Why do people donate to charity?

Written by steve repsys
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Why do people donate to charity?
Some people choose to donate unwanted items rather than money. (Getty Images)

Charities cover a wide gamut of issues and causes. There are charities for family planning, AIDS, animal protection, the visually impaired, crime prevention, the environment, cancer, human rights, hunger, literacy, senior citizens, veterans, women's rights, and youth. Examples of charities include the Cancer Research UK, the Salvation Army, and Oxfam. There are numerous reasons why people donate to a charitable organisation, from personal reasons to tax incentives.


Many religions advocate that people are supposed to give to charity and that giving is a spiritual requirement. The major religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all emphasise that giving to charity is a main virtue. In many types of Christian worship services, some type of offering is collected for the church or for the poor. Religions also promote tithing, which comes from an ancient word for tenth. Many churches also preach that Christians should give 10% of their pay to their local church.

Feeling good

According to a 2007 study by University of Oregon economics professor William Harbaugh and psychology professor Ulrich Mayr, people donate to charity because it provides them with a good feeling. The study used brain imaging technology on volunteers as they donated money to a food bank. Results showed that the pleasure centres of the brain were activated by the process of giving. Researchers contend that the study supports the idea of a "warm glow" feeling and that people are willing to take action, even if it does not directly benefit them.


According to a recent economic study by behavioural economists Dan Ariely, Anat Bracha, and Stephan Meier, one of the main reasons people give to charity is to enhance their image; people want to be viewed as charitable. The researchers discovered that gifts given anonymously tended to be smaller, but gifts that were publicised were much bigger. Research proved that a main incentive for giving donations is positive personal publicity.

Personal experience

Donors often give to charity due to a personal experience. These are often connected to medical or health issues. People who have cancer or know someone who has cancer often participate in Cancer Research UK activities. Through donating, people are able to contribute to a cause that they have been affected by or can pay tribute to someone close to them who was affected by it.

Tax deductions

Individuals who donate to charity may deduct contributions on their income tax. There are several tips to keep in mind when donating to charity. Contributions must be made to legitimate charity to receive a deduction; contributions to a specific person may not be deducted. Keep careful records of money given through bank records or written communication from the charity, which includes the name of the organisation, the date a contribution was given, and the amount. It's prudent to obtain written confirmation from the charity proving that the donation was contributed and if the charity provided any goods or services in exchange for the donation.

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