Skip to main content

B Generous Blog

woman being licked by a dog with B Generous logo attached to collar

Acts of Kindness – Selfish or Selfless?

Is making a charitable donation a selfish or selfless act?
While the answer might seem obvious, this question has been debated for years by philosophers, ethicists, scientific researchers and even Phoebe and Joey in season 5 (episode 4) of Friends.

So, if you make a nonprofit donation through an online fundraising platform or directly on a nonprofit donation website, are you being selfless because you care about the cause — or selfish because it makes you feel good to give to charity?

It turns out that the human species is hardwired for something called instant gratification. With deepest apologies to the academics who discovered and researched this concept, we can reduce it simplistically to the idea that people prefer immediate, rather than delayed pleasure. We all want “stuff”— and we want it now!

The details of that “stuff” and how it makes us feel depends on the individual. That “stuff” does not always have to be a physical or tangible product. That feeling of pleasure or satisfaction might be triggered by an achievement at school, or work or socially, by reaching a sporting or athletic goal, by the success of a team that you support, by public recognition or a variety of other factors. However, perhaps the most common trigger is the purchase of something we want.

This last reason has spawned whole industries allowing you the satisfaction of buying something you need, or more likely want, immediately rather than waiting. From mortgages to credit cards to the more modern Buy Now Pay Later products, these tools enable many of us to enjoy instant gratification from our transactions.

And now, in the interest of giving back and helping others, these tools have been reimagined in the nonprofit sector! Courtesy of a modern donation tool called Donate Now, Pay Later or Give Now, Pay Later from B Generous, donors can now donate money to charity and have the charity receive the donation right away, while the donors have the option to split their payments for the donation over 3 to 9 months with zero additional cost to the donor.

Returning to our selfish/selfless question, does it seem like Donating Now and Paying Later can be a selfless act? The good news is that it is not entirely selfless!

Wait? How is that good news? Let’s circle back to that in a minute.

First, how do we know that giving to charity through an online donation or fundraising platforms or crowdfunding sites makes us feel good?

The answer lies in research. There have been dozens of well designed, peer-reviewed studies that show giving to others makes us feel better about ourselves. These studies have ranged from self-reported answers and interviews, to full lab tests where researchers have used functional MRI brain scans to identify the sensation known as ‘helper’s high’. This helper’s high is produced when your brain releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals of the brain. It turns out that when you do something good for someone else, your brain’s pleasure centers light up, releasing endorphins and producing this high.

Bottom line, doing good, donating now and paying later, volunteering, fundraising and completing your year-end giving are all good for nonprofits, and good for you too.

So, although these might not be selfless acts, they create a beautiful circle where everyone wins. You give with tools like Donate Now Pay Later from B Generous, and maybe give a little more and increase your online giving. Your mission receives more funds upfront to put to immediate use for their cause. And as a bonus you feel good about helping others. That’s a win, win, win!

So please continue to B Generous. Please share on social media and be sure to tag us! We would love to hear stories of how helping made you feel better.