Fundraising, Altruism and The Benefits of Giving

The Cambridge Dictionary defines Fundraising as “the act of collecting or producing money for a particular purpose, especially for a charity” – and these days there are so many ways to raise funds.


According to one expert [2] you need to get “R.E.A.L.” in order to conduct a successful fundraising endeavour:

You need to:

R: Research the kind of cause in which you’d like to become involved. Understand the circumstances around your cause, and why it needs money. Consider how much money you need to raise, and from who you will solicit it (your prospects list).

E: Engage your audience. Know that you need to tell them about your cause. Communication is a two-way street, so it is important to listen and learn about their particular interests, and passions. Establish and build a relationship with them, and ultimately pave the way to the next step:

A: Ask. If you’ve done your research and have engaged your potential donors, you’ll have an advantage when asking for donations. Some fundraisers fail because the volunteers or people involved in the cause are too shy or afraid to simply ask for the donation.

Even when answers seem unfavourable, you need to…

L: Like your (would-be) donors. It’s important not to cross them off the list and forget them. Fundraising is still about relationships. Communicate and update them about what’s happening, and the progress of your fundraising activity. You may still spark an interest, potentially giving you the opportunity to ask again.

Different Fundraising Events

There are so many ways to raise funds, and the one/s you choose will be influenced by how much money you want to raise and how much initial funding you have as a starting point.

You may opt for a letter-writing campaign, send out newsletters, or host dinners and gala shows. Others choose to host concerts or variety shows, house parties, or auctions. If you are fundraising for a school or kids’ sports club, you might consider lamington drives, car washes or discount shopping tours. Walkathons are always popular for children and adults alike. [3]

Advertising and letting people know about your fundraising campaign can be done through social network platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and through blogs and websites. Crowd funding platforms like GoFundraise, Everyday Hero, My Cause, and Pozible are a great way to get people outside your immediate circle to support you.

Fundraising can be hard work and, not surprisingly, those who get involved in it do so with a spirit of altruism, “the unselfish regard for, or devotion to, the welfare of others”. [4]

What are the personal benefits of fundraising?

Volunteering your time to a fundraiser, donating money or collecting resources for a cause is not a one-way street – both the giver and the volunteer also gain benefits from performing acts of kindness.

* Physical Health

It’s good for you!

A study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology noted that people who give social support have lower blood pressures and heart rates. [5] Frequent volunteers have also been found to live longer, and generally avoid behaviours such as living a sedentary lifestyle, drinking, and smoking. [6,7,8]

On the other hand, a study by Dunn and colleagues revealed that being stingy with giving (money) can increase stress hormone (cortisol) levels and gives participants increased negative feelings and even shame. [9]

Elderly volunteers are associated with a more active lifestyle [10], healthier heart and blood vessel system – lower cholesterol and inflammatory markers; and lesser functional limitations in daily living.[11, 12]

In addition, a study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences observed greater brain scan (MRI) activity in the frontolimbic network – an area of the brain responsible for “basic social and motivational mechanisms” in people giving monetary donations. [13]   The researchers concluded that our brain interprets an altruistic donation of great sums of money as a good feeling, a “high” similar in effect to what sex, money, drugs and food does to our brains.

Below is an illustration by Kin and Konrath (2016) providing one explanation of how volunteering affects us physically: [14]

fundraising image

* Social and Mental Health

Social psychology altruism “is a subcategory of helping behaviour”, referring to “behaviour that is meant to benefit another person rather than oneself.” In short, altruism is a “behaviour that benefits another person – sometimes at some costs (to the helper).” This is especially true with fundraising, .

The secret lies in the motivation behind the giving/sharing behaviour. You may give money or volunteer your time and it may be defined as prosocial behaviour but not “true altruism” if your motivation may be secondary to obligation or duty, rewards, or even guilt. Mother Teresa once said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” [15]

Regardless of motivation, an act of social kindness like fundraising for a cause improves the 6 aspects of well-being.

Specifically, people who give/share their time or resources have more happiness, greater satisfaction in life, a boost in self-esteem, a new sense of control, less stress and depression, and overall better physical health.[16]

As Nelson Mandela said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” [17]

Further Reading – References & Resources