Ellen Eskind Lehman

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee founder and President Ellen Eskind Lehman plans to retire at the end of the year.

Lehman founded the organization in 1991 and in the three ensuing decades has seen it contribute more than $1.1 billion to nonprofit organizations, according to a foundation announcement. The CFMT board has formed a search committee to find a replacement for Lehman.

“Through relentless determination, fearless leadership and boundless creativity, Ellen Lehman founded and has built CFMT into an organization that is essential and impacts every corner of our community by connecting generosity with need,” CFMT board chair Lyle Beasley said in a release. “Ellen has changed Nashville for the better and forever.”

The Community Foundation broke ground in May 2021 on a new headquarters at the corner of Woodmont and Belmont boulevards after operating from donated office space for 30 years. The foundation numbers approximately 50 employees.

The organization manages assets of more than $550 million, including as a service provider to smaller nonprofits.

Starting in 1993 with a crippling Nashville ice storm, the Community Foundation has served as a charitable disaster response hub both locally and around the country. The organization raised and distributed money in response to Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Nashville flood and tornadoes and a pandemic in 2020. The CFMT also trains and provides services to startup and established nonprofit organizations in the Nashville area and manages individual funds on behalf of donors.

In a 2017 interview with the Nashville Scene, Lehman called the organization “a charitable savings account.”

“It’s a place where money comes, it is invested, it is stewarded, and it goes out to do the things that the donors wanted to have done,” she said.