CFMT celebrates donor generosity and its impact on organizations successfully putting grant dollars to work.
Thanks to the generosity of its donors, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is proud to announce a major milestone: $1 billion in giving to nonprofits across the 40 counties of Middle Tennessee and beyond since its inception 29 years ago.
“It’s funny, but in 1990 when we began and in 1991 when we got our 501c3 status, we never talked about any goals. We never even discussed how much The Community Foundation might one day accomplish for our community,” says Ellen Lehman, president and one of the founders of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
“We never set any bars — we just said thank you,” continues Lehman. “And over the years we have gotten to say thank you thousands of times.”
It was Ellen’s friend, Ida Cooney, the founding executive director of the then HCA Foundation (known today as the Frist Foundation,) who shed light on the fact that the Nashville region was one of the last major metropolitan areas without a community foundation in place for those with charitable hearts.
And it was Ida who brought together others — like Ted Lazenby, Alyne Massey, Betty Brown, George Bullard, Elizabeth Queener, Richard Eskind, Judy Liff Barker, and Ben Rechter — who had known the value a community foundation could offer.
After further research and discussion, these founders recognized this as an opportunity for people wanting to do good to join forces to work collectively and collaboratively, efficiently and effectively, and to make the word community work: both as one word and as two, “common unity.”
It also was clear that working on gifts that mattered to an individual helped others realize that they too could make gifts that mattered to them.
As The Community Foundation reflects on decades of grantmaking and reaching this $1 billion milestone, its team — especially the trailblazers: Laundrea Lewis and Melisa Currey — knows it could not have been accomplished without the generosity of its donors, community partners, and friends of The Foundation. Tens of thousands of grants have filtered through its doors, impacting organizations working tirelessly on a broad range of needs ranging from arts to zoology.
“We set out to make giving comfortable, convenient, and cost effective. And we worked to promote and facilitate giving with confidence. And after those early years we also sought to connect generosity with need,” says Lehman. “But all-in-all we just worked to help people help others by customizing philanthropy to fit the donors’ intentions. That’s our mission … all of it.”
The Community Foundation continues to look ahead at making our community’s charitable giving stronger by building permanent endowments to support causes critical to our present and our future. The team which, blissfully, still includes Melisa Currey and Laundrea Lewis is indeed dedicated to protecting Donor Intent while keeping the funds up-to-date in the face of changing needs and opportunities.
“It’s a good thing we never set any goals for ourselves because we would have broken all of them,” says Lehman. “Today, thanks to thousands of individuals, families, companies, and corporations, we certainly are proud to announce that we have been able to distribute grants to nonprofits totaling a whopping $1 billion.”
“We are grateful for the opportunity to help you help others as we continue this work into decades ahead.” continues Lehman. “For Now. For Generations.”
About The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
The Community Foundation exists to promote and facilitate giving in the 40 counties of Middle Tennessee and beyond. It does this by accepting gifts of any size from anyone at any time and by empowering individuals, families, companies, nonprofits, and communities to respond to needs and opportunities that matter. The Community Foundation works with people who have great hearts, whether or not they have great wealth, to craft solutions that reflect their intentions and goals.