

While wealth can tell you about the financial capacity of a person, it can't tell you how generous they are. Those of us in the business of fundraising know that giving is an emotional act. Philanthropy is less dependent on the size of the bank account than on matters of the heart. Anyone who has been responsible for testing copy (whether direct mail or online) knows from experience that it's the personal message, the picture of the child, the emotional appeal, that brings out the wallet. That's why we shouldn't be surprised at this Index's results.  

So what do these results mean?

The bad news for fundraisers is that we don't have the tools to detect the happiness rates of all donors and prospects, so we can't easily measure who the happiest people are, in order to solicit them for support.

But there’s good news, and it comes in a few different flavors:

  • Most of the world isn’t wealthy, and the top 4 most generous countries AREN’T the US (and are English-speaking, which may keep communications costs lower), so any nonprofits who want to expand fundraising to other nations might consider this an invitation. See below for the top 5 countries.
  • Your donorbase has untapped potential. The million dollar question now is how to find your happiest supporters?
  • For communications folks, your skills of persuasion may matter even more now that you know that giving is a matter of heart, not financial capacity.

Takeaways based on the Index’s results:

  • Communications should be emotional, targeting the heart, not head.  
  • Wealth indicators (used in major gift fundraising) only get you so far. Remember Leona Helmsley? You might try philanthropic indicators, which tell you where else your donor has given. DonorTrends offers this service.
  • You might be overlooking incredible potential that’s right in front of you, in your donor file.
  • Most of the world, perhaps previously considered too poor to be considered philanthropic, in fact are generous with their money and time. In our global age, this could have major consequences on where fundraising is done, and what country office goals are.

The top 5 countries are: 

1. Australia;

2. New Zealand

3. Canada 

4. Ireland

5. Tied between USA and Switzerland.

The authors also measured life satisfaction in respondents to see whether happiness motivates people to give. They found that the link between giving money and being happy is stronger than the link between giving money and being wealthy as a nation. “It would be reasonable to conclude that giving is more an emotional act than a rational one,” the authors write.

*Ryann Miller is the Director of Nonprofit Services for Care2.