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"Donors end up with more income after making their gifts"


In 2003, while working on a book about charitable giving, I stumbled across a strange pattern in my data. Paradoxically, I was finding that donors ended up with more income after making their gifts. This was more than correlation; I found solid evidence that giving stimulated prosperity. I viewed my results as implausible, though, and filed them away. After all, data patterns never “prove” anything, they simply provide evidence for or against a hypothesis.

But when I mentioned my weird findings to a colleague, he told me that they were fairly unsurprising. Psychologists, I learned, have long found that donating and volunteering bring a host of benefits to those who give. In one typical study, researchers from Harvard and the University of British Columbia confirmed that, in terms of quantifying “happiness,” spending money on oneself barely moves the needle, but spending on others causes a significant increase.

Why? Charitable giving improves what psychologists call “self-efficacy,” one’s belief that one is capable of handling a situation and bringing about a desired outcome. When people give their time or money to a cause they believe in, they become problem solvers. Problem solvers are happier than bystanders and victims of circumstance.

If charity raises well-being, there is no obvious reason it would not also indirectly stimulate material prosperity as people improve their lives. By the time I published my results in an academic journal and book about philanthropy, the only real question was why I hadn’t intuitively understood this all along.

But studying the link between service to others and happiness changed more than just my research; the evidence led me and my wife to reconsider our personal behavior. We raised our financial support for the causes we cared about, increased our volunteering, and — proving that the path to the human heart can run through 100 megabytes of social science data — adopted our youngest child. These things have enriched our family beyond imagination, just as the research promised.


As we move into the Easter Holiday Rice Drive, we have cooked up a program that will help us move into postmodern business models, I THINK.  Please help us explore this process as it is fully scaffolded in that it has all the elements to relieve poverty (for a few); just add a poor person.

THIS NEXT PHASE will allow us to study how to scaffold individuals who are poor, and even though I will start out with those who have been vetted, I believe the things we will learn about this process will help us rewrite poverty policies and help us understand the full gamut of what must be done to scaffold poverty… we’ll see.


PS: Read the New York Times article HERE about having more fun donating and increasing your income in the process of giving.

We had 3 calls recently where Mike shared his concept of eliminating poverty and when you complete the form below you will gain access to the recording.



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