A recent Hilborn eNews piece made the point, rightly, that charitable behaviour correlates with religiosity. I can also add, based on a Canadian study I conducted (with Ipsos, and the subsequent published book on the topic of happiness), that Faith also correlates with happiness, greater self-esteem, lower stress, more friends, better mental health, and a higher claimed quality of life (versus those who are less or not religious). The study showed that 49% of Canadians are barely or not at all religious; and 18% are truly religious.
Naturally, there are many other elements which correlate and/or drive happiness. Interestingly, one of these is being charitable to others! This forms a nice circle: Happiness, Faith and Charity. We should also recognize that one does not need to be religious to be charitable. Many atheists are very charitable. The characteristics which drive such charitable behaviour, as found in the study, hinge on how we have been raised, how we are influenced by mentors in our lives, how we were brought up to think of others, and knowing the social norm for giving. The more we have had these influences in our past, the more charitable we seem to be today. Religion has been a strong influence on these characteristics. However, as we become less religious ( a fact in developed nations), these characteristics are in jeopardy of being lost.
In my mind, this begs an important question: "Outside of religion, are we bringing up our children with the ideal values towards others and being charitable?". There are concerns that the answer is "No. Not as well as in past generations". And this seems to be one of the main reasons we have observed a decline in charitable behaviour in Canada for many decades (despite true gains in real wealth in constant dollars). Our donations in constant dollars (backing out inflation) are declining on a per-person basis, and the incidence of Canadian donors is declining. Had we remained at the same giving levels of our grandparents, the Non-Profit Sector would be receiving over $2 Billion more in donations, each year, from individual Canadian donors.
With declining religiosity and declining giving behaviour, it raises another question in my mind: "What are we going to do about this to help support the many charities in our communities which make Canada so civil?!". Are we going to let the declines in charitable behaviour continue? I do not relish the idea of looking back twenty years from now and having to explain to my grandchildren why we did not do anything to reverse the declines in giving behaviour. We need to explore new ideas and innovative solutions if we hope to avoid the definition of insanity: You know, 'doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different outcome'.
John Hallward is a professional market research consultant, author, and founder/Chairman of GIV3 (a registered charity to help encourage more Canadians to be more giving, including being a host of GivingTuesday in Canada). He is the author of The Happiness Equation.