fbpx Caution: Being Charitable May Cause Side Effects
Authored by Bobbi Kochevar on December 17, 2020

I was watching a popular game show recently where the question posed to contestants was “Name the average dollar amount donated to charity on an annual basis.” I was shocked to learn the #1 answer was zero!

It’s that time of year where there is a great push for charitable donations. This year, unlike any other, the need is even greater. The reality is that charitable giving is down all around. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, nonprofits reported a 6% decrease in charitable giving—and that was before the height of the pandemic. Kenneth Hodder, national commander of the Salvation Army, predicts their red kettles will bring in 50% less than last year. 

While some utilize end-of-year giving for tax relief purposes, many of us feel moved to give back in some capacity—no matter how small. The pandemic has motivated people to seek out a greater purpose and find meaning amidst what many would call a feeling of helplessness. I’ve noticed that the simple task of walking my dog has yielded smiles and waves from nearly every car that passes. It’s as if everyone is looking for a way to connect and convey “we’re in this together and it’s going to be alright.” 

There are numerous stories of regular people performing random acts of kindness on a day-to-day basis.  The majority of these efforts do not make the news, but recently, a beautiful phenomenon in my area did. You may have heard of the “drive through difference” – it’s the generous act of paying for the person’s food behind you while in the drive thru. 

Earlier this month, a chain reaction occurred when one individual decided to pay for the person’s food behind them. The next person in line decided to do the same, and so began an incredible continuous act of charity that spanned three days and involved over 900 cars. As customer’s learned what was happening, some were coming through the drive thru just to be part of the movement. Can you imagine the amount of joy and goodwill that was shared? 

It’s small gifts like this that can make a tremendous impact, especially in a year when so many people are struggling. Charitable giving shouldn’t feel like a chore or burden, but at its core, inspire you to simply improve someone’s day. And beyond improving someone else’s day, the residual effects of giving can improve your own mindset, bringing feelings of happiness, warmth, and excitement. Feelings we all need this year! Giving resources and/or time – albeit volunteering may be limited this year – can create what’s called the “helper’s high,” a euphoric feeling that comes from the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain. And research shows that these feelings help boost self-esteem, reduce stress and feelings of depression, and can even lead to physical health benefits like lower blood pressure. So, charitable giving is not only good for the receiver, but also benefits your heart, brain, and overall well-being! I don’t know about you, but that seems worth it to me!

If you can give this holiday season, whether it’s to a nonprofit or an act of kindness for your neighbor, do so knowing that you may be causing a chain reaction. And make sure to enjoy the good feels – a little extra effort this season can go a long way. It is true that in the act of being charitable, one always receives far more than one gives. Pass it on!

This blog article was contributed by Bobbi Kochevar, Chief Officer of Child and Family Services for Nexus Family Healing.

Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health servicesfoster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.