City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Giving for Today and Tomorrow

Matching donors with nonprofits to maximize the impact in our communities

Each community has its own unique identity, values and needs. The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (CFMT), founded in 1991, leads the effort to collaborate with philanthropic donors and corporations to support their wishes and help match this giving spirit with nonprofit organizations in 40 counties in order to enhance individual communities.

“We have a direct line of communication with the nonprofits that are doing the amazing work and providing such incredible services,” says Pat Lawson, its regional affiliates coordinator. “At the same time, we’re also in constant communication and have relationships with government officials and Chambers of Commerce to discover the needs of communities.” They are then able to bring all these groups together to have roundtable educational discussions with the goal of transitioning potential donors into actual donors.

One of the ways the foundation ensures donors’ trust and confidence is by having a set of criteria that the charities have to meet. “In order to be eligible to apply and receive a grant from one of our funds, they have to have been a 501(c)(3) for at least three years,” he says. “This is used as a delineation to make sure that they’re a thriving, sustainable nonprofit that’s going to be around long term.”

Pat wants to make sure it's understood that CFMT is not in competition with nonprofit organizations. “We very much encourage donors to continue their annual giving to the nonprofits and to the charities of their choice. What we want to do is maximize the services that are being rendered. By a donor partnering with us, they can be sure that their hard-earned dollars will be utilized to the maximum benefit.”

CFMT is a savings account, explains Pat, for community priorities. “Our endowment model is when you invest and/or you open up a fund through us, those dollars are utilized in long-term sustainable growth. That allows a simple donation or a simple initial fund to grow over time.”

For example, if someone gives $100 to their church every year, when that person passes away, so does that yearly donation. But if they were to set up a fund, that $100 could continue to grow and their philanthropic giving would then last for the life of that church.

There are different ways to accomplish a charitable goal through CFMT. “Say your grandmother is very interested in giving $100 to an animal shelter,” he says. “I would direct her to our Giving Matters platform. When she searches for animal shelters, those nonprofits will pop up. Then, there's a button that says ‘Donate,’ and that amount goes directly to that nonprofit.

“But again, this $100 can also be put into a fund so that her gift will continue to give over the life of the fund. She can easily search for a fund on our website that matches her interest.”

However, if grandma has a sudden windfall and wants to do something philanthropic and tax deductible, she could set up her own fund. “We offer low-cost administrative services and we handle all the back-office work, all the tax filings and the charitable donation letters of the 1,600 funds that we manage and support,” says Pat.

Every dollar makes a difference and when those resources are pooled together, it creates a bigger impact. This is why the beehive has become the symbol of the foundation. “To give an analogy on how our foundation works, one bee can't make honey by itself,” he says. “It takes the entire colony to go out and pollinate the flowers and then bring that pollination back to make honey. So, it takes a whole community to make those around us better.”

Last year, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee awarded more than $2.8M in grants to organizations in 34 counties across Middle Tennessee. The average grant size was $6,431. 

Here are just a few:

— Bridges Domestic Violence Center. To provide specific assistance to domestic violence victims in the form of prescriptions, physical and mental health care, diapers, and certificate replacements.

— Friends of Williamson County Animal Center/Williamson Animal Services. To provide spay/neuter services for 750 community pets at no cost to owners who pre-qualify based on household income.

— Heritage Foundation of Williamson County. To produce a countywide Geographic Information System Historic and Cultural Resource Survey, which will digitally map and record all historic and cultural resources. 

For the complete list of grant recipients, go to, and for more information on charitable giving with the foundation, visit

“One person can make a gift, but a community can make an impact.”