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What Motivates People To Give During The Holidays?

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The charitable giving season is in full swing and people are opening up their wallets more so than in years past.

Giving Tuesday, a social media campaign that encouraged people to give after Cyber Monday, generated $45.7 million this year, according to a preliminary estimate by the Case Foundation, a group that works to use technology to engage people to give back. The number was almost a 240 percent increase compared to two years ago.

But what motivates donors to give?

A San Diego psychologist said some people give during the holidays for emotional reasons.

James Weyant, a professor of psychology at the University of San Diego, told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday that people aren’t making “rational decisions” when making donations to charities.

“It's an emotional kind of a thing,” Weyant said. “I think a lot of the motivation is empathy. If you can really understand the other person and feel the more positive reaction then you're more likely to give.”

Weyant recommended asking yourself two questions before making a donation: What kind of problems do you want to solve? And, what affects you more?

He used a panhandler as an example of when someone may give based on emotions.

“If you're walking down the street and a panhandler is asking you for money, it's kind of hard to say no,” Weyant said. “There's that kind of emotional thing like, here's this person in front of me. When people feel guilty about something, one of the things they do about it is be more generous.”

Weyant said donors also enjoy the positive image that can come with giving.

“Getting your name on a list of donors means something to people," he said.

Acknowledging donations in a public way could be the reason why Giving Tuesday was successful, he said.

“People are much more likely to give in a public circumstance than a private one,” Weyant said.


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