Member Feature - Anika Johnson

Meet your fellow AmeriCorps members and the programs they serve with in our monthly member spotlight! This month’s member spotlight is on Anika Johnson, the Outreach and Fundraising Specialist serving with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits!

What program do you serve with?

Through the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, I am currently working at Exodus Lending. Exodus Lending is a small nonprofit in Minneapolis, Minnesota that works to help individuals break the cycle of payday loan debt.

Payday loans are small-dollar, short-term loans that often have astronomical interest rates and fees. When you take out a payday loan you are expected to pay off the entire loan amount (plus interest and fees) on your next payday.  It’s tough to have such a large chunk of your paycheck taken out all at once and oftentimes individuals will pay off the payday loan but need to take out another to make ends meet before their next paycheck. You can pay these fees month after month without ever making a dent in your original loan amount, no matter how much you pay!

It’s a very vicious cycle that preys on people in financially stressful situations. When someone enrolls in Exodus Lending’s program, we pay off the entire loan amount and set up a payment plan for our participants to pay us back - with NO interest or fees!

What do you do in your position?

My title is “Outreach and Fundraising Specialist.” My favorite components of my job are communications and outreach. I have created marketing materials and am using them to build relationships with like-minded organizations. I’ve learned a lot about running Facebook advertisements, creating branded social media, and web design. The most powerful experience I have had is sitting down for one-on-one conversations with many of our program participants. Hearing their stories and learning about injustices in our world encourages me in this work that I am pursuing.

What interested you in serving with AmeriCorps and with your specific program?

I am passionate about social justice and doing my part to create a just world. Having just graduated from college, I knew I didn’t have the experience necessary to get the kind of job I was seeking. By being an AmeriCorps VISTA  I have been able to jump right into my field and have responsibilities and projects much greater than I would be given at an entry level position. I am passionate about my organization and its mission; it has given me an incredible opportunity to learn and grow as a young professional.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, when it’s warm, I like to be outside with my dog and my friends. We go to the park, on long walks, and to brewery patios! Year-round I enjoy going to a lot of concerts and shows, and I love attending community events that address different social justice issues. In the winter I spend my time hunting for items on Facebook marketplace and playing games with friends; but nothing replaces a night in, on the couch with some comfort food.