On October 23, alumnus Greg Perlstein ’08 reflected on his background, professional path, and civic engagement commitments during a special “Meet the Leader” session at the Gephardt Institute. Greg serves as Senior Director, Growth & Marketing, at DoSomething.org. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and MBA from the University of Michigan.
Share a brief overview of your role at DoSomething.org and how young people can get involved.
DoSomething.org is a movement of 5.5 million young people transforming their communities. Members around the world use our digital platform to make real-world impact on poverty, discrimination, education, and other causes they care about. I’m the Senior Director of DoSomething’s consulting team, which shares our data and expertise about activating young people with clients who are also doing important social impact work.
Most of DoSomething’s members are college and high school students. Anyone can get involved by signing up for one of our 275 social action campaigns. For any students who want to work with us in our New York City office over the summer, internship applications will open in early 2018.
Which DoSomething cause or campaign speaks to you most?
Give a Spit About Cancer is my favorite campaign. Just by swabbing your cheek and adding yourself to the bone marrow registry, you could end up saving someone’s life. People being treated for cancers like leukemia and lymphoma sometimes need a bone marrow transplant, and 70% of those transplants come from strangers via the registry. DoSomething has helped thousands of young people join the registry through Give a Spit. Our Chief Product Officer was a match and saved an 11-year-old boy’s life. Anyone could be the next superhero donor. If you are interested, sign up here!
What advice would you give to an undergraduate student interested in pursuing this type of work?
If you are drawn to social impact, start to figure out what type of work you like doing every day. When I was an undergraduate, I knew I was passionate about impact, but I didn’t spend as much time thinking about my skills and the specific function I could fill in an organization. Professional roles of all kinds can make an impact. You might love fundraising, or software development, or working directly with the people who you are helping, and there are impact-focused jobs for all of those interests. My role at DoSomething is part business strategy and part partnership development – and it’s all driving revenue for a leading nonprofit. Try out different options through internships and clubs so you have a head start on knowing which types of roles excite you the most.
Share a brief overview of your role with the Gephardt Institute’s Alumni Civic Engagement Advisory Group.
The Gephardt Institute mobilizes WashU alumni to be engaged in their communities, no matter where they live or how long ago they graduated from school. Our Advisory Group is contributing to that work. We are alums (and one current student) from all around the country, representing different WashU schools and a variety of graduation years. We are helping answer the question of how the Gephardt Institute can continue to support, educate, and connect alums to be civically engaged after they have left campus.
Tell us about one of your favorite St. Louis memories.
Dance Marathon was always one of the best days of the year at WashU. I loved seeing everyone on campus, including the “Dancellor,” come together to have a blast and raise huge amounts of money for two St. Louis children’s hospitals. I may be biased, though. Dance Marathon is the reason I met my wife, Lauren. We were morale captains together, then we were on the board together, and ultimately we were each the executive director of the group.
What does civic engagement mean to you?
Civic engagement means understanding problems in your community, digging into those problems, and working collaboratively toward a solution. Community in this case might be hyperlocal or it might be global. Every community has challenges to confront, and we need people actively working toward a better, fairer, more sustainable world at every level.
What motivated you to get involved in engagement work as a student at WashU?
At WashU, I wanted to spend my time doing things that challenged me, made positive impact on the world, and gave me a sense of pride in my accomplishments. I found that along the way, I met some pretty incredible people, which turned out to be one of the best outcomes of all. My motivation is the same today, and I am still meeting and working with amazing individuals every single day.