A Fundraiser’s Journey: Why We Give

Kelly picKelly Updike for PCNRC, A Fundraiser’s Journey series

In doing some research for this month’s blog topic – despite my reputation as a (bad) jokester, I do try to not make it up! – I discovered there is a science to giving.

In “Philanthropy and the Brain: Why Doing Good Feels Good,” in the July 2014 issue of The Rotarian, author Laurence Gonzales reports on separate studies in the 1980s that showed giving to charity causes mid-brain activity, increases in a hormone called oxytocin and releases of the neurotransmitter dopamine, “the chemical centerpiece of the reward system.”

In addition, scientists determined that empathy is a biological function and comes from cells called mirror neurons in our brains.

What all these science-y words mean is that when we help someone, “we get a big emotional payoff,” according to Gonzales. He further reports that faces are the most powerful conveyors of a person’s emotional state.

Earlier this month, on Nov. 5, National Public Radio broadcasted a story by Shankar Vedantam on a study that found people gave to help a starving child but did not donate when they learned how many millions suffer from starvation.

These studies point out the importance of connecting with people. And to tell donors how their gifts make an impact in the community.

We have really cool jobs — we help people feel great by telling them in person how their donations will specifically help our organizations. (For example, say to them how many marquee light bulbs will be repaired or how many children get fed or whatever details you can itemize, thanks to their gifts.) And then we get to watch their faces light up, we get to share that moment with them, when they donate!

The NPR story is at:


The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Embassy or the PCNRC.

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