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Altruistic Giving: Elizabeth Dunn On Boosting Profits With<em> Happy Money</em>
Economics | July 05, 2013

Altruistic Giving: Elizabeth Dunn On Boosting Profits With Happy Money

Is it really better to give than to receive? Warren Buffet thinks so. After all, as Elizabeth Dunn recounts, the billionaire pledged to give 99 percent of his income to charity. He says he "couldn't be happier" about the decision. In a new Harvard Business Review post, Dunn teams up with her Happy Money co-author Mike Norton to analyze why spending money on others makes us happy.

"In a series of experiments," the authors write, "we've found that asking people to spend money on others—from giving to charity to buying gifts for friends and family—reliably makes them happier than spending that same money on themselves." You don't have to be a billionaire like Buffet to cash in on this happy spending trend, either. Spending as little as $5 on someone else can promote the same feeling of content as donating millions. Even in the poorest countries where people struggle to fulfill their basic needs, Dunn's research showed that spending on others made them happier than spending on themselves.

This insight is valuable for both consumers and companies alike. "By maximizing the happiness that employees and customers get from every dollar they receive in bonuses or spend on products," Dunn points out, "companies can increase employee and customer satisfaction—and benefit the bottom line." She gives the example of an amusement park that increased their profit-per-rider ratio fourfold by incorporating charitable donations into the equation. They introduced a pay-what-you-can model for purchasing pictures taken while riding their attractions. What really lured in buyers, however, was their decision to donate half the proceeds of each sale to charity. Their rate of sales jumped from less than one percent to 4.5 percent. Whether you're interested in making happier purchases yourself, or, if you want to cash in on the Happy Money research in your sales pitches, Dunn's keynotes provides you with tips on spending your way to happiness.
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