It's an interesting, and proudly self-serving, argument. One that gets him going. "Let's say you're a rich guy, you've been a brutal corporate titan," he says. "You decide your issue is hunger. The kid who is eating breakfast that morning because of the dollar you donated doesn't give a fuck what you did in your business career. People who like to be cynical about other people's motivations for philanthropy should spend some time with that kid, the one who doesn't have any breakfast." In fact, if Neilson has his way, he will soon have legions of famous names lined up to help that kid. "Five years from now every significant figure in sports and entertainment is going to be expected to do something to make the world a better place," he says. "This is going to move from being a trend to an expectation. I am well positioned to help the most serious people in the entertainment community design smart, effective strategies that create real change."
He looks at his BlackBerry and laughs. "Look at this," he says. Kanye West is on the line. Well, his people are, and they want to set up a meeting about starting a foundation. "See, I respect this guy," Neilson says. "I'm a huge Kanye fan. But we're actually having a capacity problem. We're growing fast, so we really have to pick and choose our clients." What Neilson is looking for, he says, is a sincere connection. He wants to separate the wheat from the chaff and pinpoint which stars are going to stay committed five, ten, fifteen years down the road, and which ones will bask in a brief halo effect and then move on. "I want to sit down with someone like Kanye, look him in the eye, and say, 'Are you serious about philanthropy? Talk to me about your life. What matters to you?' "