Helper’s High: The Science Behind The Benefits Of Giving Back

While the giving season typically means buying gifts, don’t forget that holiday giving can also mean giving back.


Did you know that with every charitable donation you make, you also receive a number of benefits? Yes, you may receive tax benefits if you live in the United States, but that’s not the only gift you get when you donate to a meaningful cause!

Here are four benefits you receive from giving back:

    1. Lift your spirits.

    A number of studies, including a 2008 study by the Harvard Business School, found that giving back to others lifted study participants’ happiness more than spending money on themselves did.

    And when studying the biological effects of charitable giving, scientists at the National Institutes of Health found a “warm glow” effect in MRI scans that indicated the activation of brain regions associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. They believe giving back releases endorphins that produce a feeling known as the “helper’s high.”

    2. Improve your health.

    The feeling you get through the endorphins released from giving back helps lower stress levels. Decreased stress is likely why generosity is linked to better health and longevity.

    Years of research, including a University of California, Berkeley study from 1999, have linked health benefits to many forms of generosity—from volunteering to donating food and money. Considerable research has shown that giving back even increases health benefits in people with chronic illnesses.

    3. Be a role model.

    Maybe the “warm glow” effect is why studies have shown that children as young as 19 months will make altruistic decisions when they see someone in need. As they grow, there are opportunities to support their generosity. Holiday giving is a chance to talk about why giving back is important and to lead by example.

    Sharing stories of the changes children have made with their gifts will reinforce the impact they can have by giving back to the community.

    4. Foster your social connections.

    Project reports from GlobalGiving nonprofit partners are an easy way to see the impact your donations make in communities all over the world. Communities like those in rural Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), where Kudvumisa Foundation serves. The organization recently received enough support to fund the installation of solar panels on the roofs of a clinic and guesthouse. Thanks to the generous people who gave back, several thousand people will now have access to vital health care!

    Giving back in this way is linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone that kindles warmth and connection to others. And oxytocin can make us more trusting, more generous, and kinder.

Maybe the generosity inspired by this season of giving is why we call it the most wonderful time of the year!

Find a community-led project that inspires you to give back.


Featured Photo: Give Childhood a Chance and Keep Youth Drug Free! by International Blue Cross

Looking for something specific?

Find exactly what you're looking for in our Learn Library by searching for specific words or phrases related to the content you need.

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.