Friday, March 06, 2009

Giving When You're Unemployed: It Could Make You Happier and Wealthier

Americans tend to define themselves by their work. How many times have you gone to a party and been asked, "What do you do?" When you lose your job, you can lose not only your cash flow, but also your confidence.

What's one answer to the unemployment blues?


A September 2007 Ode magazine article, Giving Makes Us Happy, describes a 60-year study by Paul Wink of Wellesley College that followed the lives of about 200 people. One of the findings was that many of the people who said they were happy had, "generativity--the ability to give to others."

A March 2008 report in Science magazine, Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness, found that, "spending more of one's income on others predicted greater happiness both cross-sectionally (in a nationally representative survey study) and longitudinally (in a field study of windfall spending)."

Arthur Brooks' September 2007 article in the Journal of Economics and Finance, Does Giving Makes Us Prosperous?, concludes that giving can make you more prosperous.

According to the article's abstract:
"Nonprofit economists have always assumed that income is a precursor to giving. In contrast, many philosophical and religious teachings have asserted that it is giving that leads to prosperity. This article seeks to test the non-economic hypothesis, using data from the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey. It identifies strong evidence that money giving does, in fact, influence income."
There are so many ways to give. Even a small financial gift can make a big difference. For example, according to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, $15/month can provide, "20 packets of high energy biscuits specially developed for malnourished children."

Below are 10 low-cost ways to give. What would you add to the list?
  • Volunteer in your community, or virtually.
  • Listen to someone who needs an ear.
  • Visit someone who needs company.
  • Give away stuff (i.e. clothes, books, CDs, DVDs, furniture).
  • Double a recipe, put half in a tupperware, and share it.
  • Share the skills you get usually get paid to use for free.
  • Recommend someone on LinkedIn.
  • Send a card or letter to someone who would love to hear from you.
  • Give a loved one a shoulder, or foot rub.
  • Show appreciation for the people you love.
Cross-posted from BlogHer. Britt Bravo is a Big Vision Consultant.
Photo of Sunflower by me.

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  1. Anonymous9:56 AM

    Thanks for this piece! I wrote about this in January when I stumbled across an article that pointed to some research studies documenting that giving does make you happy.

  2. are you unemployed?

  3. Hi Beth!

    Darn, I wish I'd remembered about that post. It would have been nice to have mentioned the health benefits.

    Dr DJ -

    No,I'm not unemployed, but lots of people are these days, sadly.

  4. Oh yeah, the joys of giving. Gee, like I am a CEO or some vapid land developer? Please, people, it is so annoying to have to listen to other people preach about the joys of giving when people like me have always given. Always. We're the first to lose our jobs.

  5. Great post, Beth. It inspired me to visit CharityFocus' blog, which I haven't done in a while and which always has wonderful "gift econony" (rather than $ economy) ideas. This post struck me as particularly beautiful and inspirational:

    Your post also inspired me to catch up on writing a LinkedIn recommendation for YOU -- felt very good to "give" attention to all the great work you've been doing for Social Actions. :)

  6. Might be an appropo time to add that giving for FREE (repurposing items you no longer use) and routing to nonprofits via the new Facebook Marketplace without even having to open your wallet can create BIG change for LITTLE orgs like ours.

    We're one of the 20 nonprofits on their homepage, which they just launched, and you're right, I'm GIVING to each of the other 19 being featured every day to support THEM too...why? Because it makes me FEEL good! (and it doesn't cost me a cent using the 'virtual garage sale' concept)

    Got somethin' to give? Shaping Youth could use a hand. I'm 'unemployed' in so far as I haven't made a penny for salary yet! (classic founder startup passionista) Sure am 'having fun, doing good' though! ;-)

  7. Christine - Thanks so much for the LinkedIn recommendation!

    Shaping Youth - Congrats on being one of the highlighted orgs.

  8. Anonymous11:15 AM

    Great article. I think this is something we NEED to keep reminding each other about again and again. Especially at this time in history. Some people may lean towards contracting and even becoming more selfish. It won't serve anyone. Thanks for posting this. So glad I found it (via Twitter) Heather

  9. Passing this along to a few friends who have been a little down (a result of boredom) since they were affected by corporate restructuring, as a result of the economic climate.

    Thanks Britt!

  10. Heather and Neha, I'm glad you liked the post.

    I've written about it before, but thought I'd mention the 29-Day Giving Challenge. It's fun to do and has an online community of almost 4,000 people:

    29 Day Giving Challenge.

  11. Hello! There's nonprofit I am helping out that is holding a house raffle at - we did a survey of ticket buyers and there were more than a few who aren't currently working. Some people get it!

    I found this in a past experience also - when I did an Aids ride in Alaska, the bigger donations came from people who were young in the workforce and making much less money.

  12. Thanks for sharing your story, Dan!

  13. I just wanted to comment on what a great blog that you have! Especially this one about giving back when you’re unemployed. You post such great tips to help people get more involved and giving back-- I know our readers would love to see these as well, as it falls in line with exactly what we’re trying to accomplish! With that said, I'm involved with a non-profit organization called Project 100. Our mission is to give back to the community, therefore inspiring others to give. Over the course of three months, Project 100 is giving 100 dollars to 100 people over 100 days, in an effort to encourage giving back to the community and creating a spark for change. Project 100 believes that giving changes everything, and they only ask that recipients think of how they too can help out in their community. I invite you to check out our site at and see if this is something worth blogging about to your readers! After all, we are doing good!

    Keep up the good work!



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