Positive psychology and the expanding umbrella of our social impact culture


Today’s social impact culture mindset has infiltrated every business, nonprofit, and financial institution in America. The boundaries of our personal and professional lives are blurred across a wide range of social impact behaviors.

With the rapid rise of social consciousness, philanthropy is expanding to cover far more territory than just one or two ways to do good. Consider the full footprint of social impact lifestyle factors that make up the contemporary marketplace mindset: Giving to charities, volunteering in the community, serving on boards, donating necessities to people in need, recycling, purchasing products that support a cause, marketing a favorite organization, celebrating at fundraising events, sharing with friends and family, and caring about your own well-being.

Wait. Caring about your own well-being is a social impact behavior? Yes. This was the big breakthrough in our research because of its broad implications across today’s marketplace. For leaders of high growth organizations, whether for-profit or nonprofit, a rising social impact culture that includes a focus on well-being means it’s time to seek new, effective strategies for engaging the hearts and minds of the people we are counting on to work in productive teams, meet goals, and achieve success for everyone.

At the root of this phenomenon is the connection between positive psychology and philanthropy. Over the course of five years of research, our team observed that people are becoming more interested in pursuing philanthropy through social impact activities that made them feel good as well as making a difference in others’ lives. Interestingly, though, our team found that the intersection between the disciplines of philanthropy and psychology was largely unexplored. So we rolled up our sleeves and checked it out (with a lot of help from our teammate with a PhD in psychology!)

After conducting hundreds of interviews and surveys, writing two books, and completing seven deep dives into the academic literature, our team is convinced about the connection between psychology and philanthropy is real. Philanthropy—celebrating what it is to be human—starts with you and discovering the mix of social impact activities you enjoy.

Caring about well-being is important to philanthropy because humans are much better equipped to help others when they are also taking care of themselves. It’s that simple. What is caring exactly? Whatever makes you feel good. Daily yoga might be something you are committed to doing to take care of yourself. Exercising, eating nutritiously, expressing gratitude, spending time with people you enjoy, acknowledging your self-worth, and taking time for self-expression through journaling or interacting with others are also examples of caring. Does that cup of coffee first thing in the morning start your day off right? Or do you look forward to your walk to the mailbox when you get home each afternoon? That counts. Caring means whatever activities you believe are important for your overall well-being. These, in turn, prepare you to help others improve their lives, too.

If you’re a savvy business leader, you made the connection long ago that happy, healthy employees are critical to the success of any enterprise. But have you connected the dots between workplace productivity and today’s social impact culture mindset? Don’t wait for a rainy day to think about it!