Practicing Generosity

The practice of generosity can manifest in many ways: compassion, kindness, charity, love and altruism, ultimately, encouraging full, interconnected humanness.

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley released a 2018 white paper surveying research on the nature and benefits of generosity and found that it is a socially beneficial behavior deeply rooted in us, biologically and developmentally.1 By activating the reward pathways in our brains, generosity promotes both individual and collective survival as well as the evolution of generous behavior. Researchers have found that practicing generosity promotes physical and psychological health, greater longevity, increased happiness, higher perceived quality of life and better quality relationships. To summarize, generosity is good for us.


Make it count. One of the hardest parts of practicing smart philanthropy is staying focused. There are many worthy causes, but you will be most impactful when you hone in on the issues you truly care about. When passion and philanthropy align, the act of giving becomes more than a gesture or transaction—it becomes a reflection of who you are and the world you hope to create.2

How can we practice generosity, especially during times of stress? Options include giving time, effort, material goods, money, talents, attention and emotional support.

Here are some concrete actions you might take:

  • Provide emotional support to a loved one, friend or neighbor who is struggling.
  • Purchase and deliver food and household goods to a housebound neighbor.
  • Volunteer your time and talent to an organization that speaks to your passion.
  • Donate money to a meaningful charitable organization providing emergency resources or services.
  • Engage in small acts of kindness toward your co-workers or employees.
  • Offer your spouse and children undivided, respectful attention.
  • Give money to someone facing job loss, illness or other personal hardship.
  • Help someone feel loved and cared for by listening to their views or concerns.
  • Teach a valuable skill to someone who would benefit from your expertise.
  • Purchase something for someone in need when purchasing something for yourself.

Winning Plays to Make the Most of Your Volunteering3

  1. Be results driven. It’s not about spending time; it’s about making a difference.
  2. Be passionate. Don’t volunteer unless you really care about the cause.
  3. Have a collaborative mindset. Work with the nonprofit leadership and your colleagues to multiply your efforts.
  4. Make no excuses. Make a commitment and stick to it. Get the job done.
  5. Be consistent. Great volunteers are always looking for new ways to be helpful.
  6. Add energy. The more you put in, the more you get out.
  7. Give to get. Focus on what you can accomplish rather than what you get back.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

According to a study by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Norton, the act of giving or spending money for the benefit of others is more likely to boost your happiness levels than when you spend for the benefit of yourself.4

Like fear or anxiety, generosity is contagious. By practicing a generous spirit, we influence the social networks we inhabit. One act inspires another to create a world in which everyone can thrive.


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1 Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley, “Awe in nature heals: Evidence from military veterans, at-risk youth, and college students” Dec. 2018.

2 Morgan Stanley. “Philanthropy & Legacy: Making Your Mark.” Playbook: Your Guide to Life & Money, 2021, pp.164.

3 Lindenmayer, Michael. 7 Traits of Amazing Volunteers. Forbes, (2013).

4 Dunn, Elizabeth W., Lara B. Aknin, and Michael I. Norton. "Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness." Science 319, no. 5870 (March 21, 2008): 1687–1688.

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