Implications for Spouses/Partners

Spouses and romantic partners also have an incredible influence on people’s giving. Since many financial decisions, as well as decisions about collective family time and priorities, are made within these intimate relationships, spouses can sometimes even compensate for a lacking parental influence on giving. George Nettleson, one of our high givers, came from a family of nongivers but married a very generous woman who influenced his giving. However, the reverse can also occur. Linda Chesterfield resented her spouse’s generosity. In these cases, generous spouses might give more if it were not for the spousal friction they experience.

Couples can have conflicts about how much money they give and how to spend their time. But when they are united in their approach to giving, giving becomes simply another household activity to discuss openly and plan together.

Implications for Friends

We found that having giving-supportive friends was consistently important for giving. We were not able to decipher whether people may be more likely to give if their friends give or if giving people are more likely to attract giving-supportive friends. Either way, if one is interested in being a giver or increasing the giving of one’s friends, one should surround oneself with giving friends and support those friends’ giving. Many things compete for Americans’ time, attention, and money, so it is crucial to surround ourselves with giving-oriented people who make it easier to actualize our giving.

Discussions with friends about the value and meaning of giving could make a difference for those who have little exposure to giving. As friends, we can model how to make room for giving in the midst of other obligations.

Implications for Community Members People use their local community context, as well as their friends, to establish giving norms and practice. If they believe others give little and never encounter anything that challenges this belief, they may not reflect on their own low levels of giving. But if they become aware of the giving activities of their neighbors, their expectations for giving may rise. The implication is that if givers set the bar for giving in their community, their neighbors will be encouraged to be more generous in their own giving.

We do not suggest that people walk around bragging about the giving they do; in fact that would likely result in the opposite of the intended effect. Many of our interviewees who discussed being turned off giving offered “showy giving” as the reason. There is a happy medium between silence and boisterous bragging: simply letting others know about local giving activities may help to raise their awareness about the giving context in which they are embedded. We were surprised to learn that many people aren’t aware of the giving opportunities and activities in their local communities. Tanika, for example, was unaware of an opportunity to be involved with her children’s school until a friend invited her to participate. As community members, we can spread the word.

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