Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Penny for the Pushka

When I first began to receive a salary, I decided to whip out my newly acquired checkbook and send money in to various tzedakah organizations. 

A few days later, my refund check from the government arrived in the mail, for the approximate amount of my donations. I decided to view that seeming coincidence as a divine boost. 
Judaism possesses that inherent understanding that it is impossible to become impoverished through giving charity. That's why I found Andrew C. Brooks article, "Why Fund-Raising is Fun," to be quite entertaining:
In 2003, while working on a book about charitable giving, I stumbled across a strange pattern in my data. Paradoxically, I was finding that donors ended up with more income after making their gifts. This was more than correlation; I found solid evidence that giving stimulated prosperity.
It is quite understandable that giving charity makes one strut one's stuff . . .
In one typical study, researchers from Harvard and the University of British Columbia confirmed that, in terms of quantifying “happiness,” spending money on oneself barely moves the needle, but spending on others causes a significant increase.
Why? Charitable giving improves what psychologists call “self-efficacy,” one’s belief that one is capable of handling a situation and bringing about a desired outcome. When people give their time or money to a cause they believe in, they become problem solvers. Problem solvers are happier than bystanders and victims of circumstance.
If charity raises well-being, there is no obvious reason it would not also indirectly stimulate material prosperity as people improve their lives.
Yes, but how

I read through the the article more than once, but while he explains quite clearly the psychological benefits to generosity, he still doesn't explain how one can gains a higher income from a charitable disposition. Meaning to life, of course, but how exactly does more money come gushing in?    

We frummies may have an opinion on the matter. 


Daniel Saunders said...

Judaism possesses that inherent understanding that it is impossible to become impoverished through giving charity

This is not entirely true. There is a point at which one should not give tzedaka (if one would need to receive tzedaka as a result) and there is a maximum donation of 20% of income (except for the very rich), again to prevent the impoverishment of the over-enthusiastic donor.

I did indeed come across a case (on the internet, so take it with a pinch of salt) of someone who was seriously impoverishing his family by insisting on giving 20% of his income to tzedaka instead of 10% which he really could not afford. As usual, balance is everything.

As for the study, I think Brooks' argument was that one gains problem solving skills and a better outlook by giving which carries over to other areas. This was not particularly clear, though. I would not see such a conclusion as being incompatible with a divine reward: the well-being (etc.) being the divinely-established mechanism by which one receives the reward.

Princess Lea said...

I meant reasonable amounts of charity, not giving away whatever is left over after taxes. I'm sure no one took away from my post that one should chuck bagfuls of cash from low-flying planes.

I don't see how writing a check leads to problem solving skills. It leads to a boost in self-esteem and confidence, maybe. In terms of a set salary, how can giving charity lead to a higher income?

Divine reward, woo!

Daniel Saunders said...

Sorry, I didn't really think you did mean "give all your money away." I was just being unnecessarily pedantic, probably for personal reasons that I won't go into here.

I think Brooks was talking about voluntary work as well as financial donations and I can see how that could lead to problem solving skills, although no more so than a paid job. I thought he was arguing that the increased problem solving skills, confidence etc. translates to greater productivity and higher pay.

Still, as I said, this is reading between the lines and it is very vague.