Thanksgiving and Christmas are both big donation times for charities. Food banks and shelters see a major uptick in those looking to donate their time, and often times have to turn volunteers away because they are simply overstaffed.
But why are people more likely to donate their time, versus their money, to a good cause?
Your Time Donation Isn’t Always The Best
You might think that the best thing you can donate is your own time, but that isn’t always the case. Many times, what organizations need is money. Money for supplies to help the community, money for food to feed people, or money to pay for their physical locations and utility bills associated with that.
Your willingness to spend a Saturday afternoon doing easy labor probably comes from a good place, but it doesn’t always help.
Think about it this way. If you are someone that has a very high hourly wage (Even if you’re salary, you can work it out), donating your time for 3 hours is helpful… but donating what your time is worth (say, $200-300) is much more useful to the charity.
All the offers to volunteer in the world won’t help the charity keep their lights on, or the water running. They have bills just like any other organization and need capital to pay those.
So Why Do People Still Prefer To Donate Time?
A study was done recently that said people prefer to donate time, over money, because they feel good about themselves for a longer period of time. The ‘warm glow’ you feel after doing something good something sticks around longer, so people are more willing to donate their time.
There are other reasons, too. Networking and being seen to help is a big factor in people continuing to donate their time, even though that sounds bad. You might not think you are doing it for the recognition, but if you look closely, you’ll see it certainly doesn’t hurt anything.
People also generally just feel happier working with others who are also happy, and that warm glow from donating will put you in a good mood quickly. This leaves you with an even better feeling after donating your time, making you more likely to do it in the future.
What Can Charities Do About This Information?
The answer is harsh: not a whole lot. You can’t force people to donate money instead of time, and besides making people aware of how their cash is being used and how badly they need it, charities are stuck. Despite what this new research suggests, I don’t think that we will see an uptick in donations of money and a reduction in donations of time.
Some people have suggested that charities replace their volunteers with paid employees, insisting that people donate their money instead. However, this solution isn’t ideal – people feel good donating time, and charities can alienate those that do want to help. It could also prompt people to simply move to another charity to support.
What Can You Do With This Information?
Next time you consider donating your time, ask them what they really need. Maybe it is someone to come and help them on a weekend or in the evenings. But maybe what that charity actually needs is the funds to help keep the doors open.