Might You Look Good Because You Do Good? Yep.
Amid the big downers of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are at least a few silver linings. One is finding the “Touch up my appearance” setting on the Zoom video preferences. Who knew that a little blur could make you look 10 years younger?
It turns out that we nonprofit types may look good for another reason. Generally, research has consistently shown that supporting nonprofit missions can have all kinds of benefits, including increased happiness, confidence, and even physical well-being.
A review of three academic studies revealed that people rate others as more physically attractive if they donate or volunteer for nonprofits, support their friends and even register as organ donors.
In a study of older Americans, seniors who volunteered were considered more attractive than those who did not, even when the people doing the rating were unaware of their volunteerism level.
The same findings held true for American teens. Teenagers who volunteered for nonprofit missions were rated as being more attractive once they became young adults. And those rated as being more attractive as teens were more likely to support nonprofit organizations when they got older.
Finally, in a study of teens in Wisconsin from 1957 to 2011, young people whose yearbook photos were rated as more attractive were more likely to give money to charity as long as 40 years later. And the effect persisted over time in another way — these people were rated as more attractive than nongivers when they reached 72 years of age.
Anyone who has taken an introductory statistics course knows that “correlation doesn’t imply causation.” It may be that those among us who are better looking are more naturally generous. Still, these studies suggest that engaging in prosocial behavior could make people better looking.
Researchers attribute the charity/attractiveness connection to the “halo effect.” This is where people attribute other positive qualities to those whom they find attractive. Attractive people tend to marry spouses who are themselves more attractive and who make more money. Their largess may be due to their higher incomes.
The authors conclude that it is difficult to determine whether prosocial behavior actually makes you more attractive. But the evidence does suggest that increased physical attractiveness may be another benefit of doing good, just as it is for increased confidence and happiness.
So the next time you’re on a Zoom call with your volunteers, donors or fundraisers, and notice that there are a lot of good lookin’ peeps on your screen, it may be because they are actually good-looking, instead of because Zoom touched them up.
Katrina VanHuss and Otis Fulton have written a book, Dollar Dash, on the psychology of peer-to-peer fundraising. Click here to download the first chapter, courtesy of NonProfit PRO!
Katrina VanHuss is the CEO of Turnkey, a U.S.-based strategy and execution firm for nonprofit fundraising campaigns. Katrina has been instilling passion in volunteer fundraisers since 1989 when she founded the company. Turnkey’s clients include most of the top thirty U.S. peer-to-peer campaigns — Susan G. Komen, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the ALS Association, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, as well as some international organizations, like UNICEF.
Otis Fulton is a psychologist who joined Turnkey in 2013 as its consumer behavior expert. He works with clients to apply psychological principles to fundraising. He is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit messaging. He has written campaigns for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The March of Dimes, the USO and dozens of other organizations.
Now as a married couple, Katrina and Otis almost never stop talking about fundraising, volunteerism, and human decision-making – much to the chagrin of most dinner companions.
Katrina and Otis present regularly at clients’ national conferences, as well as at BBCon, NonProfit Pro P2P, Peer to Peer Forum, and others. They write a weekly column for NonProfit PRO and are the co-authors of the 2017 book, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising." They live in Richmond, Virginia, USA.