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The Crossroads of Gender, Charitableness and Happiness

A new study shows that when women have a say in their households' spending, more money goes to charity.

According to research from the Women's Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University, men and women view charitable giving differently—and reap the benefits differently, too. The 2017 study polled 10,735 people over four years to examine how families determine their donations to charities and how those decisions affect overall household happiness.

The study, called Women Give 2017, found that a positive correlation exists between charitable giving and level of life satisfaction. Those who donate report a 2.6 percent increase in life satisfaction compared to those who don't give. Delving deeper, life satisfaction increases 3.5 percent when donor households give more than 2 percent of their total income to charity.

Narrowing the focus to gender, Women Give 2017 found that:

  • Single men experience a 4.2 percent increase in life satisfaction when they become donors, double that of single women and couples. 
  • Single and married women experience greater life satisfaction when they increase their charitable giving to more than 2 percent of their total income.

Women Give 2017 also revealed a connection between life satisfaction and female influence on household financial decisions. Families experience a 4.7 percent increase in life satisfaction when the wife decides on charitable donations of more than 2 percent of total household income.

These findings can alter the way organizations attract potential donors by tailoring messages for men and women, according to the study. For example, because single men derive the most joy from becoming a donor, messages featuring other single male donors discussing the personal benefits of charitable contribution could encourage male non-donors to give. The study also showed that messages which highlight the impact people have on others appeal more to female donors. Showcasing how other women find joy in increasing their donation amount may influence others to do the same.

"With a better understanding of how and when men, women and families derive joy from giving, nonprofit leaders can engage their donors more effectively, and philanthropists will gain greater joy from giving," write the authors.

This article is from the November 2017 BriefCASE issue of BriefCASE.