“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” Maya Angelou
THE LOW DOWN Science-backed reasons on why giving is good
We’re often taught that ruthlessness and a self-centred approach are needed to get ahead in life, but try to think back to the last time you gave something away - perhaps a donation, or a gift to someone in need. Did it make you feel good? It’s no surprise if it did (and we hope it did, otherwise, you know, you might be a robot) after all, scientists have found that our brain is hardwired for generosity. A study by Harvard University upholds the findings, highlighting a correlation between giving and feeling happy. In fact, when making a donation your brain acts in a similar way to when you’re eating chocolate. So, generosity is not only a virtuous trait, it also makes us feel good. And it’s arguably much healthier than bingeing on Lindt (uh-oh, Easter weekend regrets…) - check out our Vestpod article on spending for smiles.
If you want to maximise your happiness when giving, here’s five ways to get you started:
Give more frequently in smaller amounts: you’re more likely to feel the buzzing effects associated with donating if you engage with giving on a regular basis. One-off donations are great, but research shows that giving regularly is most beneficial both for the giver and the donatory.
Have a no strings attached approach: incentives can be helpful, but you’re most likely to experience more satisfaction from giving without any expectations of a ‘return on investment’.
Give when you know you can make a difference: you’ll feel incredibly empowered knowing your donation changed something for the better. Do your research and donate to to the more efficient and effective charities to ensure your money will make a true difference - you can learn more about effective altruism here.
Get involved with a cause that’s close to your heart: whether that’s something relating to the environment, medical research or humanitarian aid relief, finding a cause that speaks to you on a personal level will help you feel more engaged and, in turn, much happier.
Don’t be shy to talk about your generosity: there’s nothing wrong with sharing your achievements as an altruist. If you’re running a marathon for charity or donating your hair to a cancer fund there’s all the more reason to talk about it! Chances are, you’ll get plenty of positive reinforcement from your friends - and we all know how addictive those Facebook ‘likes’ can be.
If you’re still not sure whether giving is for you, how’s this for a motivator - studies show that giving is good for our health. One study led by Doug Oman of the University of California, Berkeley found that elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44% less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers. Not only does giving help your livelihood, it also also promotes social recognition and connection: sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer have suggested that your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line - a little thing we call good karma.
Do you contribute to any charities? How frequently do you donate? Have you noticed that giving makes you feel good?
OFF TO YOU Gift-aiding away
Have you ever considered running a marathon? You know, to prove a point to an annoying ex, raise money for a great cause or simply because the idea of running 42k without going into cardiac arrest is quite stirring? Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to ever run the Boston marathon in 1967, and this week, at 70 years of age, she did it again. Now that’s some retirement goals!
50 years ago, Switzer entered the Boston Marathon using only her initials, K.V. Switzer. Before the race, her coach expressed skepticism about "fragile women" being able to complete a marathon. After she proved that she could run more than the required 42km, her coach took her to Boston himself. That wasn’t the end of her struggle, though - during the race, the race director lost his temper and tried to rip her bib off her. But, defying the odds and in what has since become an iconic moment, Switzer did not let him get to her.
Much thanks to women like Switzer, women running marathons is no longer a novelty. As our very own London Marathon approaches you might even consider taking on the challenge yourself. If you’re not quite there yet (who is?), perhaps you have friends willing to take part in a bid to raise money for charity. Thanks to crowdfunding platforms like Justgiving and GoFundMe, donating to charitable causes has never been easier. And the best bit? You can get tax relief when making donations. Tax benefits of charitable donations can, if properly understood, provide a great incentive to give. Gift Aid is also great because it means charities get extra money added to their donations at no extra cost to the donor. Here’s a quick guide to keeping your donatories - and your wallets - happy (more on gov.uk website).
How to make the most of Gift Aid?
Charities registered with HMRC can reclaim tax on a donation made by a UK taxpayer, which increases the value of the donation. This is known as the Gift Aid scheme. Charities in EU member states, as well as Norway and Iceland, now fall within the scheme, as do community amateur sports clubs (CASCs) registered with HMRC.
If you are a higher rate taxpayer, you can claim an additional 20% tax relief on the total donated. This will normally be done by declaring it on your Self Assessment tax return every year. For example, if you make a £1 donation, the charity gets £1.25. If the donor claims higher rate relief, the charity receives £1.25 in total for the donor’s net of 75p.
Gift Aid donations can sometimes increase the donor’s entitlement to claim age-related allowances or tax credits.
You can even donate straight from your wages or pension. Your employer has to run a Payroll giving scheme for you to be eligible to do so. The tax relief you get depends on the rate of tax you pay. To donate £1, you pay: 80p if you’re a lower rate taxpayer, 60p if you’re a higher rate taxpayer and 55p if you’re an additional rate taxpayer.
Tax relief also applies if you want to donate land, property or shares to charity.
Should you decide to leave money or possessions to charity in your will, your donation will either be taken off the value of your estate before Inheritance Tax is calculated, or it will reduce your Inheritance Tax rate - if more than 10% of your estate is left to charity.
Don’t forget: keep a record of everything, because you’ll need to have evidence of your donations if you want to claim back tax.
GET INSPIRED You’re in good company
When it comes to charitable giving, women are leading the way. That’s right - studies conducted in both the US and the UK show that morewomen than men contribute financially and volunteer their time to causes. Although data varies somewhat across the world, studies come to the same conclusion - women are in the driver’s seat when it comes to altruism, confirming a long suspected inkling that women are all-around fantastic.
The most recent report published by the British Charities Aid Foundation in 2014 showed that over three fifths (63%) of women had participated in at least one of the activities listed - from donating money to volunteering - in the month prior to interview, compared to only 52% of men. According to NPT UK, in 2015 approximately £185 million was raised by bake sales alone and the average monthly donation amount was £14.
Medical research receives the largest share of donations by monetary value. Other popular causes include donating to children and young people, animal and conservation funds and hospitals and hospice care. Saying that, a whopping 70% of potential donors agreed they would be more motivated to give to charity if they knew exactly how their money was helping. If you feel similarly, don’t forget about smaller, more local charities, where you’re more likely to see the direct result of your donation - as well as the power of volunteering.
Interestingly, there are also noticeable generational differences when it comes to giving. For a long time, religious organizations have been the largest recipient of charitable donations, but millennials are giving to educational and art/culture causes at higher rates. Political fluctuations also shape the causes millennials choose to donate to; after the election of Donald Trump, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, the largest women’s health provider in the US, saw a skyrocket in charitable contributions. In an incredible showing of support for women all over the world, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg alone donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood in February. Now if that’s not empowering, we don’t know what it is!
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