Does Donating Have an Impact on Happiness?

  • Sash Neser
  • 10 February 2020
  • 5 minute read


Have you ever wondered if donating to what you believe is a worthy cause will increase your happiness? We are told from an early age that “it’s better to give than receive” and it would seem from some recent research that this is most definitely the case.

In this article, three separate academic sources are highlighted from different parts of the world that investigate the relationship between charitable giving and general happiness.

Source 1

The first article titled Donations Make People Happier? Evidence from the Wenchuan Earthquake’ was written by Chinese researchers in 2017 using data gathered by Peking University that included interviews from 19,967 people.

The researchers could statistically prove that donating to a cause made people happier. They also listed other factors that increased happiness:

  • Women are happier than men.
  • Marital status has a big impact on happiness, with those divorced being less happy than married or yet to be married people.
  • People that have spent more years in schooling are typically happier.
  • Religious people are happier.
  • People that place importance on wealth are much less happy than those that place importance on family.

If you know a married, educated, religious, family-oriented woman that donates regularly, hang out with them more often. Statistically, they would be a very happy person to be around.


Source 2

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands another researcher detailed his findings in the article titled Donate More, Be Happier! Evidence from the Netherlands’. The researcher studied data from two different surveys that run regularly in the Netherlands. They took the data from 8,869 people.

Now, you may wonder how anyone can statistically prove the level of happiness using answers from some surveys with so many factors influencing happiness. After perusing 40 pages of statistical proof, I am willing to take the author’s word for it.

Once again, the statistics validated, people that donate more regularly are happier. Yet, the motivations are not
completely clear. 

There are those that find happiness in genuinely helping others by donating to a good cause. Others though, are happier because they are doing (and seen to be doing) what they feel is expected. 

Regardless of the motives, both groups are happier.

Source 3

The final and most comprehensive article is an amazing piece of annual research called ‘The World Happiness Report’. Chapter 4 of the 2019 edition titled ‘Happiness and Prosocial Behaviour: An Evaluation of the Evidence’ provides further evidence that donating makes you happier.

The report comes from many scientific studies conducted around the world with some of the most notable findings:

  • Data from over one million people in 130 countries shows that regular financial support to a charity is one of the top six predictors of life satisfaction around the world.
  • Charitable giving increases happiness regardless of your country or culture.
  • Happiness can be detected in toddlers and even in criminal offenders after charitable giving.


The report also provides some valuable advice to maximise the happiness of their donors. They found that people are more likely to derive joy from charitable giving when:

  1. They’re free to choose whether or how to help
  2. They feel connected to the people they are helping
  3. They can see how their help is making a difference


Take some time to consider what this means for your charitable organisation
  • Do you make your donors feel obligated or give them little choice in how they can provide time or money? 
  • Do you just rattle the tin at your donors or do you seek to connect them to your cause? 
  • Do your donors get feedback on how their donations are used. 

I trust your organisation is doing the best it can!



And so in summary it would seem that the research is clear. If you are seeking to be happier, a great first step might be to dig deep and donate to a cause you feel is worthy. In an age where we are seeking instant gratification, donating might just be the answer…. perhaps money can buy happiness after all!

If you would like to read more about boosting your donations, please read our article HERE on Social Proof and why clear donation boxes are better. Perhaps you would like to know how to effectively ask for donations. If so, check out THIS ARTICLE.



  1. ‘Donations Make People Happier-Evidence from the Wenchuan Earthquake’, Ren & Ye (2017), Social Indicators Research, Vol. 132, pp.517-536
  2. ‘Donate More, Be Happier! Evidence from the Netherlands’, Ugar (2018), Applied Research Quality Life, Vol. 13, pp.157-177.
  3. World Happiness Report – Ch4, Helliwell, Layard & Sachs (2019). Sustainable Development Solutions Network.


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