Are you celebrating Generosity Day
today? Me, too — and participating has made me look further into the impetus behind the day. Generosity Day was thought up by Sasha Dichter, who undertook a month-long experiment and said yes to all requests for him to give — including requests for money from panhandlers.
Dichter is the director of business development at Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture fund that invests in businesses that fight poverty in the developing world. Since Dichter already works for a do-gooder nonprofit, you may think that his decision to try this experiment was entirely altruistic. Watch this video of Dichter’s presentation about his work, however, and you’ll see that for him, getting generous was about helping himself as much as it was about helping others.
“This was about me,” Dichter says in the video. “I wanted to stop saying no.” Why? Say no a lot, and “Pretty soon, no becomes who you are,” he says. “I felt like what was going on was that I was hiding behind what was smart, and it was keeping me from doing what was right.”
The whole video is fascinating to watch — especially if you’re interested in philanthropic investments — but if you’re just interested in Dichter’s personal story, start watching at 2:50, when he goes into why he started the experiment. Then at 14:30, Dichter starts talking about the results and lessons. “I started to feel like a more generous person,” he says. His findings reflect the oft-quoted saying by Ghandi: Be the change you want to see in the world. Dichter says he wants a world that’s more open, more action-oriented, and more generous. Achieving that, for him, meant “I have to be more open, more action-oriented, and more generous.”
I found the talk both inspiring and thought-provoking. I too want to be someone who says yes more often than no! Of course, we’ll all say yes to different things. I can’t say yes to every press release seeking coverage; someone on a limited income can’t say yes to every appeal for $25 that comes from an environmental nonprofit. But I’ll be spending the rest of today brainstorming about what I CAN say yes to. What do you say yes to?