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Childhood Giving Makes for Happier, More Generous Adults: Survey

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Children who grow up in families with strong charitable giving traditions are likelier to engage in charitable activities as adults, Fidelity Charitable, an independent public charity, reported Thursday.

In a new study, Fidelity Charitable looked at how giving habits and priorities experienced during childhood affect adult giving, and how giving traditions influence a family’s dynamic, including happiness.

The study was based on a survey conducted by Artemis Strategy Group of 3,000 respondents who gave to charity and itemized deductions on their taxes last year.

The survey found that 45% of respondents who grew up with strong giving traditions reported that they annually donated $5,000 or more to charity, and 89% volunteered an average of eight hours a month.

The research suggested that engaging in philanthropic activities can make people feel happier and closer to family members. Forty-eight percent of those whose backgrounds included strong giving traditions considered themselves a very happy today, compared with 33% who did not grow up with strong giving traditions.

In addition, 81% of the former described their core family as very close, versus 71% of the latter.

“We’ve always known that strategic philanthropy benefits the charities donors support, but this study proves that the impact goes beyond that,” Fidelity Charitable’s president, Pamela Norley, said in a statement. “Giving makes people happier and is a significant contributor to a happier and healthy family, too.”

Norley said people who wanted to reconnect with their loved ones during the holiday season should consider starting a giving tradition in order to foster discussion, and learn from and inspire one another.

Families Talking About Giving

The survey found that more conversations about philanthropy are taking place in families.

Seventy-two percent of respondents described their family’s giving style as both “consultative” — one person received input from the family but made the final decision — and “democratic” — decisions were made together as a family — while 39% of respondents characterized their family’s giving approach as either consultative or democratic.

Although conversations about causes and money can lead to disagreements and conflicting opinions, 60% of those surveyed said they reached a compromise, and 16% even credited disagreement for its positive on their family relationships.

“Philanthropy is a powerful way for families to pass along shared beliefs and values,” Elaine Martyn, managing director of Fidelity Charitable’s private donor group, said in the statement. “It offers a unique way for families to bond, collaborate, spend time together and pass on values of compassion and generosity.”

Fidelity Charitable offered the following tips for starting a giving tradition during the coming holiday season:

  • Share your giving stories and commit to action
  • Create a charity “registry” — items on the wish list of family members’ favorite nonprofits
  • Socialize over completing an at-home service project together
  • Volunteer as a group
  • Choose one or more charities together for your family to support

— Check out Donors May Not Understand How Tax Reform Affects Giving on ThinkAdvisor.


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