Thu, January 31 2013

Smile, you’re in the happiness business

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Fun stuff • Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials •

You’re in the business not only of doing good; you’re in the business of making people feel great. I like to quote the researcher M.A.Strahilevitz on this topic: “Most fundraisers probably don’t think of themselves in the business of selling happiness to donors, but that is ... their job.”

In an interview with Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, Gretchen Rubin quotes Lyubomirsky on why this is the case:

“Research shows that there are many simple activities that reliably make people happier.  My favorite is doing acts of kindness.  The generous acts don’t have to be random and they don’t have to be a certain kind (e.g, anonymous or social or big, etc.).  We have found that almost any types of acts of kindness boost happiness.  And two hot-off-the-presses studies reveal even bigger benefits.  An experiment we just published in PLOS ONE showed that when 9- to 11-year old kids were asked to do acts of kindness for several weeks, not only did they get happier over time but they became more popular with their peers.  And another big intervention we just finished at a company in Spain showed that asking some employees to be generous to a randomly chosen list of colleagues (we called this our “Secret Santa” manipulation) produced huge benefits (for increasing happiness, connectedness, flow, and decreasing depression) not just for the givers, but for the receivers and even for observers.  The recipients of kindness “paid the kind acts forward” and even acquaintances of the givers became happier and were inspired to act more generously themselves.”

Smile, you’re in the happiness business.


  • Comment: (4)   



This is so true. Volunteers and fundraisers really need to understand that when people give, they feel good. I think if volunteers and staff at nonprofits understood that by asking people to give, they are giving people the opportunity feel happy and wonderful, the hesitation and fear to ask would disappear, or at least be lessened. I like the “Smile” too! grin

Thank you. Great post.


Posted by Kirt Manecke  on  01/31  at  02:13 PM

I thought you’d appreciate an experience I had as a volunteer fundraiser for my local Y’s Strong Kids campaign (an annual campaign that raises money to help people pay for memberships and programming at the Y). I’m on the board of directors, and co-chair the corporate division, which means I encourage board members to give to the campaign at monthly meetings. Thanks to your blog, I knew of the connection between giving and happiness, so part of what I said was this:“Let’s focus for a change on the donors—you and me. What’s in it for us? Well, neuroscience has proven that giving to charity activates the pleasure centers of your brain. Philanthropy feels good. Compassion is fun. And I might be making this next part up, but punctuation matters. If you can add a comma to the number your write on your check, and move the decimal point to the right, the dopamine rush is outstanding. It’s not a cheap thrill, but it is a thrill. And if it’s not a thrill, your decimal point is probably in the wrong place. Move it over; it will feel great.” I was going for the laugh, and I got it—but I also got applause when I finished, and it’s been a running joke ever since. This works best with peer-to-peer fundraising—I think they appreciated that I was making the obligatory board contribution fun rather than a chore. And a lot of them are putting commas into their numbers!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/01  at  05:46 PM

Great topic and so very interesting….
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Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  02:03 AM

Great post with a very interesting interview. I think I’m going to read that ‘The How Of Happiness’ book. Thanks a lot

Posted by Hans Tielbeek  on  06/09  at  04:30 PM

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