Dr. Adrienne Sudbury: Charity’s Impact on Life Satisfaction | Sero Boost #54

In this episode, host Lu Ngo is joined by Adrienne Sudbury who is an assistant Professor of Economics at Longwood University in Virginia

This podcast is meant for people looking to make a bigger difference with charities in a thoughtful, lasting way. Listeners will learn that helping others can truly boost your mood and spirits—but it’s most fulfilling when you find causes close to your heart and play to your strengths.

Meet Dr. Adrienne Sudbury 

Dr. Adrienne Sudbury is an economist who grew up in East Tennessee. She earned her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Tennessee. After graduating, she accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Economics at Longwood University in Virginia. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, and experimental economics.

Dr. Adrienne’s research focuses on Behavioral and Public economics. She is particularly interested in philanthropy, crowdfunding, and economic experiments. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband, two children, and two dogs.

About the episode

In economics, charitable giving is viewed through the lens of utility and making choices that maximize one’s happiness. There are two types of altruism—pure altruism of giving selflessly, and impure altruism where giving also benefits the giver through the “warm glow” feeling of donating.

Dr. Adrienne explains that studies have shown that different donation-asking methods yield different results. Asking for a fixed small donation amount (e.g., $1) attracts more donors but smaller sums, while open-ended asks attract fewer donors but larger sums from those who do donate.

Engaging with a charity that is personally meaningful to you, such as a cause you or your loved ones have benefited from, increases happiness and life satisfaction from donating compared to random donation requests.

In addition Dr. Adrienne mention that, donating money, volunteering time for charities and community groups also increases happiness. Even small acts like donating unused items can help others and provide a sense of fulfillment for the giver.

Here are some suggestions from the podcast on how to engage in charity or philanthropic activities:

  • Donate money: choose a cause that is meaningful to you personally through either experience or strong belief in their mission. Look at what percentage actually goes to the cause vs. overhead costs.
  • Volunteer your time: Local community organizations are accessible places to start like food banks, schools, nursing homes. Offer an hour a week if possible.
  • Participate in fundraising campaigns: These help raise awareness and funds for important causes through activities like walks/runs.
  • Donate unused goods: Declutter items in good condition that others can benefit from rather than throwing out. Give to charities accepting donations.
  • Give experience or advice: Share knowledge and skills through mentoring or community education workshops on topics you’re passionate about.

In conclusion

Kindness pays back in life satisfaction.  But how much joy you get depends on things like how close the cause is to your heart, or if you’re sharing your time or money. Even small acts often can make a big difference in mood.

Small, sustainable charitable habits can be built over time through self-reflection on past kindnesses received and ways to pay them forward. Community-focused charities and activities are accessible starting points for those new to philanthropic engagement. Choosing charities transparently using donations for their cause over marketing/costs increases trust and the likelihood of continued support.

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