Hi. My name is Rebecca. I’m the Co-Founder & CEO of Anika Works, a matchmaking platform for small to mid-sized nonprofits to prepare, connect, and grow so they can focus on what matters most – doing good work.
Before I was a “big-shot CEO”…
…I was immersed in the nonprofit sector. I’ve worn all the hats – Director, Teacher, Consultant, Board Member, Unpaid Volunteer, Paid Employee.
I bounced around so much because I never quite fit the mold of any of these job titles. In time, I realized there was a common thread in all that I did. The one thing I came to realize was my superpower.
I’m a cheerleader.
Though I don’t have real-life pom-poms (yet!), I have always felt connected to this sport on a much deeper level. I think it’s because I’ve struggled to find a sense of belonging. My personal and professional life have been filled with bold choices and life outside the lines in the best way possible. It has meant, however, that I don’t have too much in common with the communities I grew up in. Whenever I find someone that shares my sense of passion for life – I can’t help but celebrate them!
The truth is, we all need cheerleaders sometimes. In my biggest personal and professional transitions, my cheerleaders have reminded me that I can be myself and achieve my wildest dreams. Cheers to my cheerleaders (you know who you are) for sticking with me through my decision to move to the U.S. for school and Tanzania for work. For encouraging me to start Anika Works, and reminding me why I do it when I lose sight of the big picture.
Take a moment to imagine a cheerleader in your life. How does it feel to be supported and celebrated by them? There is a lot more where that came from. Instead of having one cheerleader or a handful of cheerleaders, imagine having a whole community of cheerleaders. It takes time and hard work to cultivate your community of cheerleaders. But the payoff is well worth it.
Here’s a simple (not to be mistaken for easy) action plan for finding your cheerleaders:
- Find Your Communities
We all have a set of personal values. What I value above all else is embracing change. For me, this means constantly looking at ways to inspire change in myself and others.
These values we hold inspire our personal missions, and more broadly the work of our nonprofits. In fact, at Anika Works, one of our Team Values is change. Our values can also be powerful tools to define the people we invite into our circle.
Start from your values. Search for the content that speaks to your values. This content may take the form of other organizations, blogs, newsletters, or online communities. If you need somewhere to start – check out our Anika Works Facebook Group.
Subscribe, follow, sign-up. Get familiar with their style of cheerleading. Stick to the ones that excite you, and drop everything else.
- Find Your People
So, you’ve fallen head over heels for some communities. That’s fantastic. As much as I love communities, I like to think of them as collections of humans – you can still feel alone in a crowded group chat. You may share values with the community as a whole, while not getting along with every person within it.
How do you find your people within a community? Get more involved. Attend events hosted by your communities, post or respond to comments in groups. Your engagement will help others understand you better. You may find that people reach out to you directly – or that you meet people you want to reach out to directly.
I tend to default to being an observer in communities. But the few times I have opted to step into the conversation and be a little bit vulnerable – I’ve been surprised at how much support I’ve received. In a breakout session for a Zoom event I attended for entrepreneurs in healthcare, I was asked what I did, and I had a participant reach out privately to learn more and become one of my cheerleaders. The best part was, I don’t actually consider myself a healthcare entrepreneur – I only attended because I value helping people, which is something I had in common with this community.
You can also be proactive about finding people. When you are at events, write down the names of attendees or speakers that capture your attention. In group conversations, take note of the responses that resonate with you and the faces behind them. Even in your social media feeds, keep an eye out for interesting humans that share your values.
- Show Up & Ask for Help
Okay, so you met someone you think could be your human. Exciting stuff! Chances are you haven’t had a one-on-one conversation with them yet. How do you go from being strangers that happen to have shared interests, to cheerleader status?
It’s simple (not easy) – make the first move. Reach out to them directly (email if you have that or connect with them on LinkedIn or Facebook) with no agenda besides curiosity – it’s always refreshing to hear that people want to talk to us because they genuinely want to know us as humans first.
Think of it a bit like dating. Enjoy the ride of meeting new people and getting to know them, but don’t lose sight of who you “click” with. In other words, who you are naturally inclined to want to cheerlead for, and who wants to do the same for you.
This part is my favorite. The moment you’ve realized you’ve crossed paths with another human that gets it. “It” being the mission you’ve dedicated yourself to. I’ve realized there are people who click with me as a human or with the mission of Anika Works. When I’m really lucky, I find people that click with both.
Doing this work is a way you can show up for yourself. But it’s also important to show up for your prospective cheerleaders. How can you achieve that? Be there. It’s incredible how often we lose sight of the value of our presence. Invest your precious time with your people. Attend their events, share their content on the social media-s, tell others about their work. It will bring you immense joy.
Finally – and possibly the most difficult thing to do – ask them for help. I still struggle to remember that asking for help isn’t selfish. That same joy you get when you help others is what others feel when they help you.
My co-founder, Cailey, and I created Anika Works so we can be full-time cheerleaders for Champions. If you are one or know one – please send them our way!