Most people spend a lot of time every week thinking about ways to either cut costs or earn and save more money. However, it also pays to consider how you might help others—and in turn help yourself — by donating your time, energy and/or money to charitable organizations in your neighborhood or further afield. There are many benefits to be gained from giving to others, from financial and social ones, to emotional and psychological gains. Read on for some of the top reasons you should be giving back today.
Tax Breaks and Money Management Skills
From a financial standpoint, one of the key benefits of donating is that if you decide to give some money or an asset to a qualified charitable organization or non-profit group, you can enjoy tax deductions on your annual return. These deductions occur in the year of the donation, regardless of whether a payment is made on a credit card, in cash or via a check, for instance.
The specific amount of money you donate is tax deductible, as is a variety of expenses that you may incur in relation to helping a non-profit organization, such as money spent on parking, travel, or event fees — just so long as you are not being reimbursed by the charity for any of these costs.
If you decide to donate non-cash items, such as a boat, equipment, furniture, cars, property, or other goods to a charity, these things will typically receive a deduction that is equal to the item’s fair market value (if you had owned it for more than 12 months).
Another plus is that setting aside a certain donation amount each week or month for your favorite charity can give you the benefit of improving your money management skills. Getting used to putting money away for others can actually help you learn how to put some away for yourself, as you develop the habit of saving. As well, by donating on a regular basis you typically end up paying closer attention to your bank account, which in turn helps you to be more aware of your current financial status and goals.
Be Happier and Healthier
One of the biggest bonuses you’ll enjoy when you regularly donate to charities is feeling happier and healthier in yourself. Plenty of studies have shown that giving money to others lifts people’s happiness more than it does to spend that same money on themselves, even though most people predict the opposite result will be the case.
In fact, one study from the National Institutes of Health found that giving to charity actually activates the same regions of the brain which are associated with things such as pleasure, trust, that “warm glow” feeling, and social connection. It is also believed that such altruistic behavior happens to release endorphins in the brain, the same hormones which can trigger a positive feeling in the body.
Similarly, giving is good for a person’s overall physical health, not just their mental and emotional state. Various studies over the years have shown that giving to others can increase health benefits and prolong life. This is likely due to the fact that being altruistic tends to decrease stress, which in turn lowers blood pressure and reduces other side effects of having a high stress level. Regular giving is also said to increase a person’s resilience during physical activity,and to improve their cognitive function.
Another common “side effect” of donating to charities is that doing so enables you to build relationships with new people and/or cement those relationships you have already. As mentioned above, giving promotes social connection, in addition to encouraging cooperation between people, and as such strengthens ties to others and enables you to feel closer to them.
You also never know who you might meet when you volunteer your time at a non-profit on a regular basis, or set up a regular giving program with your favorite charity. Furthermore, keep in mind that generous givers typically end up having more influence and standing within their community than others.
Be a Positive Role Model
Lastly, if you’re someone who donates to charities every year, you are going to be a positive role model for those around you. Being a giver can help to promote generosity in your children, in particular, as kids are more likely to adopt an altruistic mindset when they see their parents giving to others regularly. Your generous behavior can also positively influence other family members, your friends, your co-workers, and other contacts, and encourage them to give more.