Saturday, November 21, 2015

Who Really Benefits from Charity?

     America is one of the most generous nations in the world. According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) about 60 percent of Americans regularly engage in some kind of charitable activity, compared to 40 percent in other developed countries.

     A study from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave found that Americans donated some $358 billion last year, and most of it came not from corporations but from individuals and families. In addition, Americans spent 8 billion hours volunteering for charitable causes, ranging from church activities to political organizations to helping out neighbors and strangers.

     While Americans of all races and ages contribute their money and time, retirees are the ones who reach out the most. Some two thirds of retirees say that retirement is the best time to give back. Why? Because retirees have the extra time, and many also have the extra money. On average retirees are sitting on four times the net worth of their children in their 30s and 40s who are working and raising families, and so the result is that retirees account for some 40 percent of charitable giving.

     Last week the New York Times reported on the Purpose Prize, for Americans age 60 and over, created ten years ago by, a nonprofit group focused on those "in midlife and beyond." The Purpose Prize is given to older people who do charitable work to improve their communities.

     This year six prizes, ranging from $25,000 to $100,000, were awarded, along with 41 "honorable mentions." One prize went to Jamal Joseph, 62, an ex-con who co-founded the Impact Repertory Theater in New York City.

     Joseph provides a safe place where young people can talk and write about how their lives are affected by bullying, gangs, violence and drugs. The participants learn ways to convert their experiences into dance, plays, poems and music. But the program is no comfortable liberal-arts type seminar. Participants first attend a three-month boot camp where they learn leadership skills, conflict resolution and time management. Then they do community service, participate in exercise programs, pledge to get good grades in school and keep daily journals.

     Another prize went to Belle Mickelson, 67, a science teacher turned Episcopal priest who lives in Cordova, Alaska. Her program, Dancing with the Spirit, aims to help rural children and connect them with their elders. She travels to remote villages in Alaska, and through music and art, helps teens develop confidence and cope with the adolescent depression that is often masked by alcohol and drug abuse.

     The Merrill Lynch/Age Wave survey also found one other benefit to charitable activities. They offer significant payback to the donors.

     Some 70 percent of retirees said contributing time and money makes them feel as though they are making a difference in other people's lives, which in turn makes them feel like they have a greater purpose in their own lives. Those surveyed also signaled that being generous provides a significant source of happiness -- more so, for example, than spending money on themselves.

     Retirees who are active in charities also have a stronger sense of purpose and higher self-esteem. They have lower rates of depression as well as lower blood pressure and lower mortality rates. So . . . it seems that those who lend the hand get just as much support as those who accept the hand.


rosaria williams said...

It's a wonderful world,isn't it? Yes, I can believe these stats, as my little community supports both young and old in their pursuit of happiness. In my case, I am still on the local school board, now for over a decade, serve on the county health board, on library friends' outreach, etc. We have the time, and the energy to want to make a difference. When our money is needed, by our extended families or friends, we don't hesitate either.

DJan said...

Thanks for the statistics and the encouragement to keep on volunteering and giving to charitable organizations. It does make me feel good to contribute to the world around me. Now I know I'm not alone. :-)

#1Nana said...

The reason many of us have comfortable retirements is that in our youth we were thrifty. We worked hard, took care of our family, and saved a little here and there. We tried not to carry debt and retired debt free. Paying off our mortgage early allowed us to save money for retirement...and now allows us to live within our means because we have little overhead. With the need to work gone and our children raised, we have time to focus on things that are important to us. I volunteer. It's a way to make a difference in our community and the payback to me is that it forces me out of my retirement shell. I count my blessings every day that I am retired and able to choose to give.

Kathy @ SMART Living said...

Hi Tom! Volunteering is so very important for us all. I've found plenty of research that proves that it does as much (if not more) for those doing it and those we choose to help. I've been helping with mentoring teenage girls at one of the local high schools for over three years now and I can attest to it's benefits. And it doesn't have to be a chore either, with so many ways to help there is certain to be one that fits our own interests as well. Don't wait to retire to volunteer, but once you do, I think it is critical! ~Kathy

Linda Myers said...

After I retired I took training to become a mediator. I volunteer at the local Dispute Resolution Center and at small claims court in my county. The skills are transferrable, too; just tonight I provided a listening ear and offered resources to a grandmother in distress.

We are all in this world together. I have the time and the money to be useful. It feels wonderful!

Anonymous said...

That's good to know.

Anonymous said...

I have volunteered for about 25 years against domestivc violence in our community and at a food pantry for the past 7 to 10 years..I have always thought someone somewhere needs help and have done so in honor of my Mother who was an angel on this earth..I worked hard we are not rich people but we give from our hearts all the time, I have noticed the poor in our community step up more than the rich, I gently suggest to rich friends I have known it is BETTER TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE, they come thru for me..How can one feel good about one's life when one in 3 in Oregon starve and one in 5 in Washington starve, it is just unthinkable to know that no matter how hard a person works and works they are still hungry in the greatest country in all of this world, both my parents came to this country and became American citizens immediately and got jobs and spoke English and it is ingrained into my heart and soul to try to help people who come here and become American Citizens to be able to have food and to be free of domestic violence, it is something I have always always done..If others want to be great citizens then help others out, it is bitter cold in the pacific northwest now and it doesn't make for working well on an empty tummy or a black and blue eye and body!