Session 1: My amazing experience at the Bill and Melinda Gates Giving Conference and what I learned from the top philanthropists.

Alisha Arora
5 min readFeb 26, 2021

My sister Kenisha and I were extremely fortunate to be invited to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Giving Conference. This incredible opportunity is given to a select group of innovators and leaders in the non-profit sector, and my sister and I were honoured to be representing The HopeSisters. Over the time we spent virtually we got to converse with founders, philanthropists and industry leaders. We got to listen in to discussions of top world leaders and witness the world of philanthropy! This is something most adults wouldn’t expect to witness let alone a 14-year-old girl!

As I joined our conference page and started connecting with the incredible other individuals I knew this day would be exciting. I was filled with excitement and promise for the heaps of knowledge and interesting people I would meet in the day ahead.

Overview of the day!

The morning first started with a fireside chat with some inspiring leaders in the non-profit sectors where they talked about the importance of giving back to inspire the next generation. These conversations were super interactive and engaging and I even got to ask questions to gain insight about being a youth founder!!

Throughout the day I had networking sessions through breakout rooms where I got to speak with industry leaders at Google and Facebook. While also sharing my experiences with other people from the non-profit sector. We had thoughtful discussions on fundraising, youth outreach and engagement!

I even got to partake in challenges like creating a dream organization with a team and designing a business model for serving a vulnerable population. This was probably one of the most valuable experiences as I got to learn from incredible minds.

Conversations with Bill and Melinda Gates

The highlight of the afternoon was having the opportunity to learn and speak with Bill and Melinda Gates (Founders of Gates Foundation). Not only are they visionaries but they are true philanthropists! This is truly an experience I will never forget.

It was so empowering to gain guidance on how we as young founders can not only serve vulnerable populations but also inspire other youth to start giving from a young age! They shared with us stories of how they taught their children to give back, and how parenting is very important when it comes to instilling values of benevolence! Receiving feedback and guidance from them was definitely one of the highlights of the day!

Key Learnings!

  1. Your organization’s purpose is not to serve a select group but to get more people to start giving.

When my sister and I first started The HopeSisters, we wrote over 2000 cards to give to seniors in long-term care. We were so heart-warmed by the reactions of all the seniors who received the cards we didn’t even realize the light is brought to us for making those cards and giving them to them. Our mission slowly changed from “giving hope to vulnerable members in need” to “bringing together more HopeSpreaders to make an impact.” Truly the best way to get hope is to spread hope. Everyone needs to start giving, (most of us don’t realize it) but the true feeling of hope is when you have the opportunity to spread it! I had this realization on a one-one workshop with a mentor!

2. Adapt yourself to people’s environment.

Extending on from the first point, when you want to get people involved with giving back you have to make it easy and that happens through adapting yourself to their environment. I had many discussions with leaders, and some of them asked me how do we start attracting youth to donate and start giving back. I told them the only way to do that is by understanding what their routines are, a huge part is social media! Putting flyers up is not going to attract youth, but making TikToks will! Through our conversations, we came to the consensus that when we adapt ourselves to people’s environments (ex. making donating easy for people who are busy through having monthly donating packages) that’s when we empower people to make a difference.

3. Passion is Suffering!

When you are truly passionate about something it means that you are willing to suffer for it. I had the opportunity to hear from some inspiring speakers that spoke about their experiences. One speaker told me about her story of being told by hundreds of people she couldn’t pursue her projects to support the homeless because they weren’t possible. It can be challenging to pursue something when the whole world tells you, you can’t. But it’s resiliency and not taking no for an answer that allows you to make the change you want to make as a philanthropist. It really is the ones who dream of their ideal world and are ambitious enough to see a “perfect” world, that makes a perfect world.

Something that resonated with me was when the speaker told us to not let the status quo stop you. Yes, corporations are money-minded, and yes you telling them once that they have to change, won’t make an impact. BUT, when you show up 50–100 times and tell them to change they will remember.

Because at the end of the day; people don’t realize that all the best things in life don’t come with money! Doing good is what gets people up in the morning (sometimes people just need a little reminder of that)

Overall, my experience at the Giving Conference was incredible! I got to expand my knowledge, connect with brilliant people and learn firsthand about the evolving philanthropy landscape.

The knowledge I have gained is invaluable! There are still 3 more sessions over 4 months yet to come so stay tuned for parts 2, 3 and 4.

I are beyond grateful for all the incredible people that made this possible, and the incredible leaders I had the opportunity to connect with.

I am the founder of The HopeSisters, a non-profit founded by my sister and I with one mission; to spread hope! Please feel free to check out our website + social media and be sure to reach out if you see any ways we can collaborate.

Connect with me