Personal Connection to Giving May Increase Generosity

Adults and children volunteering at clothing driveAccording to a new study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, people are more likely to give monetary support when they are personally connected to their donations. For example, when a donor attaches a signature to a donation rather than giving anonymously, they may be inclined to give more.

The National Center for Charitable Statistics reports individual donations—not donations from foundations, corporations, or bequests—comprised the largest share of charitable donations in 2014, accounting for 72% of the total. Data shows people with incomes below $100,000 give 3.6% of their annual income to charities. Those with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000 average donations accounting for 2.6% of their income, while people whose incomes exceed $200,000 generally give 3.1%.

Want People to Give More? Personalize Their Contributions

Researchers conducted five small studies with various participants to assess their willingness to give in specific circumstances. Each of the trials suggested people were more likely to give when they felt they were giving of themselves rather than making an impersonal contribution.

In the first trial, investigators explored the attitudes of 100 South Korean students. Each student received a pen. Half learned they could keep the pen at the start of the study, but the other half only learned they were allowed to keep the pen at the end of the study session. At the end of the trial, researchers asked each participant to donate the pen. Those who thought they would get to keep the pen at the beginning of the session reported stronger feelings of generosity and commitment. They also perceived the pen to be more valuable, suggesting people may be more likely to give items they value, especially their own possessions.

In two more trials, researchers assessed the generosity of 80 United States workers who had previously donated blood. Researchers asked participants to imagine donating either blood or money. Those who envisioned themselves donating blood were more likely to report high levels of generosity and a strong commitment to giving. In the second trial, participants were asked to choose the option they considered “easiest,” and researchers noted similar results.

The last two trials—one that followed 100 South Korean students and a second that involved 30 South Korean students—explored how students felt about signing their names to donations and words of encouragement. The study of 100 students found students were more likely to commit to sending words of encouragement to people with disabilities if they could sign their name. Of the study of 30 students, those who signed their name to a petition promising to give in the future felt more generous and committed to the cause than anonymous donors.

Even though the studies were small and only looked at attitudes toward hypothetical giving, the study’s authors say their work points to the value of establishing a personal connection to charitable giving.


  1. Charitable Giving in America: Some facts and figures. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Generosity and commitment to causes improve when giving is personal. (2016, March 23). Retrieved from
  3. Koo, M., & Fishbach, A. (2016). Giving the self: Increasing commitment and generosity through giving something that represents one’s essence. Social Psychological and Personality Science. doi:10.1177/1948550616628607

© Copyright 2016 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • June

    March 29th, 2016 at 11:18 AM

    Is it that you feel more connected or you want the recognition that goes along with giving a gift in your name?

  • Aurora

    March 29th, 2016 at 4:06 PM

    No I think that what it is is when you feel connected to a cause then you know that you are doing something good for someone. It is not about being recognized as the person that gave this, but just how you can know the people that you are helping and feeling good because you know that this is making a sincere difference in their lives. That is important to a lot of us.

  • tate g

    March 29th, 2016 at 5:44 PM

    If you are giving for the right cause… then this really isn’t an issue is it?

  • Ron

    March 30th, 2016 at 4:24 PM

    I am not too sure that we should even be saying that one type of giving is better than another. You know, if you have the kindness and compassion to be be giving something, anything, then who am I to judge which type of giving is best? I agree that sometimes the hardest things are those that wind up making the most impact on us, but sometimes we just want to give a little money and it is easy and it shouldn’t be about making US the givers feel good anyway, but more about just knowing that this is going to help someone esle.

  • babs

    March 31st, 2016 at 12:08 PM

    Incredible story that I will be sure to share with the young people at church. When giving makes a difference in your own life, now that is something very special.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.


* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.