Young Leaders: Cut the BS

I loved this commencement video by Jon Lovett, former Obama speechwriter and comedian. It’s very funny and yet still very insightful advice from a 30-year-old.

As a 44-year-old — officially “old” to college grads — I love listening to smart young ones. I was usually the youngest one in the room early in my career and I wished then that some of the “over 40” people I worked with would have listened to me more often. They could have learned a thing or two from my perspective (and to be fair, they sometimes did). So I try not to make the same mistake, and try to listen closely to people in their 20s and 30s in our field about their perspectives on what they see and hear.

It’s 17 minutes, but worth it. Skip the intro by going to 1:19.


OK, if 17 minutes is too long for you, here are the highlights.

It’s time to cut the bullshit in our culture, politics, etc. Here’s Jon Lovett’s advice for grads on how to do that.

1. Don’t cover for your inexperience. Be confident in your potential but aware of your inexperience. You will be wrong, a lot.

2. Call out BS when you see it. It’s better to be wrong and cringe later when you realize it than to be right and silent.

3. Being honest pays off. It’s easy to respond to a culture full of BS with cynicism. When we all reach the BS peak as a society or community (are we there yet in national politics?), those who speak honestly will be rewarded.

How do you think this applies in our nonprofit marketing and fundraising conversations?

I have some ideas, but would love to hear yours first (especially those of you younger than me)!

(Hat tip to Upworthy)

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  • As a marketing & communications professional who is 2 years post-graduation, I think it can be a definite struggle to get colleagues to really hear what young professionals bring to the table. However, I think the same can be true for many marketing & communications professionals in the nonprofit sector, where technology, social media & online communications & content are often unknown among seasoned professionals in other departments at a small organization.

    Explaining the importance of SEO and writing for print versus online can be hurdles in themselves. People are creatures of habit and after many years of communications departments focusing on press releases, trying to let our colleagues know about the shift to online content and content marketing can be pretty challenging. To deal with this, I try to be as honest as possible in order to make our marketing and communications more modern and brought into the 21st century and I like to do experiments with various types of communications and emails to judge what works and what doesn’t. I think others can be more hesitant to experiment. As part of a young marketing and communications department, having our voices heard can be challenging, but is always something we’re working toward. Your blog is a place for great tips and helps me feel like what I’m working toward makes sense, despite the push back or reluctance of others!

    • Thanks for sharing Lauren, and keep at it! And let me know if you want to guest blog about any of the experiments you are doing. We love to help nonprofit communicators like you share their stories!

  • ijere

    I think making business that you are gaining is a big setback towards your financial status…

  • I’m old. Really old. I have learned that it’s extremely important to
    listen to front line young staffers (and volunteers) in my nonprofit.
    Senior managers like me can benefit by getting out and traveling with
    them, involving them on interdepartmental teams (and listening to them).
    Every time I travel with a Millennial (or any front line staff for that
    matter) I learn something and occasionally I can do something about it
    that makes their work easier. Plus, it’s just plain fun.

  • Cindy Olnick

    I think part of the reluctance of old people (my 40-something self included) to listen to younger professionals lies in the delivery. Anything conveyed with humility and respect comes through much louder and clearer.