Why People Give: Interpreting Altruism

My recently published book analyses the motivations behind philanthropy and discusses the importance of giving, which is particularly important in times like these.

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In times of crisis, we must remember the difference that the act of giving can make. This is the central theme of my recently published book ‘Why People Give’, which I co-authored with my incredible mother, Ratna Vira. 


Why do people really give?

Does giving indicate a kind heart?

Is altruism about feeling good or is there more to it?


These are the questions that motivated us to write the book. While we regularly see displays of altruistic behaviour where the beneficiaries are often complete strangers, we also hear scepticism by those who believe that their charitable behaviour will make no real difference. Through this book, we wanted to understand philanthropy by considering the different personal, philosophical, religious, economic, and societal reasons for giving. The book delves into the motivations that drive philanthropy, shares the indelible stories of real people who have given and those who have been beneficiaries of giving, and conveys the important message that in giving we receive. Why People Give builds a case for altruism and the urgent need for empathy in an increasingly self-centred and materialistic world. Through stories drawn from real life, this book questions, and hopes to change, how we look at the act of giving. It shows that each one of us can bring about a change, if only we have the will. We don’t have to wait for governments or big corporations to act because the power lies within us – we can be the catalysts. This is message is particularly important right now. The times we are facing are difficult, and the challenges unprecedented. The spread of Covid19 has revealed and exacerbated the precariousness of the lives and livelihoods of millions across the globe. Systemic racism continues to show the darkest side of humanity. But the situation is far from hopeless. We as individuals have the power to learn and to make a difference by giving our time and resources to help others. We can choose to lead with empathy and generosity.


Why People Give is one of the first English language books to be written by a mother-daughter duo in India. It is available through Amazon, Waterstones, and Foyles. All proceeds from the book go to Genesis Foundation, a charity that helps children with congenital heart diseases.


Suhasini Vira

Economics and Politics (Joint Honours) Undergraduate, Durham University

Hi, I'm a Durham University undergraduate studying Economics and Politics. My Laidlaw Scholarship independent research project focuses on 'Youth Employment Experiences in the Informal-Formal Nexus of the Indian Labour Market’ and explores the employment aspirations of India’s youth in an economic environment that is characterised by increasing job precariousness. I am a published author, and my recently-released book ‘Why People Give’ (Sage Publications), which discusses the motivations that drive philanthropy. I am also a NextGen leader at the Aspen Institute and discuss how the potential of artificial intelligence can be realised in an ethical manner with other thinkers. Currently spending my days reading, sketching and watching a lot of Netflix in between planning my next projects!