Archive for the ‘generosity’ Category

That warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you’re being generous or charitable happens when the brain areas involved in generosity and in happiness synchronise.

No one likes a Scrooge. It’s been shown that generous people make more popular partners, and researchers have also honed in on the brain areas linked to generosity.

But fundamentally, being generous means spending resources – be they time, energy or money – on another person that you could be spending on yourself. According to conventional economic theory, this is very surprising: prioritising others over yourself might leave you with fewer resources.

Now neuroscientists have pinpointed how generosity is linked to happiness on a neural level, in a study in the journal Nature Communications.

In a study of 50 people, half were given the task of thinking about how they’d like to spend 100 Swiss Francs (£80) on themselves over the next four weeks. The other half were told to think about how they’d like to spend it on someone else – for example, a partner, friend or relative. They took a test to measure their subjective level of happiness before and after the experiment.

The people who were told to spend the money on others had a bigger mood boost than the group who had planned more treats for themselves.

Immediately after this test, the participants took part in another one. They were put in an fMRI scanner and their brain activity was measured while they were asked questions about how to distribute money between themselves and someone else they knew.

They were given the chance to accept offers such as giving their chosen person a present of 15 Swiss Francs even if it cost them 20 Francs. The people who had been in the ‘generous’ group in the first experiment tended to be more generous in this activity.

The decisions people made in the experiment weren’t just hypothetical, they had real consequences.

“The people were told that one of those options would be randomly chosen and then realised. So, for example they would have to pay 20 Francs and we would send other person the 15 Francs with a letter explaining why they were receiving it,” study author Soyoung Park of the University of Lübeck, Germany, told IBTimes UK.

The scans revealed the brain areas that were most active during the acts of generosity. The area associated with generosity – the temporo-parietal junction – and an area associated with happiness – the ventral striatum – both lit up particularly strongly during the fMRI scans. In addition, the activity of the two regions synchronised.

People tend not to realise how happy generous giving will make them, the researchers conclude.

“In everyday life, people underestimate the link between generosity and happiness and therefore overlook the benefits of prosocial spending. When asked, they respond that they assume there would be a greater increase in happiness after spending money on themselves and after spending greater amounts of money,” the authors write in the study.

“Our study provides behavioural and neural evidence that supports the link between generosity and happiness. Our results suggest that, for a person to achieve happiness from generous behaviour, the brain regions involved in empathy and social cognition need to overwrite selfish motives in reward-related brain regions. These findings have important implications not only for neuroscience but also for education, politics, economics and health.”

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/warm-glow-you-get-generosity-real-scientific-phenomenon-1629891

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Robert Morin graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1961, and he had a passion for books and movies.

by Mary Jo DiLonardo

Robert Morin spent nearly 50 years working as a librarian on the campus of his alma mater, the University of New Hampshire. Because he was known to live simply, few at the Durham university knew that the long-time employee had amassed a $4 million estate. Morin died in March 2015, but this week the school announced he had left his fortune to the university.

“Bob’s demonstrated commitment to UNH through his philanthropy is tremendously inspiring,” university President Mark Huddleston said in a statement. “His generous gift allows us to address a number of university priorities.”

Morin loved movies, and from 1979 to 1997 he watched more than 22,000 videos. After he satisfied his passion for movies, he turned his attention to books, deciding to read — in chronological order — every book published in the United States from 1930 to 1940 except for children’s books, textbooks and books about cooking and technology. When he died at the age of 77, he had gotten as far as 1938, the year he was born.

According to his obituary, his job at the library was to write short descriptions of DVDs, enter ISBN, or International Standard Book Numbers, for CDs, and to catalog books of sheet music.

Morin’s financial advisor, Edward Mullen, told the New Hampshire Union Leader that his client was able to accumulate so much wealth because he rarely spent money. He drove an older vehicle and ate frozen dinners.

“He never went out,” Mullen said.

In the last year or so of his life, Morin lived in an assisted living facility where he developed a new passion: football. He became an avid fan, watching games on TV, learning the rules of the game along with the names of the players and the teams.

Mullen said Morin chose to give all his savings to his alma mater because he didn’t have any relatives he wanted to leave it to. Morin trusted the university would spend the money wisely for its students.

The only specific request in the donation was $100,000 dedicated to the Dimond Library where Morin worked. The money will “provide scholarships for work-study students, support staff members who continue their studies in library science, and renovate and upgrade one of the library’s multimedia rooms.”

Of the remaining funds, Huddleston said $2.5 million will help launch an expanded and centrally located career center for students and alumni, and $1 million will go toward a video scoreboard at the school’s new football stadium.

http://www.mnn.com/money/personal-finance/stories/librarian-surprises-school-4-million-gift

by David Goldman

As part of a scathing takedown of the debt-purchasing industry, late night comedian John Oliver forgave nearly $15 million of medical debt with a tap of a giant red button on Sunday night.

Oliver called the giveaway the “largest one-time giveaway in television history.” He just about doubled the value of Oprah Winfrey’s famous “You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car!” giveaway to her entire studio audience in 2004.

The stunt followed a long look at debt collectors on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” in which Oliver sharply rebuked debt purchasers for unscrupulous behavior that is limited by hardly any regulatory oversight. (HBO is owned by CNNMoney’s parent company, Time Warner.)

The segment included a hidden camera brought into a Debt Buyers Association conference by “Last Week Tonight” staffers, which showed panelists appearing to scoff at how Americans don’t understand their legal rights about paying their debts.

To further illustrate the lack of regulation and ease at which debt collectors can harass people over money they owe, Oliver said “Last Week Tonight” spent $50 to create its own debt collection agency, based in Mississippi.

“Any idiot can get into it, and I can prove that to you, because I’m an idiot and I started a debt buying company and it was disturbingly easy,” Oliver said.

Oliver named the company “Central Asset Recovery Professionals,” or CARP, “after a bottom-feeding fish.” He appointed himself chairman of the board.

After setting up a bare-bones website, Oliver said CARP was offered a portfolio of nearly $15 million in medical debt for just $60,000. “Last Week Tonight” was able to pay less than half a cent on the dollar for all that debt.

Oliver said CARP could have received a file that included the names, personal addresses and Social Security numbers of nearly 9,000 people who owed the debt it had purchased. He called that fact “absolutely terrifying, because I could legally have CARP take possession of that debt and have employees start calling people turning their lives upside down over medical debt.”

“There would be absolutely nothing wrong with except for the fact that absolutely everything is wrong with that,” Oliver continued. “We need much clearer rules and oversight.”

In the end, Oliver said “Last Week Tonight,” decided to forgive all that debt — not just because “it’s the right thing to do,” but also because it would trump Oprah’s $8 million giveaway.

With the tap of a giant red button, streams of confetti, dramatic music and strobe lights, Oliver transferred the file with the 9,000 debtors’ personal information to RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that forgives medical debt with no tax consequences for the debtor.

“It seems to me the least we can do for debt I cannot f—ing believe we’re allowed to own is to give it away,” Oliver said to close his show. “F— you, Oprah. I am the new queen of daytime talk!”

http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/06/technology/john-oliver-medical-debt/

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

A gift from his employees — a new Tesla — was another big win for Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price, who beat back a lawsuit brought against him by his brother.

As Gravity Payments’ lawsuit saga wound to a close, CEO Dan Price had one more work surprise waiting for him — a brand new car.

A new Tesla to be specific, bought for him by Gravity employees.

Price and Gravity gained fame last year when the young CEO announced to much fanfare a plan to raise pay to $70,000 a year for all employees, after a phase-in period. Price said he would also make $70,000, dropping his salary from more than $1 million annually.

The news was quickly marred by the unearthing of a lawsuit, brought by brother and co-founder Lucas Price, which accused Dan of violating Lucas’ rights as a minority shareholder by paying himself too much and charging personal expenses to a corporate card. The lawsuit was served weeks before Dan Price said he came up with the minimum wage idea.

Price told the New York Times shortly after the announcement that he had listed his house on Airbnb to “make ends meet” as he adjusted to his new salary. Price’s home, which has a pool and three bedrooms, is still listed for $950 per night.

On Thursday, Price posted news of his new Tesla on Facebook, saying “Shocked. Still in disbelief. Never imagined this was possible. Gravity employees saved up and pitched in over the past six months and bought me my dream car.”

The post showed a photo of a poster signed by employees reading “Dan: Thank you for always putting the team before yourself.”

Gravity spokesman Ryan Pirkle said the gift was thought up and organized by Alyssa O’Neal, an employee who he said was one of the “most impacted” by the raise.

Fittingly, the starting price for a Tesla Model S is $70,000.

Pirkle said nearly every one of Gravity’s 135 employees contributed to the gift in some way.

Dan Price successfully contested the lawsuit after a three-week trial during which the brothers each presented evidence that attacked the other’s credibility. A judge ruled July 8 that Dan had not breached the contract in question, a 2008 document signed by the brothers that laid out the ownership structure and responsibilities of the company’s shareholders.

http://www.seattletimes.com/business/technology/gravity-payments-team-gets-ceo-a-gift/

It happened two summers ago, as Joe Robinson was marking down the prices on the pots he was selling at a fine arts festival in Oregon.

“I pick pots up by the rim, flip them upside down, see if the price looks right, maybe cross it out, put something else,” Robinson told The Washington Post on Friday.

Regular, everyday stuff, you know? On that day in 2014, though, he picked up a pot that had an imprint of a fern on it.

He flipped it over.

And as he did, out dropped a $100 bill, upon which a name was written: “Benny.”

“It was a brand-new, crisp $100 bill that had obviously never been in circulation,” Robinson said. “So that mark was pretty obvious on it.”

Robinson figured it was some kind of mistake. Maybe someone dropped it by accident when they were making a purchase earlier in the day.

Because you don’t just find a hundred bucks, right?

But remember that name on the bill? It indicates the money came from a person known simply as Benny — a mysterious philanthropist who has anonymously hidden hundreds of $100 bills over the past few years.

And the people Robinson spoke with after finding the cash knew all about it.

“Everyone had some kind of a story,” Robinson said. “And so I guess it’s his thing to do crisp, brand-new bills.”

“Benny” hides those $100 bills all over the place in Salem, Ore., and the surrounding area, reports have indicated. They have been discovered in the pockets of clothing, in diapers, in baby wipes and in candy, Capi Lynn, a columnist for the Statesman Journal, said in an email.

“As of today, he has given away more than $55,000, and that’s only what has been reported to me,” Lynn said in an email to The Post. “I have a feeling Benny will be at it until his identity is revealed, or he can no longer do it for some reason.”

Lynn’s newspaper, in Salem, Ore., tracks the Benny finds; she gave him the nickname (Get it? As in Benjamin Franklin?), and first wrote about him in 2013 after some Cub Scouts reported finding folded $100 bills.

In the past few years, the newspaper has been able to document all sorts of stories about Benny and his gifts.

There was the girl who found a Benjamin in a pink bank purchased by her mother.

“I shook it, and it popped out of the hole,” the girl said. “My mom thought it was fake, but it was real.”

And the woman who found one with a package of cereal, right when she truly needed it.

“It just made my day,” said the woman, Tammy Tompkins. “I cried happy tears for about an hour and a half.”

The Statesman Journal reported that Tompkins’s husband had been struggling with health issues for some time when she found the money left by Benny.

“I’d just like to tell him — oh, gosh, I’m going to cry — just how much that it touched us, how much we appreciated it,” she told the Statesman Journal. “We’ve been through so much.”

In another instance, Benny’s gift was discovered by an 8-year-old boy who found the cash in a store’s toy bin. The newspaper reported that the boy and a friend who was with him would use the cash to buy toys.

But not for themselves. The plan was to donate the haul to a children’s group. What’s more: Their parents were expected to match Benny’s gift, according to the Statesman Journal.

This is a thing that happens a lot, said Lynn.

Benny, she wrote, has “launched a pay-it-forward spirit in the community.” By her estimation, more than half of those who find his $100 bills end up “paying it forward” — either to a charity of their choice, a cause dear to their heart or just to a person or family needing it.

“The people who need the money are spending it on things like groceries, gas and prescriptions,” Lynn wrote. “Those who pay it forward are spreading the cheer to a variety of local nonprofits and organizations, with food banks, animal-rescue groups and schools the top three pay-it-forward recipients. Benny finders also can be very creative with how they pay it forward. One woman keeps a box of sack lunches in her car to hand out to panhandlers, and she used her Benny to fund her mission for a time.”

Robinson had once hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and remembered one spot in particular, in Oregon.

He thought of what he wanted there during his hike — taco salad, beer, ice cream, cake. So he used the money he found to make that happen for a few lucky people on the trail.

“I just thought it would be cool to do something unexpected that would be super thrilling,” he said.

Robinson hauled slow-cooked pulled pork tacos, sheet cake, ice cream, soda, beer and whiskey out to a campground. “I think I also got some fruits and vegetables,” he said. “Some people actually want healthy food.”

Then, he said, he waited for hikers to happen by.

“It really made a few people’s day,” he said.

About nine hikers came through and benefited from Robinson’s generosity that day. By extension, they benefited from Benny’s, too.

“A lot of agape mouths,” said Robinson, who said the gesture “seemed like a fitting way to make people happy unexpectedly, like Benny did for me.”

When asked about Benny’s anonymity, Robinson said he believes that some people have figured out the mystery. They’ve seen him make the drops, he said — but they’re keeping their mouths shut.

“I think that the people that have found out have probably been touched by his motivations,” Robinson said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, I believe in this, and your secret’s safe with me.’ ”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2016/07/16/benny-the-mystery-philanthropist-hides-100-bills-so-far-hes-given-away-more-than-55000/?tid=hybrid_collaborative_1_na

After a California couple called off their wedding, the bride-to-be’s family decided to turn the $35,000 extravagant event into a feast for the homeless.

The bride’s mother, Kari Duane, said Sunday that rather than cancel the reception, they invited Sacramento’s homeless for a once in a lifetime meal Saturday at the Citizen Hotel, one of the city’s finest venues.

Duane said her 27-year-old daughter called her Monday to tell her she and her fiance had decided not go through with the wedding. Soon after, the family decided to share the nonrefundable event with the less fortunate.

“Even though my husband and I were feeling very sad for our daughter, it was heartwarming to see so many people be there and enjoy a meal,” Duane said.

She said they had already paid for a reception that would have hosted 120 guests. About 90 homeless single people, grandparents and whole families with newborns showed up and enjoyed a meal that included appetizers, salad, gnocchi, salmon, and even tri-tip. Some even dressed up for the occasion.

Erika Craycraft arrived with her husband and five children.

“To lose out on something so important to yourself and then give it to someone else is really giving, really kind,” Craycraft told KCRA-TV.

Part of the wedding price tag includes a nonrefundable honeymoon, so on Sunday mother and daughter set off for Belize.

“I hope that when she looks back at this, she knows she was doing something good with a bad situation,” Duane said.

Price, who heads up the Seattle payment processing firm Gravity Payments that he founded, has pledged to make sure all of his staffers make at least $70,000 annually in the next three years.

To do that he’s cutting his $1 million salary to $70,000, and dipping into the firm’s annual $2 million in profits.

This will double the pay of about 30 of his workers and will mean significant raises for an additional 40.
Price told employees of the new pay policy at a meeting Monday. For several moments there was stunned silence before people broke into applause and high fives said Phillip Akhavan, a merchants relations worker whose $43,000 salary immediately jumped 16% to $50,000.

“It took us a moment to understand what he was saying,” said Akhavan. His first call was to his wife, who he said didn’t believe him at first.

Nydelis Ortiz, a 25-year old underwriter who only started work there in January called her parents with the news. The family had struggled with homelessness after they moved to the states from Puerto Rico when she was a girl, and Ortiz, who also is now paid $50,000 said she now makes more than both her parents combined.

“My mom cried when I told her,” she said. Her $36,000 salary was one of the lowest in the company.

Jason Byrd, 38, had struggled to get by in Seattle on his $40,000 salary as a technician. “This gives us so much freedom to just do our jobs and not have to worry about money,” he said. He said he’ll save some of his extra pay, and try to pay down some of the $42,000 he owes in student loans. “I almost bought a new Jeep today, then I decided I’ll keep driving this one until it dies,” he said.

Price said he’s the majority owner of the privately-held firm, which he started in his college dorm room 11 years ago. His older brother, who gave him seed money to get started, is the only other stockholder.

“My brother Lucas reacted with caution and questions, but not objections,” said Price. He’s single so he didn’t have to explain his pay cut to a spouse.

Price decided to hike his employees pay after he read a study about happiness. It said additional income can make a significant difference in a person’s emotional well being up to the point when they earn $75,000 a year.

He’d also been hearing employees talk about the challenges of finding housing and meeting other expenses on their current salary, and decided there shouldn’t be such a big gap between his pay as CEO and that of his workers. He described the raises as a “moral imperative.”

Price told CNNMoney he isn’t the only CEO looking to close the income gap. He’s heard from almost 100 other CEO via email and text who say they support his move. “I don’t know if we’ll see enough to move the needle, but i think people of my generation are committed to making a change.”

Price said he’ll stick with the reduced paycheck until he can restore Gravity’s profits.

“My goal is to get back to previous profit levels within two to three years,” he said.

Price said the 50 workers who already earn more than $70,000 were nearly as excited about the news as their lower paid co-workers.

“They are happy that the folks that enable them to be high earners — their team members — will be taken care of,” Price said.

Customer reaction has also been positive.

“They love our service level and think the team deserves it,” he said.

One thing he didn’t expect: “We are all surprised at the coverage this is getting,” Price said.

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/31DlLA/uz3Yp3-Y:WMTsH3BV/money.cnn.com/2015/04/14/news/companies/ceo-pay-cuts-pay-increases/index.html