Why do we donate? Why do we do good deeds at all? Is it really to help others or is it to help ourselves? According to Joey Tribbiani, “There’s no unselfish good deeds.” Yes, I did just quote a double negative by Joey Tribbiani, the character with the catch phrase of “how you doin’?” from the hit 90’s show, Friends. In Season 5 Episode 4, The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS, Joey is excited about working a gig at a telethon to raise money for PBS because it means he gets to be on TV. Phoebe accuses Joey of being selfish in which he replies that no good deed is selfless and proceeds to tell her that all of her good deeds have been selfish because they made her feel good. While Joey isn’t known for being the brightest character of the 10-year series, he might actually make a good point. In fact, there is even science to back it up.
In the Time article, The Selfish Reasons Behind Why We Give, neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitz explores the same question as Joey and Phoebe about true donor motivation. Using the research of psychology graduate student, Alexander Genevsky, Szalavitz explains that people are more likely to donate when the pitch caused high activity in region of their brain linked to positive emotion. In other words, people will donate if it makes them feel good. Sorry, Phoebe, it looks like Joey won this argument.
As for you fundraisers out there, focus your donation pitches on the positive outcomes of charitable aid. If your audience feels good, they’ll usually donate. Is it selfish? Possibly. Does it make the world a happier place? Absolutely.
Watch the Friends storyline here!
About the Author: Rachel Spector is a senior communications studies major at the University of Iowa. She currently serves the University of Iowa Dance Marathon as the Social Media Chair and hopes to work in social media marketing post graduation.