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Is it better to give or receive?
By Jim Sanzi / November 4, 2014 /   Loading Disqus...
Is it better to give or to receive?  As we approach the holiday season with perhaps many of us expecting to do a fair share of both giving and receiving, I have learned that there may be an objective answer to this values-based question.  Actually, this is somewhat of a trick question because the answer is that giving and receiving are nearly identical.  Let me explain.

In replicated studies of neuroimaging, brain scientists (of which I am not one of course) and other researchers have found that a decision to voluntarily make a charitable gift activates “reward” areas of the brain, through changes in blood oxygenation, nearly identical to the reaction people have when receiving money.  

In other words, just like it can feel good to receive, it also feels good to give, and that feeling is supported by science…and by our real life experiences when we give.  Perhaps take a moment to think about a time that you have given something of value to a person or cause you really care about.  I bet you probably don’t need scientific studies to tell you that your generosity made you (and the recipient) feel good.  

Our state needs a vibrant nonprofit and charitable sector, and to inspire philanthropy, we need to remember that giving feels good, is fun, and makes a positive difference all at the same time.  

As the Rhode Island Foundation’s Vice President of Development, it is an honor for me, and my colleagues, to work every day with generous donors and transformative non-profit organizations to help our state reach its full potential. Partnering with inspired and inspiring Rhode Islanders for the last 98 years gives the Foundation the privilege of seeing first-hand the power of philanthropy.  

What is amazing, and again inspiring, about working at the Foundation is that many of our generous donors often thank us for helping them work toward their charitable goals as much as we thank them for partnering with us. Regardless of the size or type, whether by scientific reality or personal experience, simple but true, giving makes and will continue to make people happy. 


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