Rachel Gerrol is a “Catalyst at Large”, working at the intersection of philanthropy, social innovation & community building. She is Co-Founder & CEO of NEXUS, the leading international network of next gen philanthropists & impact investors, with 6000+ members from 70+ countries representing families with a combined net worth of $650 billion.
Her work stems from a desire to inspire creative solutions to social problems. Rachel has organized 40 NEXUS summits across 5 continents, including at The United Nations, The White House and No. 10 Downing Street, with the Prime Ministers of Lebanon & The Netherlands and the First Lady of Australia.
Rachel Co-Chaired the G8 Young Summit and worked closely with Vice President Biden to create the “It’s On Us” campaign to stop sexual assault on campus. She is currently partnering with the UN on campaigns to address the spread of misinformation around COVID across Latin America & Africa.
NEXUS: Uniting Next Gen Philanthropists, Impact Investors and Social Entrepreneurs
“Nexus was founded in 2011 at the United Nations with the unique theory of change that if we bring together next generation (next gen) philanthropists and impact investors alongside exceptional young social entrepreneurs, that there will be bonds of trust that will form and enable people to want to support each other in multiple ways for the rest of their lives. As such, we’re less invested in where someone is working professionally at the current moment and more investing in getting to know our members as individuals as they grow and come to work on many social impact projects because it’s very rare that someone who invests so much of their time in social impact would then suddenly decide to go take a day job making widgets.
The only rule is that you can’t ask for money.
At Nexus Global Summit, no attendee’s nametag states an affiliation. The only rule is that you can’t ask for money. Everyone needs funding, that’s no secret. At Nexus, we believe that all currencies are considered equal: the currency of an introduction, the currency of your culture, your spare bedroom, or the currency of your parents’ foundation, they’re all valuable currencies to make change happen. A social entrepreneur might ask for introductions, mentorship, business book recommendations, a couch to sleep on while they’re on a funding trip or advice on how to build a powerful board. These are the types of conversations we hope to nurture.”
“On top of that we also run an accelerator. As a nonprofit, we don’t offer money to the companies in the program which is unusual; instead we make a lot of intentional introductions for them and offer extensive coaching in a cohort-format so that they can learn from each other’s experiences and pitfalls. On top of that, we give them amazing opportunities to be showcased at our events virtually or on stages like at the UN they or the White House. As social entrepreneurs, that gives them an opportunity to speak in front of people who can really make a difference for their company and who are there because they want to.”
Next Gen Philanthropists, not next gen inheritors
We care deeply about the spirit you carry, we believe in a just and sustainable world guided by the proposition that we’re all in this together.
“We don’t have a marketing department. We’re not necessarily interested in getting our name out there. In fact, I would go as far as to say that you can barely find us in the press. Thanks to our dense network, we have been able to grow organically. In my experience, our existing members are the ones who can best vet who else should join our community. We’re not interested in gathering simply next-gen inheritors. We care deeply about the spirit you carry, we believe in a just and sustainable world guided by the proposition that we’re all in this together and that’s not every heir. Of course, there are a lot of people who believe in a world where they have more private planes instead of putting their means into the service of a more just and equitable future.
That’s why we have a very lengthy and cumbersome application process. Not everyone who applies is accepted. On the contrary, any applicant needs three referrals. It’s not unusual for potential members to get your wealth advisor on the phone to answer some of the questions with them. But once they join Nexus, they’re a member for life.
Two thirds of our community are philanthropists and impact investors. They come to Nexus to learn from one another, to see what’s cutting-edge and to find out about new approaches to maximizing the double- or triple-bottom line returns. The idea is not just to support worthy causes but to create social and environmental impact while managing their capital in a way that allows them to re-invest and to continue their support.”
Ask for money, and you’ll get advice
“Every application is reviewed by a city ambassador and a regional leader to make sure we don’t get a hundred white male social entrepreneurs or a hundred people all working on alternative energy. We do our best to ensure diversity of geography, of interest area, stage of your company, and then also the spirit with which you come. There’s some founders who write very clearly in their application ‘I’m closing my seed round and I only need two million dollars. I can’t wait to pitch Nexus members!’
These types of application, while comprehensible, are not going to succeed. We’re a community of non-solicitation, that holds true for both the capital and the entrepreneur side. If any social entrepreneur joins us with the intention of securing some funding, this is not the right community for them. We believe it takes seven to eleven touch points with someone to get to know them well, and once you get to know someone well, you might be in a position to ask ‘Hey, I’d love for you to review my deck with an investor lens!’ to seek feedback for your next pitch.
Our mantra is:
Ask for advice and there’s always a possibility to get money, but if you ask for money, you’ll for most certainly get advice!
“I spent almost a decade working with the United Nations with an amazing ambassador for human rights. In seeing her travel the world, I noticed that five dollars can go a long way in certain countries, especially in countries with fragile governments and human rights abuses. Ten dollars can go even farther.
I realized that the UN is an amazing convening partner that we often turn to to amplify their work. But what’s missing from the UN is the idea of engaging the next generation in a meaningful way and that was where the idea for Nexus was born.
My co-founder was organizing communities of wealth in Brazil, so he knew how to organize communities of wealth. I know the UN system at least from a fundamental standpoint and how to navigate the system. Together, we were able to form this idea of bringing next-gen philanthropists, impact investors and social entrepreneurs to the UN to work. By aligning with the UN, we wanted to amplify their projects, help social entrepreneurs scale their ventures and help them be smarter about the programs they’re launching so that they can reach their potential.”
Engaging the powers that be
“There’s not enough intergenerational dialogue. I think that the decision-making tables around the world – whether they’re boardrooms or governments – are not reflective of the general population in the world. Whether we’re talking about diversity, gender, race, economic background, religion or age: I think it’s really hard to believe that a few people who look and sound the same, and come from similarly groomed backgrounds are making decisions for all the other constituents, most of whom don’t look or sound like them, or share any of them same experiences.
The decision-making tables around the world are not reflective of the general population in the world.
I do this work so that in 40 years, Nexus members are going to lead major international corporations, maybe even governments, in a way that has been informed by years of engagement and authentic relationships with our world’s most pressing social and environmental issues. They will lead with ethical values and have genuine conversations about the future and about the world that they want for their children and grandchildren. I believe that the members of our community have built a trust with one another so that when there’s a trade conflict or a problem with carbon in the atmosphere or an immigration debate, these corporate CEOs will be able to get on the phone with other CEOs and heads of states and remind them of our shared values. They’ll be able to say, ‘Hey, we’re both Nexus members, we all want to make the world better. These decisions don’t seem to be in line with our values, let’s figure this out because there must be a win-win here somewhere.’
Our vision at Nexus has always been to knock on the doors of power earlier and collaborate to make their legacy impactful.
The current construct defines that people ascend the throne of power when they’re around 55 or 60 years old. Our vision at Nexus has always been to knock on the doors of power earlier, when people are in line to take over one day, and collaborate early to make their legacy – whatever it is – impactful so that once it is their turn to take over the reigns, they will have a different level of consciousness. They will already have established a deep, embedded trust and a shared value system amongst their peers such that they’ll be able to govern our world with a deeper set of values that are grounded in the future that they want for the next generation, rooted in justice and sustainability, peace and love.”
What is your role in bringing about that future?
“I think stewardship is a really big piece of it. I want to help redefine what is meaningful and cool to the next generation of wealthy and influential families. Instead of one more beach house or 50 handbags at $5,000 each, I want to engage them in a conversation about what difference their life can make for others or even what difference these young people can make in their families today. For their birthday, instead of asking for another car or luxury item, I want them to ask their family, ‘I’d love it if we could talk about our family’s top five holdings and if we think they’re in line with our values. Maybe we only own oil and gas, but all of our philanthropy goes to environmental causes and animal welfare. Let’s talk about what that can look like in the future! I want to help the next generation to rethink what it means to be successful, and that means beginning those conversations earlier, and creating a positive social incentive to do so.”
Catalyst at Large. Co-founder and CEO. Connector with a long-term vision.