Spotlight: Melissa Hillebrenner Kilby
Your Title: Director, Girl Up
Your Hometown: Quincy, IL
Your first charitable work: Selling Girl Scout Cookies
Something fun we should know about you: I used to surf when I lived in Los Angeles.
Personal Instagram: @melissagirlup
Girl Up Instagram: @girlup/@girlupcampaign
When Melissa Hillebrenner Kilby was growing up, she knew she wanted to help others. She started volunteering as a kid and never looked back. Today she runs Girl Up, the United Nations Foundation's adolescent girl campaign. Girl Up engages girls to stand up for other girls across the globe. There are currently half a million Girl Up supporters around the world, including a growing number of college campus clubs (Berkeley, USC, Wellesley, UT Austin, Northwestern, Wake Forest, UMass Amherst to name a few). These leaders raise awareness and funds in an effort to help the hardest to reach girls living in places where it is hardest to be a girl.
We connected with Melissa-who is busy preparing for Girl Up's 2016 Leadership Summit-to learn more about her work and her passion for giving.
Who is your philanthropic or charitable hero or role model?
Recently, I’ve been very impressed with Mark Zuckerburg and his philanthropic commitment, but also sharing his personal story with his wife and their challenges with miscarriage. I also loved his recent message about girls being the nerd versus dating the nerd!
If you could start your own organization (or a second one), what would it do/focus on?
Another issue area that I feel very passionate about is bullying – I had a very hard time in middle school and would love to help other girls not experience what I did. Aligned with this, I am a very involved volunteer with Girls on the Run – working with girls in grade school on positive self-image and there are some great sessions on how to deal with bullying.
Describe your giving philosophy in three words?
However much possible!
How do you fit in time for the causes you care about?
I have spent my entire career in the non-profit sector so most of my life revolved around causes – I also volunteer and donate because I know how much it takes to make change. By building my career around causes, it’s a natural part of my everyday.
If you had a bonus day in your week that was just for giving, how would you spend it?
I would actually probably spend an extra day giving to myself – with my day-to-day focus, self-care takes a back seat all the time. I can be even more effective in my work when I’m healthy and happy.
Who are your heroes in real life? Give us two examples.
My mom is one of my heroes – she was a teacher and a respiratory therapist and is also the kindest most generous person. She showed me the power of helping others and raised me to be a very independent woman.
Malala is also one of my heroes. It is hard to imagine surviving what she went through, and to watch her turn that terrible experience into a voice that inspires so many, and so many young girls, is incredible to behold. Meeting her was something special that I will never forget.
Who do you think Altruette should make a charm for in 2016?
Another one for Girl Up, of course!
Who would you like to hear from in one of our next "Altruette Heroes" interview?
Molly Barker – founder of Girls on the Run
Do you have a quote about giving that you live by or you look to when you need inspiration?
It's something Winston Churchill said: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”