Research Notes & Acknowledgements

The material in Do Good, Feel Better was drawn from various research initiatives led by Laura McKnight conducted over the course of several years, often with partners and collaborators, including in particular Ann-Marie Harrington.


Unlocking the secrets in the overlap between philanthropy and psychology produces a useful formula for building positive relationships and personal success, in families and even in the workplace.


Philanthropy is an important part of American culture. Our intention is to inspire more people, companies, and institutions to realize their own visions of doing good through the best possible personal experience. This, we believe, will in turn increase the effectiveness of philanthropy overall.


We’d seen enough in our careers to know that life can be improved by tapping the power of doing good for others and making yourself better at the same time. As we pursued the investigation into positive psychology and philanthropy, we were heavily influenced by research methods that were both academic and empirical. Our team is committed to rigorously staying on top of trends in the marketplace. We figure out what works with real people, one by one. We are as interested in little data as we are in big data because we believe solutions lie at the intersection of the two. We track behavior through media platforms we create for the purpose of observing employee and consumer behavior. We test ideas. We pilot initiatives. We seek new approaches and alternative strategies for improving the way doing good is experienced by the people doing it, especially employees in companies.

Giving to a charity is not the only way to do good. Philanthropy includes a wide range of other activities, including recycling, volunteering, serving on boards, donating canned goods or clothing, attending community events, marketing a favorite nonprofit, sharing with friends and families in need, purchasing brands that support causes, and caring for your own health and wellness.

In Do Good, Feel Better, we will show you how the discoveries in our research can inspire you to celebrate “what it means to be human” and help you develop even more qualities that make life worth living.

An extra special shout out to our editor, Kim Schworm Acosta, whose expertise, collaboration, and insights made this book a whole lot better! Kim has been an editor and writer for 20 years, specializing in health, psychology, parenting, and women’s issues. Her work has appeared in leading national publications including Parents, Brides, Shape, BuzzFeed, Family Circle, Writer’s Digest, and more. Currently, she is a gift books editor at Hallmark Cards, Inc. Find her at

Research Initiatives

Over the course of the research, our team surveyed thousands of people, interviewed hundreds of CEOs and executives, and thoroughly studied the existing literature. We pursued our inquiry through a series of initiatives, including:


Launched in Kansas City in 2015, the Social Impact Benchmark began as a resource for communities across the country. The Social Impact Benchmark operated as a member-driven initiative offering research-based collaboration and educational opportunities for leaders and professionals who embrace best practices for employee engagement and brand enhancement through social impact activities. Interested persons may wish to visit to view the research and publications.

Social Impact Benchmark members included Truss, Bank of Kansas City, Core Catalysts, BalancePoint Corporation, McCormick Distilling Co., Acendas, Spencer Fane Britt & Browne, Jay Mulligan, Certified Financial Planner, Perceptive Software/Lexmark, Mulberry South, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, RubinBrown LLP, Worcester Investments, Forte, Humana, Ceva Animal Health, Bank of Blue Valley, Veracity Consulting, Henderson Engineers, BNIM, Wireless Lifestyle, ECCO Select, EFL Associates/CBIZ Inc., Two West Advisors, Spring Venture Group, Balance Innovations, Bank of Prairie Village, Missouri Bank, Mainstreet Credit Union, Sunlighten, PGAV Architects, The Miller Group, JE Dunn Construction Company, One Celebrated, Kimberly A. Jones, Attorney, Tyson Foods, Inc., BNSF Railway, Delta Dental of Kansas, CI Squared, First Internet Bank, Cerner, Two West, Inc. Marketing & Communications, Healthcare Services Group, Inc., McCormick & Company, Inc., W. P. Carey Inc., Harper Strategy.


Presented by Kansas City-based Two West, the 2016 Institute for the Social Sector was built on the principle that the social sector is a powerful catalyst for economic and community success. The Institute offered opportunities for philanthropic, academic, nonprofit, government, civic and health care institutions to join together to learn from each other and inspire leadership for positive change. Many thanks to the leadership of Dr. Pat Long, Mary Larson Diaz, and Jackie Kindred in launching the Institute initiative and contributing significantly to its success.


Diary of a Good Girl was the name of a research-based lifestyle media platform, administered by Mulberry South, LLC, designed to test content and activities related to celebrating good in a household setting. The website operated from 2011  - 2014 as part of a research study to collect data about consumer trends in philanthropy and social impact. Bolstered by the 2012 publication of a self-improvement book, Cereal for Dinner, Cake for Dessert, Diary of a Good Girl tested strategies to create consumer loyalty through authentic social impact engagement. Allie Flaspohler, research specialist, and Susan Monslow, training specialist, deserves a special shout out for her dedication and commitment during the early and admittedly messy days of the consumer research.   


Eat Cake Do Good was a 2012 market research campaign designed to test the connection between "celebrating good" and achieving success, both at home and in the workplace. The study connected the dots between traditional notions of philanthropy and principles of positive psychology. The Eat Cake Do Good campaign included a series of employer-sponsored workshops for employees to learn the basics of philanthropy, charitable giving, social impact lifestyle, corporate citizenship and community engagement as pillars of personal and professional growth. The campaign featured whimsical cakes--both in print and in edible form--as a metaphor for celebrating philanthropy in the ways that mean the most to the people doing the good. The research indicated that making a positive difference in the lives of others is one of the best ways to make a positive difference in your own life, too. (Note: We still love cake.)


From 2011 to 2015, the Live with Rink and Laura radio show aired every Tuesday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. on 1660 AM, KMBZ’s Business Channel in Kansas City. The show featured co-hosts Ryan Rink and Laura Wells McKnight, together with live guests who shared their personal experiences with the companies they lead, including celebrating achievements, telling the stories behind how they got there and forecasting goals for the future. Each show’s guest was unique, but all of the guests shared a common talent for leading the most innovative and successful companies in the Kansas City region, building strong businesses, and doing good in their companies and in the community. You can still listen to the shows at


Our research for Do Good, Feel Better was substantially aided by Dr. Caroline Hexdall, a licensed psychologist in North Carolina. Dr. Hexdall is the founder of the Center for Mindful Development, PLLC, at The Center is dedicated to providing psychological services and mindfulness education to all children, adolescents and families. Dr. Hexdall is also pursuing research at the unexplored intersection between the disciplines of positive psychology and philanthropy. Her current areas of study focus on how the combined dynamic of psychology and philanthropy plays out in families to promote healthy relationships. Dr. Hexdall is also involved in building innovative, research-based tools to celebrate philanthropy in the workplace to build a positive employee culture, which ultimately positively impacts families. Dr. Hexdall is an avid photographer. “For me,” says Dr. Hexdall, “photography is a visual expression of mindfulness. Taking a photograph means you see the gift of the moment before you, just as it is, without changing it. Photography is a way of honoring each moment for its joyful simplicity. When you stop to recognize the gifts in front of you, you really do see they are abundant.”


Numerous books have been written with advice for donors on how to be high-impact social entrepreneurs and, therefore, more effective philanthropists. We found the following to be particularly helpful in our research:

  • How to Change the World, Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, David Bornstein, Oxford University Press (2004)

  • Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World, Leslie Crutchfield, John Kania, Mark Kramer (2011)

  • Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen’s (2011)

  • Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy, Paul Brest, Hal Harvey (2008)

  • Give Smart: Philanthropy that Gets Results, Thomas J. Tierney, Joel L. Fleishman (2011)

  • The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan, Charles Bronfman, Jeffrey Solomon (2010)

  • Reinventing Philanthropy: A Framework for More Effective Giving, Eric Friedman (2013)

  • Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan and Leaving a Legacy, Tracy Gary, Kim Klein, Suze Orman (2008)



  1. The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
  2. Giving USA 2015
  3. The Foundation Center
  4. Center on Wealth and Philanthropy
  5. The 2010 Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
  6. The 2014 Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
  7. The Chronicle of Philanthropy
  8. Congressional Research Service
  9. The Urban Institute, National Center for Charitable Statistics
  10. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  11. Independent Sector
  12. The Urban Institute
  13. The Corporation for National and Community Service
  14. National Philanthropic Trust - Donor Advised Fund Market Report 2014
  15. The Urban Institute, National Center for Charitable Statistics, US Non Profit Sector
  16. Internal Revenue Service - Statistics of Income Tax Statistics: Split-Interest Tax Statistics
  17. The Charitable Giving Report, derived from The Blackbaud Index


Finally, this book draws heavily from other scholars’ research, including the sources cited below. The author is grateful for the extensive written works, conversations and practical application of the many people involved in providing the inspiration for this book.

  1. Whillans, Ashley V., et al.. “Is spending money on others good for your heart?” 2016.  Accessed Oct 2016.  

  2. Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015 Jun 2016.  Accessed Oct 2016

  3. Okasha, Samir, "Biological Altruism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Accessed Oct 2016

  4. Prince, R A., File, K. M., & Gillespie, J. E.; “Philanthropic styles: A benefit segmentation of major donors.” Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 3 (3),255-268 (1993)

  5. Rytting, Marvin; Ware, Roger; Prince, Russ; File, Karen; Yokomoto, Charles; “Psychological Type and Philanthropic Styles”; Journal of Psychological Type, Vol. 30, 1994

  6. Tonin, Mirco, Vlassopoulos. Michael “Corporate Philanthropy and Productivity: Evidence from an Online Real Effort Experiment.” Management Science, 2014; 141223041315002 DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2014.1985

  7. Money for Good Study I (2010):  Assessed Jun 2014

  8. Money for Good Study II (2011):  Assessed Jun 2014

  9. Money for Good Study (2015)  Assessed Oct 2016

  10. The Nonprofit Marketplace: Bridging the Information Gap in Philanthropy (2008):  Assessed Jun 2014.

  11. Guidestar:  Assessed Oct 2016

  12. DonorEdge:  Assessed Oct 2016

  13. Charity Navigator:  Assessed Oct 2016

  14. Charity Navigator: Where We Are Headed:  Assessed Oct 2016

  15. Charity Navigator: Introducing Results Reporting:  Assessed Oct 2016.

  16. American Institute of Philanthropy- CharityWatch:  Assessed Oct 2016

  17. Great Nonprofits:  Assessed Oct 2016

  18. Center for Effective Philanthropy:  Assessed Oct 2016.

  19. U. of Penn.Center for High Impact Philanthropy:  Assessed Oct 2016

  20. The Bridgespan Group:  Assessed Oct 2016

  21. Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen Foundation:  Assessed Oct 2016.

  22. National Center for Family Philanthropy:  Assessed Oct 2016

  23. Markets for Good:  Assessed Oct 2016

  24. Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy:  Assessed Oct 2016

  25. FSG:  Assessed Oct 2016.

  26. CF Insights:  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  27. Schervish, Paul G. and Havens, John J. "The New Physics of Philanthropy: The Supply-Side Vectors of Charitable Giving. Part 1: The Material Side of the Supply Side." The Case Intern. J. of Ed. Advancement, vol 2, no. 2 Nov. 2001.

  28. Boston College: Center on Wealth and Philanthropy: (includes links to numerous articles.)  Assessed Oct 2016.

  29. Schervish, Paul G. "The Material Horizons of Philanthropy: New Directions for Money and Motives."  In New Directions in Philanthropic Fundraising. Understanding the Needs of Donors: The Supply-Side of Charitable Giving. Ed. by Eugene R. Tempel and Dwight F. Burlingame. Number 29, Fall 2000, pp. 5-16.

  30. Tempel, Eugene R. (Ed), Burlingame, Dwight F. (Ed)  Understanding the Needs of Donors: The Supply Side of Charitable Giving: New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising, Number 29 (J-B PF Single Issue Philanthropic Fundraising) [Paperback] Fall 2000.

  31. Tempel, Eugene R., (ed.), Understanding Donor Dynamics: The Organizational Side of Charitable Giving: New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising, No 32, Summer 2001.

  32. Greater Good Science Center, University of Calif at Berkeley:  Assessed Oct 2016.

  33. Anik, Lalin, et al, Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior, Harvard Business School Working Paper (2009)  Assessed Oct 2016.

  34. Dunn, Elizabeth, et, al., Prosocial Spending and Happiness: Using Money to Benefit Others Pays Off, Marketing Unit, Harvard Business School (2014).

  35. Eric M. Johnson, McKinsey Voices:  Assessed Oct 2016.

  36. Wallace, David, New York Times, Understanding Donor Behavior, Nov 9, 2012.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  37. Blackbaud UK: Psychology of Online Giving:  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  38. Hall, Holly; “Investing in Fundraisers Who Cultivates Big Donors Pays Off”  The Chronicle of Philanthropy.  Feb 5, 2014.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  39. Money for Good Study I (2010) at 23.

  40. Network for Good, The Online Giving Study: A Call to Reinvent Donor Relationships, 2010:  Assessed Oct 2016.

  41. Wang, Cheng, et al., The Roles of Habit, Self-Efficacy, and Satisfaction in Driving Continued Use of Self-Service Technologies: A Longitudinal Study, Journal of Service Research (2013)

  42. Kevin Spacey McTaggert Speech,  Assessed Oct 2016.

  43. Pew Research: Three Technological Revolutions: Broadband, Mobile and Social:  Assessed Oct 2016.

  44. Duggan, Maeve and Smith, Aaron, Pew Research: Social Media Update 2013 (Dec 20, 2013):  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  45. Fox, Susannah, Pew Research: 51% of US Adults Bank Online, (Aug 7, 2013). and  Assessed Oct 2016.

  46. Grovum, Emma and Flandez, Raymund, The Big Boom in Online Giving, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 2013.  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  47. Blackbaud: Charitable Giving Report: How Nonprofit Fundraising Performed in 2013, Presented by Steve MacLaughlin.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  48. Ebrahimi, Rob; How To Build A Trusted Online Financial Services Company, Forbes, May 9, 2013.  Assessed Oct 2016.
  49. Financial Planning Website, 6 Biggest Tech Trends for 2014, Joel Bruckenstein, Dec 1, 2013,  Assessed Oct 2016.
  50. eJewish Philanthropy, Technology Trends for Nonprofits in 2014, by EJP, Jan 9, 2014:  Assessed Oct 2016.
  51. Bernholz, Lucy; Wall St J., How Big Data Will Change the Face of Philanthropy, Lucy Bernholz, 12/15/13Dec 15, 2013.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  52. Bernholz, Lucy; 6 Biggest Tech Trends for 2014; Technology Trends for Nonprofits in 2014, Philanthropy 2173,

  53. Westmoreland, Mary, The Big Technology Trends for Nonprofits in 2014; Jan 2014.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  54. Network for Good, NonProfit Marketing Blog,

  55. Pulizzi, Joe, Content Marketing Institute, Nonprofit Content Marketing Research: Successes and Challenges. Nov 14, 2013:  Assessed Oct 2016.
  56. Blackbaud, npENGAGE Magazine:  Assessed Oct 2016.  
  57. Axelrod, Clair, Clairification Blog.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  58. Assoc of Fundraising Professionals:  Assessed Oct 2016.

  59. Bloomerang Blog:  Assessed Oct 2016.

  60. Nomensa Blog:  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  61. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Facebook Tests Donate Button, a Mixed Blessing for Charities, Raymund Flandez, Dec 20, 2013:  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  62. 1-3 Giving USA Foundation (2011). “Giving USA 2011: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2010.” Retrieved from

  63. “Laws that Encourage the Triple Bottom Line,” Knowledge Leadership, Feb 18, 2011.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  64. Van Straaten, Laura “How the Economic Crisis Changed Us,” Laura van Straaten, Parade, Novr 1, 2009.

  65. Mesch, Debra J., “Women Give 2010,” Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Oct 2010.  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  66. “Giving in Kansas City,” The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Summer 2009.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  67. “25 Most Charitable Cities,” The Daily Beast, December 8, 2010.  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  68. “KC Keeps on Giving,” Aleese Kopf, The Kansas City Star, June 19, 2011, A1.

  69. “Understanding Donor Motivations for Giving,” The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.  Oct 20, 2009.  Assessed Oct 2016

  70.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  71. Kansas City, Missouri Commission on Violent Crime Executive Summary.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  72. “1st Quarter 2011 Homicide Quarterly,” Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, March 31, 2011.

  73. “Narcotics & Vice Quarterly,” Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, 1st Quarter 2011.

  74. “2009 Annual Report,” Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, 2009.  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  75. “Wealth gap between whites, minorities widens,” CBS News, July 26, 2011.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  76. Starke, Debbie; “What Does Charitable Giving Look Like?” Debbie Starke, Giving Better Blog, April 15, 2011.  Assessed OCy 2016.

  77. Tugend, Alina; “Raising Children Who Care in Times That Need It,” Alina Tugend, The New York Times, July 4, 2009.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  78. O’Keefe, Linda Novick, “Social Ethics: A Peek into 2012,” Huffington Post, Jun 4, 2012,  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  79. Whelan, Tensie and Fink, Carly; “The Comprehensive Business Case for Sustainability,” Harvard Business Review. Oct 21, 2016.  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  80. Harvard Business Review, Green Research – Annual Sustainability Executive Survey, 2012.

  81. O’Keefe, Kinda Novick; “Doing Good Is Good for Business — Corporate Social Responsibility in 2015,” Huffington Post.  Feb 12, 2015.  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  82. 2009 Edelman “Goodpurpose” survey of 6,000 consumers aged 18-64 across ten countries. .  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  83. 2006 Millennial Cause Study, Cone Inc. and AMP Insights.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  84. Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, “Giving In Numbers” Study, 2011.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  85. Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, “Giving In Numbers” Study, 2015.  Assessed Oct 2016

  86. America's Charities 2015 Snapshot.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  87. Doing Good is Good for You, UnitedHealth Group 2013 Health and Volunteering Study.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  88. 2013 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  89. Ingram, Richard T., Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards, Second Ed. (BoardSource 2009).  Assessed Oct 2016.  

  90. Mesch, Debra, “The Gender Gap in Charitable Giving,” Wall Street Journal. Feb 1, 2016.  Assessed Oct 2016

  91. Int. J. Nonprofit Volunteer. Sect. Mark. 16: 342–355 (2011) Published online in Wiley Online Library ( DOI: 10.1002/nvsm.432

  92. U.S. Trust Women and Wealth Fact Sheet.  2013.  Assessed Oct 2016.

  93. Where Does Discarded Clothing Go? - The Atlantic (Jul 18, 2014)  Assessed Oct 2016.  
  94. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2014, U.S. Census Bureau; Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014, U.S. Census Bureau

  95. Smith, Ray, A Closet Filled With Regrets: The Clothes Seemed Great in the Store; Why People Regularly Wear Just 20% of Their Wardrobe. Apr 17, 2013.  Assessed Oct 2016.
  96. Business Insider, 2012, How the Girl Scouts built their $700 million cookie empire: Incredible growth story is a model for non-profit and for-profit companies.  Assessed Oct 2016.
  97. Associated Press. Haiti gives conflicting counts for quake deaths. Jan 2010.  Archived at:

  98. Chronicle of Philanthropy. Donations to Aid Haiti Exceed $210-Million, Chronicle Tally Finds. Jan 2010. Archived at:  Assessed Oct 2016.

  99. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Haiti: One year later. Jan 2010. Archived at: Assessed Oct 2016.

  100. Smith, Aaron, “Real Time Charitable Giving.”  Pew Research Center.  Jan 12, 2012.  Assessed Oct 2016.
  101. Schulte, Brigid “Millennials are actually more generous than anybody realizes”. Washington Post Jun 24, 2015.  Assessed Oct 2016.
  102. Joint Committee on Taxation, Present Law and Background Relating to the Federal Tax Treatment of Charitable Contributions (JCX-4-13), Feb 11, 2013.