If the pandemic has taught us one lesson, it is that giving is good for your health, for the community and for your team!
As human beings, generosity is one of our most defining qualities. There are various reasons why people give to others, and they are not necessarily related to demographic backgrounds or personality traits. One easy way to remember them is by the TASTE acronym, developed by the American researchers Konrath and Handy:
- Trust (towards the charitable organisation)
- Altruism (concern for others)
- Social (giving because it matters to someone you care about)
- Taxes and
- Egoism (to feel needed)
Giving to others without expecting anything in return has been praised in society and unanimously recommended by several religions. Mencius, a Chinese philosopher who developed Confucius’ philosophy, wrote: “The gift is in the giving”. The book of Deuteronomy, present in both Judaism and Christianity, states: “Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart”. Hinduism, in the book of Bhagavad Gita, describes that “Giving […] without thought of return, […] is enlightened giving”. Finally, charity is one of the five pillars of Islam, called zakat: a form of purification and service to God. Whether the motivation for giving is related to religion or not, the act itself brings multiple benefits for both the receiver and the donor.
The Scientific Benefits of Giving
“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver” said US writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. Science confirms this finding, as it has proven that giving improves our own lives and the lives of others, through long-term physical and psychological benefits, in four main ways:
- Positive Feelings
When people donate, the part of the brain that controls feelings of reward and pleasure is activated. Researchers at the University of Oregon performed functional MRI scans on a group of donors’ brains and found out that the mesolimbic system, also activated by food and drugs, “lights up”.
- Greater Self-Esteem
Human beings need to feel useful. We fulfil this desire through diverse professional, associative or family activities. Volunteering in organisations or helping loved ones can give a sense of purpose, leading to greater life satisfaction and self-esteem.
- Decreased Risk of Depression
Providing help to someone else helps putting one’s own problems into perspective, by witnessing first-hand that every human being goes through hard times. People who cope with grief after the loss of a spouse and provide practical assistance to others (through money, transportation) recover more quickly from depressive symptoms caused by their grief, according to a study by Stanford University.
- Better Health, Longer Life
Giving has a direct positive impact on physical health by improving both mood and self-esteem. Furthermore, a study by the University of Michigan demonstrated that giving to a spouse and giving to friends and neighbours, through talking, transportation, running errands or housework, were both independently linked with a lower risk of mortality.
The Elements of Impact
While giving is a fairly straight-forward concept for us as individuals, for a group-level initiative to be successful, its strategy must include the following three elements:
- Full management support, clearly communicated to employees;
- The conviction and continued commitment of existing and new employees;
- A tangible, concrete and visible impact on the community.
The REYL Group employed this strategy during the pandemic to launch a matched giving initiative in all its offices, by offering to match the amount given by employees for a charity. This initiative had several benefits: it doubled the impact in the community and allowed everyone to feel more engaged as they invested in causes that matter to them.
Below is an infographic that represents the different charities or initiatives that benefited from it.
When people donate, the part of the brain that controls feelings of reward and pleasure is activated.
To date, the donations collected by the partners and employees as well as the Group’s match giving programme amount to over CHF 55,000. This is a great effort and a resounding success!
Caring Beyond COVID
The pandemic has hit the entire planet, but people have experienced it differently according to the country they are located in, their family situation and the type of work they carry out. A number of incredible initiatives went viral, such as free local food delivery to elder people, evening balcony singing with neighbours or free online classes.
How did REYL employees around the world experience kindness in their community in these challenging times? According to Nicolas Farah, CEO of REYL Dubai: “Here in Dubai, the worst of the lockdown came during the month of Ramadan, which is normally a time of family visits, communal meals and inward reflection. As the disease spread through the poorest segments of society, I was pleasantly surprised by the spirit of giving that our team displayed, especially the local matched giving programme to the Emirates Red Crescent Society, which was a tremendous success.”
Giving Starts at Home
Giving to the outside world is one way to make a difference. Another way is to pay more attention to the people that surround us, day after day. Evelyn Chan, Middle Office Officer in REYL Singapore, notices: “Great teamwork: helping one another during Covid-19. For instance, my fellow colleagues who can report to work in the office helped to take care of my plants. Great management also: our CEO called us up individually to chat with us to see if everyone and their family were coping well. Every employee also received 2 tubs of premium ice cream during one of our weekly zooms to boost up our morale with a virtual party during lockdown.”
Riccardo Moriani, Head of REYL’s Lugano Branch, concludes: “Now more than ever, the fight against COVID encourages solidarity. The virus has hit our region very hard and the cohesion has immediately and spontaneously manifested. I truly realised that even our smallest actions as individuals can have great meaning, helping us connect and move forward in times of crisis. Coronavirus is indeed changing our world, but instead of breaking us apart, it has potential to unite and create a significant change.”
Despite its dire effects and uncertain future, perhaps the pandemic will have one positive lasting effect, after all – it’s teaching us to give.
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