How Giving Can Make You Richer

charitable giving

Did you know that people who give tend to earn more than people who don’t? “Well, duh. People who have more money can give more because they have more money.” Ahhh, but notice how I didn’t write that people who earn more tend to give more. The earning more part of this equation is the result of the giving, not the requirement. I know, I know. It doesn’t make sense. There aren’t many get-rich-quick seminars that start out by saying, “You wanna get rich? Give all your money away.” So how does that work? The basis of the reasoning is as follows:

  1. People who give tend to be happier than those who don’t.
  2. People who are happy tend to be more productive at work than those who aren’t.
  3. People who are productive at work tend to earn more than their less productive counterparts.

Yeah, I know. Super scientific. But really, a guy named Arthur C. Brooks did a study involving 30,000 American families over a broad geography and range of financial circumstances (the data was actually collected by Harvard). The families were asked how much they gave, what they gave to, how much they made, their education, and a bunch of other things. Take it away, Arty.

Specifically, here is what I found. If you have two families that are exactly identical—in other words, same religion, same race, same number of kids, same town, same level of education, and everything’s the same—except that one family gives a hundred dollars more to charity than the second family, then the giving family will earn on average $375 more in income than the non-giving family—and that’s statistically attributable to the gift.

Crazy! In fact, when he first did the numbers, he didn’t believe them. So he did it again. And again. And again. He got the same numbers every time. He even looked up volunteering and things like giving blood. Really? Giving blood? You’re telling me that I’ll get richer by giving blood? That’s what the numbers say. It all goes back to the reasoning above. And don’t let the numbers fool you. I mean, $375 isn’t a lot. But what if that family gives $1,000 more than the other family? That’s $3,750 more in income. $10,000? Oh yeah, now you’re talking.

So in all reality, there is a little pull on both sides. People who earn more tend to give more, because they have more. That can’t be disputed. But it’s interesting to see that it goes the other way too. And it’s the happiness factor. You can believe that, right? I mean, companies want to hire happy people. People want to be around happy people. Those are the people we generally find to be more successful. And being charitable makes you happy.

John D. Rockefeller was quoted as saying, “I believe the power to make money is a gift from God…to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind” (Jules Abels,The Rockefeller Billions: The Story of the World’s Most Stupendous Fortune [New York: Macmillan, 1965], 279–80). In fact, he was so convinced of this that at other times he wrote he was afraid if he stopped giving his money and giving it in the right way, God would take it from him. Now I don’t know how theologically sound that is, but it shows me that he firmly believed he was rich because he gave so much, and he gave a lot–even before he was rich. What a boss.

Another wealthy businessman, Jon Huntsman, Sr. once said, “If you do not give when you have little, you will not when you have a lot.” That’s something coming from a guy who once lived in a house held up by cardboard boxes. He has since donated more than $1.2 billion, most of it to create the Huntsman Cancer Institute, one of the country’s major cancer research centers.

Does any of this mean that if you give, you’re going to be a billionaire? No. But to me, it only further solidifies the study’s findings.

Here are some things that I’ve learned about giving:

  1. It’s not the amount you give that matters, rather the principle of it. When you realize that there is someone who is worse off than you and you sacrifice something of your own to act on that, you are doing good things, my friend. It doesn’t matter how much you give. The fact that you are giving shows that you are willing to sacrifice something that you don’t need to in order to help someone else. And that’s awesome.
  2. Giving is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. If you want to be successful and happy, that is.
  3. It doesn’t have to be $$$. In fact, I’ve found that for me, giving money is the least gratifying way to give. I spent 6 weeks in Fiji working and teaching in villages, and that moment when you see the gratitude or pure joy in the eyes of those you are serving is absolutely priceless. Giving money is relatively easy. But when you give of yourself (your time and talents), that’s when you can make the greatest impact.
  4. The day the government tries to replace private giving is the day we all become poorer, unhappier and unhealthier. Not only does your community need you to stand in and support those in need, you need it too.
  5. And lastly, I believe that people are not inherently selfish. From 1954 to 2004, the average American family saw a 150% increase in real purchasing power (adjusted for inflation). Over that same time, though, there was a 190% increase in charitable giving. You people are awesome.

So let’s keep it up! It’s really about the giving, not getting rich, but it sure is a great by-product. So let’s be happy and get wealthy 🙂


16 thoughts on “How Giving Can Make You Richer

    1. Don't you love it? When Jon Hunstman's business wasn't doing well, he would take out personal loans to keep his giving going because he didn't want to go back on money he had pledged, and he still made it. It's powerful!

  1. Hi! Thanks for this post. It's nice to know there's some "science" to giving. My husband and I give for two reasons: 1) because there are others who need our money more, and 2) as a reminder that money isn't everything. As much as we like to see our net worth grow, we don't want money to rule us and we'd like to see it benefit others as well.

    1. I agree! It's great that you do it for the right reasons too. It's an amazing feeling when you realize that you're really not all that important unless you can use your talents to help others.

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