Nashville celebrates nonprofits at the largest event of its kind in the country

  • Tari Hughes is President and CEO of the Center for Nonprofit Management.

Every morning in our city, alarm clocks go off and the superheroes of our community don their capes, brew their coffee maybe a little stronger than the rest of us, and pour their hearts into amazing causes.

They wake up day after day with a renewed sense of purpose and a new dedication to their hard work – often thankless work that requires a servant’s heart and a commitment to solving problems many don’t even know exist.

These heroes are the leaders of nonprofit organizations whose lifelong work is dedicated to making the city we live, work and play in a better place to do just that.

Once a year, the Center for Nonprofit Management (CNM) literally rolls out the red carpet and turns on the spotlight in an attempt to make this invisible heartbeat of our city visible.

Around the office, we lovingly call it the Oscars of the nonprofit sector, and our annual Honoring Excellence event is truly an evening honoring the best of the best.

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This year was the first in-person celebration since 2019

Salute to Excellence is the nation’s largest nonprofit awards ceremony, and since 1993, Salute has featured more than 600 nonprofit finalists and awarded more than $3.5 million to exemplary recipient organizations. and their leadership, as it brings together leaders from the local business, community and not-for-profit sectors. for a party night.

We recently gathered on October 20 at the Fisher Center at Belmont University for the 29e Tribute to Excellence event where 34 deserving nonprofits were recognized as finalists for 12 prestigious awards.

The Country Music Hall of Fame won the Frist Foundation’s Innovation in Action Award for launching the “Discover DeFord Bailey” exhibit honoring Bailey’s influence as a harmonica player in the country and blues music genres . As one of the Grand Ole Opry’s most popular early performers, Bailey was the nation’s first African-American star, and now her legacy and story lives on through this magnificent exhibit.

Of course, you don’t have to be a large, established nonprofit like the Country Music Hall of Fame to win the Salute to Excellence. Our Diversified Trust New Generations award went to Unscripted: a small, relatively new nonprofit that heals, empowers, and connects the community through improvisation. They focus on the joyful nature of the art of improvisation for wellness and therapeutic applications, and they work to teach and perform for people who have historically been excluded from improvisation.

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New award celebrates commitment to social justice

This idea of ​​increased access is thankfully something we continue to see more and more of as our community makes strides to be more equitable, and we’ve even added a new award this year in that spirit. The all-new Social Justice Changemaker Award was created to celebrate a minority-led, non-profit organization’s outstanding commitment to social justice.

Equity Alliance co-founders and co-directors Tequila Johnson, left, and Charlane Oliver, right, pose for a portrait at Legislative Plaza in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.

The entire community rallied together to make this award possible with Amazon as the award sponsor. The Equity Alliance is the well-deserved organization that took home the win in this category in honor of its work to engage more people of color in the political process and increase civic participation.

There are so many nonprofits like these serving our community with essential programs and services every day. While the past two years have been difficult for everyone, nonprofits have continued to overcome daily obstacles and challenges to find solutions to critical social issues, letting their actions speak louder than their words.

There is no group more deserving of celebration than those who have been on the front lines of the complex issues facing our community. We were honored to recognize their resilience and shine a light on their impact throughout Middle Tennessee during our 2022 Salute to Excellence Awards.

Tari Hughes

And while it’s fun to dress up and raise a glass of champagne in honor of these people, their work is worthy of year-round pomp and circumstance. I encourage you to seek out the heroes around you in our community and find an opportunity to get involved in their mission, support their efforts, and seek ways to celebrate these organizations throughout the year.

If you’re looking for a starting point, I encourage you to visit to view the full list of winners and finalist organizations.

Tari Hughes is President and CEO of the Center for Nonprofit Management.

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