Charities spend much of their time focusing on the benefits of giving by donors and volunteers to the beneficiaries they serve. Less thought is usually given to the effect that giving has on the giver. This knowledge gap is what The Giving Way to Happiness aims to address.
The book's author, Jenny Santi, who was born in the Philippines and is an adviser to some of the world's wealthiest philanthropists, finds a thousand ways to illustrate her belief that helping others is the route to a happy life. She details numerous academic studies showing that people who volunteer for charities, donate money, set up family foundations or engage in political activism are less stressed and more fulfilled than those who do not; and she supplements these with anecdotes from interviews with high-profile givers such as the actress Goldie Hawn and the Chilean author Isabel Allende.
But the book also acknowledges the difficulties faced by people who spend their lives helping others: it mentions a successful charity professional who said that working at a non-profit caused him to become manic-depressive ("you either feel ecstatic or want to slash your wrists"). It says one of the world's best-known Buddhist monasteries is filled with people who work in the social sector and are suffering from burnout. Here the book turns into a quasi-self-help manual, discussing the four stages of burnout and the nine ways that givers can combat compassion fatigue, when an individual's compassion for others lessens over time.
This book will appeal to charity professionals who are curious about how their own happiness correlates with their chosen profession, to those seeking inspiration from others' generosity and, particularly, to fundraisers keen to draw motivation from the knowledge that, by asking people for money, they are helping them feel good.
The Giving Way to Happiness, Penguin Random House, £15.99 paperback, £22 hardback