“Helping others makes us happier… but it matters how we do it.”
– Author of Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn
A few years ago, I wrote a piece titled ‘How to Buy Happiness: Invest in Generosity’. It highlighted the benefits of giving back and how acts of charity can make us feel happier. Recently, I came across Elizabeth Dunn’s book, Happy Money, which outlines her research into ‘that warm glow we feel’ when we express altruistic behaviours. What was interesting to me was her advice on how to significantly increase those positive feelings. Dunn makes the case that it’s not so much the act of giving but the connections we make with those that we give to that makes us happier. The more we share in the experience our giving creates and see the impact our charity makes, the greater our emotional uplift.
In Dunn’s case, she became involved with a project whereby a group of private individuals sponsored a Syrian refuge family. In an excellent Ted Talk, ‘Helping Others Makes Us Happier’, Dunn describes her experience with the Canadian initiative that has resettled more than 40,000 Syrian refugees. Last year, the UK launched a similar programme, ‘Sponsor Refugees’. Their story is remarkable and encouraging for all that no matter how big or seemingly small, every act of kindness and generosity makes us happier.
As financial advisors, philanthropy and giving is often pivotal to the legacy planning that we do with our clients. Progeny works with individuals and families to setup charitable trusts. As a multi-disciplined firm with legal and wealth services, we bring together the expertise required to establish trusts that are uniquely positioned to provide a direct and lasting charitable impact.
A charitable trust or foundation is a legal organisation which can be set up by anyone who has decided to set aside some of their assets or income for charitable causes. As registered charities, trusts may be suitable for those who give regularly to a number of causes, or who want to give a reasonable amount as a one-off gift from time to time, or want to ask others to contribute to the trust’s funds. Setting up your own trust provides a framework for planning your charitable giving in a structured, tax-efficient and thoughtful way.
Charities benefit from a variety of tax reliefs including:
- Exemption from Corporation Tax on profits from trading undertaken in the course of charitable provision (primary purpose trading)
- 80% mandatory and 20% discretionary relief from Business Rates (rate relief)
- Gift Aid relief on donations from individuals
- Stamp Duty Land Tax relief on freehold property and leases acquired for charitable purposes
- VAT relief on some goods and services
Tax reliefs may be subject to change in the future.
Getting More Involved
What I’ve learned is that it’s not necessarily the amount of money or even time that you donate that’s important. What’s important is to choose the right charity – one with which you feel an empathy with the beneficiaries and, even more importantly, one where you can really connect with or relate to the benefits of your giving.
Of course, Progeny supports a number of great causes and we encourage our team to get involved in the local communities across our UK offices.
There are several organisations that can help you find ways to give and volunteer.
Do-it.org and Charity Choice provide a database of UK volunteering opportunities that allow users to search by charity sector and location. You can search more than a million volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location and then apply online.
Join-in runs volunteering projects as a legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Contact them to find out about how to get involved with local sporting and community projects.
Young people can also volunteer either at school or in their own time. 15-17 year olds can take part in National Citizen Service (NCS), while 18-35 year olds can take part in International Citizen Service (ICS).
In Pursuit of Happiness
Of course, what amounts to a feeling of personal happiness and fulfilment is different for everyone. We don’t all have the time or perhaps even the inclination to get heavily involved with a charity. But in many ways, that’s the joy of charitable giving: giving back can be whatever you want it to be, whether that’s donating your time, money or other resources.
And perhaps the most important point is that made by Elizabeth Dunn at the end of her Ted Talk:
“Let’s stop thinking about giving as just this moral obligation and start thinking about is as a source of pleasure.”
In that way, and in whatever shape or form you decide to give back, everyone wins.