Ellen Lehman

It truly is a merry and bright time of year. For me, it’s not the twinkling lights that make it special but the spirit of giving. … 

I see generous people who want to give charitable gifts which will make a difference for the recipients … and have meaning for the donor. Just like the presents carefully selected for the people they love, charitable gifts can be thoughtfully selected to have an impact and make a difference.

I know folks who are excited to give toys to needy children or “chip in” on a hot meal for people on the street. They know it will help for an hour or a day, but I hear all the time that donors, these days, long to affect lasting change, to transform lives for the better.

Maybe instead of a toy – or in addition – you’d like to help a child’s parents reenter the workforce. Perhaps instead of a meal – or in addition – you’d like to help one our community’s homeless get a GED.

So many of us don’t know how to go about making that long-term impact with our giving; we are used to responding to a request or addressing the “symptoms,” rather than thinking proactively about a cure for whatever challenges we face.

Proactive thinking is perhaps The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s greatest strength – working with you 365 days a year to create permanent charitable funds to support a wide variety of charitable causes, from arts to zoology.

Think you can’t make a difference? Think you can’t be a philanthropist? Think again. This holiday season as you’re inspired to give, I invite you to consider these five tips for improving our community not only today, but for the future.


Anyone can give. It’s just that simple. Whether you are pooling resources with friends, a professional group, or your Sunday School class, contributions of any size can be made through The Community Foundation toward any of our permanent charitable funds. Or for a contribution of $5,000, you can establish your very own fund addressing needs and opportunities on a long-term basis. We provide the charitable solutions that make it simple!

Make giving personal. Think about the causes about which you care most. Want to help talented kids attend college? Want to create opportunities for animal welfare, to prevent domestic violence, or something else? None of us can address every need of the community, and the happiest donors are those giving to the causes near and dear to their hearts. Perhaps it’s a specific geographic area you’d like to support. Our county affiliate foundations are addressing the needs of local communities in Middle Tennessee. Give to what matters to you, not just because you get an appeal and feel obligated to respond.

Give with flexibility. Giving doesn’t have to mean writing a check. Want to support a cause but don’t have cash on hand? Assets such as gifts of land, real property, or an IRA, are just a few examples of how you can make charitable gifts and have a lasting impact. We have the expertise and flexibility to facilitate a broad range of gifts.

Have the best of both worlds. Through the power of philanthropy, an endowed charitable fund can make grants now to address immediate needs, and grow resources over time to serve as a lasting source of charitable dollars benefiting causes you designate, even beyond your lifetime.

Finally, you don’t have to wait. While charitable giving can and should be a thoughtful process, giving can be simple and quick. At The Community Foundation, literally in a matter of minutes, you can become a philanthropist.


As you give to make the holidays bright for those in need, think about the difference you want to make for our community throughout the next year and beyond. With The Community Foundation as your charitable partner, you have the ability to help create long-term solutions for our community.

I invite you to visit our website at for stories of how people from many backgrounds are making a difference through The Community Foundation. Or, pick up the phone, and let us explore how we can help you.

I hope you’ll let us help you make an impact with your giving … and feel GREAT!

Ellen Lehman has served The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee as president since it began in 1991, and has seen it grow to become a philanthropic force in the 40-county area in Middle Tennessee.

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