A new generation of leaders is taking over El Pomar Foundation for the first time in more than 45 years at a time when the charity is emphasizing it can help meet needs in Colorado Springs with more than just money.
Kyle Hybl, 47, replaced his 76-year-old father, Bill Hybl, on March 1 as El Pomar’s CEO, while longtime foundation executive Matt Carpenter, also 47, took over as chief operating officer, Kyle Hybl’s previous role. Carpenter and Kyle Hybl plan to take El Pomar in a more entrepreneurial direction, they said, running it like a venture capital firm for nonprofits, providing seed money and foundation support for new programs.
“We can’t do all things for all people; sometimes writing a check isn’t the solution and one of our programs can better meet community needs,” Carpenter said.
Kyle Hybl said the transition, announced by El Pomar just a day before it happened, resulted from a 2½-year succession process that included considering outside candidates to replace Bill Hybl, who headed El Pomar for 46 years.
“In many ways, Matt and I have been under the tutelage of the strong leadership of Bill Hybl and (foundation Vice Chairman) Thayer Tutt for 18 years. It has been a very intentional process,” Kyle Hybl said.
“While looking outside was considered, ultimately the board (of trustees) decided to go with internal candidates.”
The foundation is the largest in southern Colorado with assets of nearly $600 million, giving away more than $22 million a year to projects in Colorado Springs and across the state. El Pomar employs 65 people to make grants in areas ranging from education and economic development to social services and health care.
The foundation also operates a variety of programs to train nonprofit leaders, honor top nonprofits, support military personnel and their families, sponsor debates, lectures and seminars, and 11 regional councils to help the foundation target the most needed projects across Colorado.
Kyle Hybl and Carpenter come from different backgrounds — Kyle Hybl is a Colorado Springs native who grew up around El Pomar and watched his father run the charity for virtually his entire life, while Carpenter is the son of a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who was born in Texas and moved four times before graduating from high school near Montgomery, Ala.
Kyle Hybl went to Bates College in Maine to be part of its ski team, later transferring to the University of Colorado, where he completed both bachelor’s and law degrees.
Carpenter attended the Air Force Academy, graduating with a political science degree and becoming a lieutenant. That’s where their backgrounds start to converge: Both served in the Air Force with Kyle Hybl working in the Judge Advocate General Corps in Germany and Washington, D.C., and Carpenter working in intelligence in England and Florida.
“I never thought I would be involved in philanthropy,” Carpenter said. “I never learned about nonprofits or philanthropy while going to high school in Alabama.”
Both executives joined El Pomar within 16 months of each other — Kyle Hybl as general counsel of both the foundation and The Broadmoor hotel and Carpenter as part of El Pomar’s fellowship program, working with Colorado high school students learning how to make small grants with El Pomar funding. Kyle Hybl became chief operating officer after the 2014 retirement of David Palenchar, and Carpenter moved from the two-year fellowship program to the staff of El Pomar’s grants department, eventually getting promoted to executive vice president.
Kyle Hybl stayed out of the limelight until he decided to seek a seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents in 2006, replacing the term-limited Jerry Rutledge. He had considered instead seeking a seat in the state Legislature, replacing the term-limited Keith King, but decided against a job that required extensive travel to Denver when he had four children under 6 years old.
“CU was in a bit of crisis with a scandal in the football program and controversy over Ward Churchill (who was fired for academic misconduct associated with plagiarism and fabrication in his work) and I was interested in higher education and the opportunities it gives people and what it does for the economy,” Kyle Hybl said.
“I have a fundamental belief that each of us has a responsibility to be in service to our community at all times — in church, the soup kitchen or coaching, to name a few opportunities. For most of the boards I serve on, that work feeds a desire of mine to help an organization with a bigger mission than who I am.”
He would serve two terms on the Board of Regents, including serving as chairman for four years. He championed shifting the board’s focus to policy and strategies rather than getting involved in the day-to-day operations of the system and its four campuses. Kyle Hybl also helped the Colorado Springs campus get funding for several buildings, including those for the performing arts and sports medicine and performance, that helped the campus grow from 7,000 to nearly 13,000 students.
The two executives fill complementary roles, Carpenter said.
“In some respects, Kyle and I are the right and left hand of the foundation,” Carpenter said.
“I think of Kyle as the visionary and one of my strengths is working on the details — crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s to make sure that vision comes to fruition. We are part of a complementary effort. I like the idea of having varying points of view and new ideas, especially in my new role.”
Carpenter said new ideas will be part of a change in emphasis at El Pomar. While the foundation changed dramatically under Bill Hybl from funding mostly bricks-and-mortar projects to operating more than a dozen programs for nonprofits and the larger community, Carpenter said he expects El Pomar to become more entrepreneurial in its grant-making approach in coming years.
“How can we honor the legacy and vision of our founders (Spencer and Julie Penrose)?” Carpenter asked. “How can we provide initial seed funding to keep (strategic) initiatives moving forward? In some respects, that process is a bit like being a venture capital fund for nonprofits.”
An example of that type of grant-making is El Pomar’s support for the Quad Innovation Partnership, created with $100,000 from the foundation. The 4-year-old partnership combines teams of students from the Air Force Academy, Colorado College, Pikes Peak Community College and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to work on projects for nonprofits, businesses and governments.
That doesn’t mean El Pomar will stop making big, high-profile grants — the foundation made the largest gifts to both The Broadmoor World Arena and the U.S. Olympic Museum and also has made several major grants to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, including for a sports medicine center that will open next year and is named for Bill Hybl. Carpenter calls those “transformational projects” that have changed and will continue to change the face of Colorado Springs and its economy.
Kyle Hybl said that big grants, which he calls “strategic investments,” have been “the exception, rather than the rule” in recent years. That is largely the result of the hit the foundation’s investment portfolio took during the last recession and the share of El Pomar’s resources that was devoted to such large grants, leaving the foundation with “limited capacity” to make other big gifts, he added.
Carpenter said El Pomar is putting more emphasis on targeting grants in rural areas through its regional councils, sending $200,000 to each of 11 regions for projects that are “most important to the people of those regions.” He also said nonprofits can sometimes benefit from other help, including meeting at its Penrose House conference center for board retreats to help them come up with new strategies and initiatives.
While a transition from Kyle Hybl to his replacement is likely decades away, he said he would prefer to groom younger leaders to be promoted from within, just as he was. But he added that the foundation should be “cognizant of opportunities with individuals who would be a good fit for the foundation.”
Kyle Hybl said he is “fortunate to have the opportunity the trustees have given to me. The mission of the foundation is to enhance the well-being of the people of Colorado. I am the steward of the Penrose assets to further that mission.” He said, however, that he doesn’t have plans for his children to be involved in El Pomar.
“While I am related to the previous CEO, this isn’t a family company,” he said.
Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234 Facebook www.facebook.com/wayne.heilman