Do It Yourself Videos: Want to whistle with your fingers? Fillet a pike?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Do It Yourself Videos

You Tube video how to whistle with your fingersA Note from Dr. Wayne Baker: This week, please welcome back the popular OurValues columnist Terry Gallagher. Thanks, Terry!

After I was able to get my ancient lawnmower running again, thanks to some free advice I picked up watching how-to videos on the web, I could hardly contain myself, bragging to anybody who would listen.

The next day, I was boasting to a mechanic at my local service station; after working on my cars for years, he would be especially surprised to hear that I got a stalled motor running again.

He gave me a funny look, and said the thing happened to him. No, not a clogged carburetor, but a snapping turtle he had caught inadvertently while fishing.

Just as I did, he turned to YouTube, where he found a video of a couple of “good old boys” showing how to clean and cook a turtle. The next day, he was eating turtle soup.

Since then, everyone I’ve run into tells me about learning to tackle a new skill after watching how-to videos on YouTube.

Two different people told me they learned to fillet a Northern pike.

Another friend says he learned how to do the fingers-in-the-mouth whistle.

Last winter, I replaced burned-out bulbs in a 1970s-vintage stereo receiver, and reattached a wheel on my snow-thrower.

All of this user-generated instructional material on the web must have some economic value. At some level, people are saving money, mastering new skills, fixing old things and putting them back into service.

But what’s in it for the people who create this stuff? Is it an ego trip? Or simple generosity?

Have you ever made a video like this? If so, please tell us about it.



SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: You can read more than 100 of Terry Gallagher’s past columns by clicking on this link. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

Doing Good: Why do the poor give more than the rich?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Doing Good

Money falling into a pileNOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: Have you told a friend about Gayle Campbell’s fascinating series about the ways Americans are “doing good”—or, rather, the ways we think we’re doing good? It’s easy to share these columns with the social media icons on this page. Here is her fourth of five parts …

Yesterday, we learned that Americans generally donate around 2% of their discretionary income to charity. The number is a far cry from the 10% often encouraged by charities and religious organizations.

We could point to plenty of reasons for the discrepancy—tight finances and a tough economy would likely top the list. But that doesn’t seem to stop low-income households in the U.S. from giving.

Did you know that low-income households tend to donate a much larger share of their discretionary income than the wealthy?

In 2011, Americans in the top 20% income bracket contributed 1.3 percent of their income to charity, while Americans in the bottom 20% donated 3.2 percent of their income. The Atlantic Magazine calls this “one of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America.”

What gives?

Some experts have speculated that the wealthy are simply less generous, and as wealth increases, compassion, altruism and ethical behavior decrease. What’s more—a study at The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that wealthy individuals who live in affluent areas are less likely to give than those who live in more socioeconomically diverse areas.

Simply put: When the rich don’t see the poor, their inclination to give decreases.

Research by social psychologist Paul Piff, over the last several years, generally supports this argument. Want to hear from Piff? Here’s a 16-minute TED talk by Piff titled “Does Money Make You Mean?”

The percentage of income donated isn’t the only major difference in how the rich and poor are giving. The wealthy tend to direct their donations not to the needs of the poor, but to other causes including cultural institutions or universities (often alma maters.) The poor, on the other hand, tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your experiences!
Are you surprised to hear to hear those with the least are giving the most?
Does increased wealth often lead to decreased compassion?
Why aren’t the rich giving to charities that primarily serve the poor?

Volunteering: Which state leads the volunteer rankings?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Volunteering
CLICK THE MAP to visit the Volunteering America website and learn a lot more about volunteerism in all the 50 states.

CLICK THE MAP to visit the Volunteering America website and learn a lot more about volunteerism in all the 50 states.

Almost 65 million Americans volunteered in 2012, contributing 7.9 billion hours of service valued at $175 billion. But these figures are not evenly distributed across the nation.

Which state leads the volunteer rankings?
Which one comes in dead last?

The Corporation for National & Community Service collects data each year about volunteering across America. Their latest report covers volunteering in 2012; figures for volunteering in 2013 will be out soon (though I don’t expect to see big differences between 2012 and 2013).

Which state tops the rankings? It’s the Beehive State, better known as Utah.

Almost 44% of Utahans volunteer, taking the #1 spot in the rankings. Utah also has the highest volunteer retention rate, the highest Baby Boomer volunteer rate, the highest young adult volunteer rate, the highest college student volunteer rate, the highest veterans volunteer rate, the highest parents volunteer rate, and the highest Millennial and Gen X volunteer rates. The only measures that don’t earn them the top spot are their older adult volunteer rate (these Utahans are #3) and teenage volunteer rates (#7).

Which state comes in last place? Overall, it’s Louisiana, with about 20% of Louisianans volunteering in 2012. The volunteer rates for young adults, Millennials, and teenagers are the lowest in the nation.

South Carolina places last for volunteer retention rates, while Nevada takes last place for rates of volunteerism for older adults, Gen X, and parents. New Jersey takes last place for older adult volunteers. West Virginia takes the bottom spot for veterans who volunteer.

Want to know where your state—or town or city—rank? Click the map to visit Volunteering America’s website.

Are you surprised to know that Utah leads the nation in volunteering?

What do you make of where your state ranks?

Volunteering: Is once enough to increase your happiness?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Volunteering
Four Hands Overlaying

This image of four hands is one of the 100-plus Images of America in our new ‘United America’ online gallery. Click the photo to check it out.

Does volunteering make you happy?

Our everyday experience says it does, and a host of scientific studies concur: volunteering one’s time, energy, and resources increases your sense of well-being and happiness.

But is volunteering once enough? Two or three times? Or, do you have to do it on a regular basis?

An answer can be found in an article that appeared last year in the Journal of Economic Psychology. In it, European economists Martin Binder and Andreas Freytag dug into an enormous amount of data from the British Household Panel Survey. This survey has tracked thousands of adults since 1991.

The economists define volunteering as “any activity in which time is given freely to benefit another person, group, or organization.” What they found is revealing: Volunteering once is not enough. Rather, “regular sustained volunteering increases subjective well-being.”

Even more: Frequent volunteering is not subject to “hedonic adaptation.” This cumbersome phrase means that each person has a certain happiness level to which he or she returns after events that increase or decrease happiness. This doesn’t appear to be the case for volunteering. “On the contrary” write the researchers, “the sustained and frequent volunteering effort seems to be subject to increasing returns in terms of happiness.”

In other words, the more you volunteer and make it a part of your life, the happier you will be over time.

Does volunteering make you happier?

Are you surprised to learn that frequent and sustain volunteering is the secret to well-being and happiness?

Extreme Generosity: What motivates people in your area?

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Extreme Generosity
A Chronicle of Philanthropy interactive map for exploring charitable giving across the US

HOW DOES YOUR PART OF THE U.S. STACK UP ON GIVING? The Chronicle of Philanthropy provides this fascinating interactive map that shows visitors local patterns of contributions. CLICK anywhere on this map, above, to jump to the Chronicle’s interactive site.

This week we’ve examined extreme generosity—over-the-top acts of giving to others. We’ve considered the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellows Fund, anonymous giving, and giving the gift of a kidney to save a stranger’s life. When we consider these acts, the question of motive arises, as astute reader Britt said in a comment.

So, today, we end the week with the question of motive: Why give?

This question haunts philosophers, social scientists, and evolutionary biologists. For some, the answer is simple: self-benefit hides at the bottom of every seemingly selfless and generous act. Wealthy donors who get their names on the institutions they endow get prestige, recognition, and esteem. Anonymous donors don’t get reputational benefits, but as Britt pointed out, the degree of sacrifice also matters. A donation may be enormous in absolute terms, but not large enough to really be felt by a rich donor.

In fact, middle-class Americans are more generous than rich Americans, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “Middle-class Americans give a far bigger share of their discretionary incomes to charities that do the rich.” Rich Americans who live in communities with other rich Americans are the stingiest.

Religion makes a big difference. People who live in deeply religious regions of the country tend to give more to charity. Utah ranks #1 among all states for the percent of discretionary income residents give to charity. Idaho, another state with numerous members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is in the top nine. All the other states in the top nine are in the Deep South.

Of course, many other factors matter. In addition to religion, tax breaks, politics, and even where you live factors in. For example, residents of Red States give a higher percentage of their discretionary income to charity, compared to residents of Blue States. New Hampshire is the Blue state with the lowest percentage.

Is there such a thing as truly selfless giving?

Is self-benefit the motive behind all giving?

Or, are there altruistic reasons?

Extreme Generosity: Does “generosity” mean something deeper?

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Extreme Generosity
Tom Gallagher, at left, selling special newspapers for the Old Newsboys' Goodfellows Fund of Detroit.

Tom Gallagher, at left, selling special newspapers for the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellows Fund of Detroit.

On Monday, I quoted the simple definition of “generosity” used by Notre Dame researchers. But, the researchers also describe, in great detail, the evolution of this term. Centuries ago, the word referred to a gallant notion among the nobility that they should give some gifts. The researchers point out that “generosity” at its best aims at strengthening social and moral bonds throughout a community.

This brings us to OurValues contributing columnist Terry Gallagher, who most recently wrote a series called “The Gift” that went viral to thousands of readers around the world. Terry is a gift-giver himself. Every year, he is active in a century-old Detroit-area program called the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund. Each year, community leaders sell a special edition of a local newspaper and give the collected funds to provide Christmas presents for poor children. The Goodfellows also solicit donations through their circles of friends.

Terry doesn’t even use the word “generosity” to describe his own efforts with the group. Terry’s father, Tom, was a Goodfellow before him and Terry inherited his father’s private list of friends (donors, in this case) who he still contacts each year. Terry says he “works the list” for donations to honor his father, to support the Detroit community and because he wants to keep alive the relationships with these donors.

“My experience with the Goodfellows is not really spurred by a generous impulse,” Terry says. “In part, I do it to push off some of the off-putting parts of Christmas, in my mind, that is, all the commercial stuff. With this, if someone wants to give me a gift, I can tell them what I really want is for them to kick in for the Goodfellows. I’ve already got enough stuff.

“Now, my father’s been dead since 1997, but I still have a few dozen of his supporters on my list, and they know that I follow the same tradition: handwritten addresses, in green ink, SASE enclosed, a funny little card, holiday stamps. And as his cronies have died, I’ve worked to replace them.

“I told his regulars that the old man died but they still were on The List,” Terry says. “Got a lot of tear-stained checks in the mail.”

Hearing Terry’s explanation of his custom, it sure sounds like an earlier definition of generosity that the Notre Dame researchers apparently are trying to revive: Giving to strengthen the bonds within a community.

What do you think?

Do you like the word “generosity”?

What does it mean to you?

Helping Veterans: Would you build a home for an injured vet?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Helping Veterans
Click the photo to visit the Homes for Our Troops website.

Click the photo to visit the Homes for Our Troops website.

Veterans Day was Monday this week, and each day we’ve highlighted a few of the many ways that fellow Americans, companies, and organizations have stepped up to help our nation’s veterans. Today, we consider a nonprofit organization that builds new homes for severely injured veterans and their families. Would you donate to the cause?

One way that many Americans could help our vets is to donate their frequent flyer miles or hotel points to unite veterans receiving medical treatment with their families. Many celebrities have used their fame to raise funds for vets. Companies like Starbucks have made commitments to hire vets, and there’s a free online service that lists military-friendly companies, schools, franchises, and cities.

Homes for Our Troops “provides newly constructed, specially-adapted homes designed for maximum freedom of movement and the ability to live more independently at no cost to the Veterans we serve.” To date, the organization has raised funds, materials, and organized the construction of 146 homes. Another 31 homes are in progress. Only 9.6% the organization’s revenue has gone to overhead. And, each home is given free, without cost or a mortgage, to a severely injured vet and his or her family.

Charity Navigator, a charity watchdog organization, has reviewed the program’s finances and given Homes for Our Troops its highest rating of 4 stars. The program has corporate partners, such as Armstrong (floor and ceiling products), Kohler (kitchen and bathroom fixtures), Whirlpool, and others.

Is Homes for Our Troops the kind of cause you could support? You can donate online. But you can get involved by organizing a fundraiser or volunteering in many important support roles.

Are we doing enough to support our veterans?

Are you involved?

Is it the government’s responsibility to care for the nation’s vets?

Got a friend who’s a veteran? Please share this series with him or her. Use the blue “f” Facebook buttons or the small envelope-shaped email buttons.