The Mistakes We Make When Giving to Charity

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By Shlomo Benartzi and Christopher Olivola

All of us think about giving during the holiday season. But it’s possible that we’re thinking about it wrong.

That’s the conclusion of recent research, which suggests that our generosity and good intentions are hamstrung by tricks our minds play on us. Most people by their nature are very generous, but they don’t think clearly about the choices they make when they donate to charity.

For example, they may donate less than they otherwise would, because they assume that giving will make them less happy than receiving. The fact is that studies show the opposite: When we’re generous and spend on others, we feel happier and more fulfilled.

In addition, many people assume that donating time to a good cause is much more valuable than just giving money, because writing a check seems too easy to be really meaningful. In fact, though, gifts of money often do more good than a single volunteer’s efforts could.

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