Trevor Neilson, with his star-studded Rolodex, expensive suits and full schedule of cocktail parties is not your average Seattleite (or even your average rich and famous hobnobbing Seattleite). Perhaps that's why he lives in Los Angeles these days. Regardless, his Emerald City roots are still sturdy; and as the profile piece in this Sunday's New York Times shows, all the fancy elbow rubbing he's been up to over the last several years has been in the name of causes that are very much Seattle chic.
Neilson, 38, is a graduate of Washington State University and a former director of special projects at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. Today he is the head and founder of the Global Philanthropy Group, and advises celebrities like Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Brad Pitt, Shakira, Lenny Kravitz, John Legend and Ben Stiller on how to get the most bang for their philanthropic buck.
This translates into charity causes ranging from Kravitz's foundation aimed at responding to the Gulf Coast oil spill, to Moore and Kutcher's anti-human-trafficking efforts.
He's not all Hollywood stars and big checks, however, as Seattle Weekly Managing Editor Mike Seely recalls Neilson laying down a superb karaoke rendition of R.E.M.'s "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" at Ozzie's Roundhouse some years back--a difficult feat, as anyone who's tried the tongue-twister of a song will tell you.
As pointed out in the Times piece, it's only within the last several years that Neilson has really come into his own. In previous jobs, his tendency to work with actors, musicians and other celebrities--with their quirky personalities and often lackluster grasp of the issues they are trying to champion--got him in trouble with his superiors and eventually led to him starting his own gig.
Now that he calls his own shots, he's become one of the most successful philanthropic advisers around, often commanding fees of $150,000-plus per year for his services.
We're just hoping he hasn't forgotten how to sing: "eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn, world serves its own needs, dummy serve your own needs" in under five seconds.