At the annual Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits' 2013 Members Meeting recently, one item signified unity among the state's most giving philanthropists — an Oklahoma City Thunder T-shirt.
Bold white letters ran across the shirt's front: COMMUNITY.
Leaders from 85 nonprofits from across the state gathered at the United Way of Central Oklahoma headquarters in Oklahoma City for an annual checkup and networking seminar. Christine Berney, director of community relations for the Thunder, was the keynote speaker.
The shirt Berney displayed, given to every fan at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 7 for game two of Oklahoma City's series against Memphis, was a symbol of what Berney called “an organization-wide commitment” to giving back.
That mission includes partnerships between the Thunder and area nonprofits.
“You're so focused in your everyday life that you don't always step back and get a bigger view of things,” Berney said. “To think about how all of these nonprofits impact the Thunder, it's been very significant. It's been a nice connection between both of those two.”
In accordance with the NBA Cares campaign, the Thunder offers a number of community outreach programs; including traveling reading buses, fitness clinics at area schools, honoring local heroes at games and installing new basketball courts in needy neighborhoods.
After an NBA Finals run last season, Berney's job has been a bit more hectic.
“I remember when I started this job, the person who hired me said the toughest thing about it was going to have to say no,” Berney said. “And it is, because we can't do everything.”
But at the meeting, Oklahoma nonprofit leaders had the opportunity ask questions and learn more about the Thunder's programs. But more importantly, Berney wanted to share how the audience has impacted the Thunder.
“I thought she did a really beautiful job with that,” said Marnie Taylor, president and CEO of the Center for Oklahoma Nonprofits. “I think it's an example of how the nonprofit sector ends up benefiting the giver as much as it does the receiver.”
Following the event, Berney spoke with many of the nonprofits in attendance — a mutually beneficial networking opportunity.
“It's a constant learning curve,” Berney said. “We're always looking for organizations. We're always interested in what other people are doing. A chance to learn from them is a great opportunity.”
Berney said plans are in the works for a refurbished basketball court this summer, and the reading bus is running every day. That's good news for Taylor, who praised the Thunder's efforts to reach out.
“Many companies in Oklahoma are so philanthropic,” Taylor said. “Their reputation is about their philanthropy, their generosity and their community spirit. It makes a world of difference. In Oklahoma, it's genuine.”
For more information about Oklahoma nonprofits and how you can get involved, visit www.oklahomacenterfornonprofits.org.