‘Giving’ is one of those words that is used very generously in articles or research related to charities or good causes in general. But it takes on a very different meaning and relevance depending on your viewpoint and whether it is proactive or reactive.

From a charitable or third sector point of view, most giving is reactive and there are awards for fundraisers who are able to unlock the most amount of money given. No doubt, this helps achieve significant objectives in medical advancement, poverty relief and so on but I can’t say that it is the form of giving that I’m most interested in.

TheGivingMachine: Giving - What's it really all about?

A proactive giving philosophy is an interesting concept on its own with no specific ask associated with it. According to a study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, people who gave support to others had lower blood pressure than people who didn’t. It has also been found that people who gave their time to help others through community and organisational activities experienced greater self-esteem, less depression and lower stress levels than those who didn’t.

Amazingly enough, giving may even extend your life! Researchers at the University of Buffalo, USA found that people who engaged in helping behaviours with their neighbours and friends, such as running errands, cooking meals, or providing child support, reduced their mortality rates compared with those who did not help.

The chemicals released during acts of generosity to others are the same as if you are receiving the gifts yourself and have a much longer lasting effect. They are the same chemicals where a lack of them is associated with depression and anxiety.

Knowing these aspects can change the way we may choose to give. In our own family, friends and community giving more experiential gifts have been really enjoyable. Inviting an elderly neighbour over for fish & chips or taking my Dad out to the theatre as a birthday present for example. While you might wonder at whether it seems right to enjoy a gift you’ve given as much as the recipient, just imagine how you’d feel on the receiving end and let any second thoughts go.

TheGivingMachine: Giving - What's it really all about?

Establishing a giving philosophy in your life also means that when a giving request comes your way, you can with a totally clear conscience engage with it or not as you have already proactively decided on what you are doing. If we all proactively changed just one or two things and considered just giving a tiny bit more in time, attention and positivity to others, we’d be happier, our friends and family would be happier and we’d possibly live longer too. It’s all a bit of a no-brainer to be honest.

Richard Morris

CEO & Founder TheGivingMachine