Friday, August 6, 2021

We Live to Give

She ripped open the wrapping paper to find the stuffed pink pony she had wanted for the last three Christmases. That stuffed pink pony stayed in her arms for the rest of the day, and she had trouble letting go of our hugs when our time together was over. But the joy she got from receiving that stuffed pink pony was nothing compared to the joy we all felt for making this little girl so happy.

All of us here at Bergen Volunteers love the time of year when we bring presents to our mentees during our holiday party. Seeing the smile appear on another’s face when we give a gift, provide a service, or do anything in their best interests will undoubtedly reflect back on us. Giving to others makes us happy, far more than receiving things for ourselves does.

In 2018, psychology researchers Samantha Kassirer from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and Ed O'Brien of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business conducted two studies which concluded that the subjects’ happiness declined much less if they continuously offered gifts to others rather than receiving the same gifts themselves.

One of the studies provided 96 college students with $5 each day for five days. They were required to spend it on the same thing either for themselves or another (like a charity donation or contribution to a tip jar), and they would reflect on how they spent their money and how happy they felt following each day. Evidently, self-reported levels of happiness reduced daily in those who spent on themselves, whereas those who spent on someone else were consistently happy over the five days.

We all enjoy being selfless; we naturally start to feel guilty or selfish when we don’t give to others. Sometimes we need to take a step back from our lives to be able to understand how we can help those who have less to be grateful for. This pandemic has certainly made us more aware of how daily tasks and interactions can be taken for granted, and now we see more and more acts of kindness every day. Anything from holding a door for someone to donating half your paycheck to charity can bring cheer to your day. 

We have an easy way for you to give and join in the feelings of happiness: donor-advised funds. When you donate through a donor-advised fund to a public charity, there are many positive tax ramifications. Those funds can often be invested to grow your donation tax-free, or, if you are required to take a Required Minimum Distribution, Bergen Volunteers can be the recipient, with tax benefits for you. By donating to us through a donor-advised fund, you can reap the positive emotional benefits similar to those in Kassirer and O’Brien’s studies. You give a gift and get a gift: we’d call that a win-win.

You can find out more about donor-advised funds at this link, and if you’d like to put yours towards Bergen Volunteers, please contact your financial planner or Bergen Volunteers CEO Nina Bachrach at or 201.489.9454 x201 for more information.

At Bergen Volunteers, our job is to bring joy to our community, whether that’s through our programs and services, friendly conversations, or even giving out boxes of lightbulbs. And we ask you to give back to us so you can get even more happiness out of each day.

Ratner, Paul. "Why Giving Gifts Brings You More Happiness than Receiving Them."

     Big Think, 25 Dec. 2018,

     why-its-better-to-give-gifts-than-to-receive-according-to-science. Accessed

     3 Aug. 2021.

"What Is a Donor-Advised Fund?" Fidelity Charitable, Fidelity Investments

     Charitable Gift Fund,

what-is-a-donor-advised-fund.html?immid=PCD&engine=GOOGLE&campaign=Donor+Advised+Primer&adgroup=Donor+Advised&keyword=Donor+Advised+funds&gclid=Cj0KCQjw3f6HBhDHARIsAD_i3D91sAbP9rocN4fgNRiFz8viZLnR90_l_FjZ9dmlR1LQXkM3Fpk5-hAaAiMGEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.