Rob Hilbert – El Pomar’s Chief Financial Officer and Life Trustee – describes his role at the Foundation as “back of the house.” For nearly 30 years, Rob has handled seemingly everything: processing grants, payroll, accounting, documentation, and human resources filing. This behind the scenes work is critical for the Foundation’s success. “I’m making all the things in the back work so the team up front that goes into the community doesn’t have to worry,” said Rob.
After working at El Pomar for nearly 30 years, Rob Hilbert will retire at the end of January, 2016. This blog reflects on his career at El Pomar, his goals for the next stage of his life, and his hopes for the Foundation’s future.
30 Years of Change at El Pomar
Since arriving at El Pomar in 1987, Rob has seen significant changes in how the Foundation operates. He recalls when grant proposals were fewer. He watched the first Fellows enter El Pomar in 1991 and witnessed “the Foundation broadening its efforts” to serve nonprofits beyond the Pikes Peak Region through the Regional Partnerships program in 2003.
More than just witnessing changes, however, Rob has driven change at the Foundation. One of his first responsibilities at El Pomar was working with attorneys to sell the Broadmoor Hotel in 1988, which the Foundation owned at that time. “After we sold the Broadmoor Hotel,” Rob said, “we had an infusion of cash. When you look at the graph of El Pomar’s assets, you’ll see that 1988 is when the graph starts to take off.” With the sale of the Broadmoor Hotel, El Pomar was able to place funds in the open market to begin growing its assets and making a greater difference in the community.
In addition, Rob designed the Foundation’s accounting system, created a special program to track the grant requests, and helped with the purchase of Penrose House and its renovation into a conference center for Colorado nonprofits. Rob said that working at El Pomar has been rewarding because he has the freedom to initiate ideas and run with them. “When Bill [Hybl, Chairman and CEO at El Pomar] hired me, he recognized that I knew what I was doing and turned it over to me…To have that kind of trust placed in you is pretty rewarding.”
Challenges and Rewards
IRS audits, yearly audits, resolving human resources issues, and maintaining a high quality benefits package for employees in a rising cost environment were all listed as challenges by Rob. He noted that those “daily challenges” are one of the things he will miss most about working at El Pomar. More than anything, he said, he will miss the people. “The people here are second to none. Good people equal good results when you boil it all down.”
The Final Third
Rob views his life in thirds. There was the formative third, when he was getting his education and learning to be a good person. There was the productive third, which included working as a revenue agent for the Internal Revenue Service, a supervising tax specialist for Coopers & Lybrand, vice president and executive director of the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation, secretary-treasurer of the Piton Foundation, executive vice president of the U.S. Olympic Foundation, and finally chief financial officer at El Pomar Foundation. In addition to his professional career, Rob and his wife also raised ten children. Now that Rob is retiring, he is entering the final third, which entails “giving back for the first two thirds.”
“I’ve been blessed with a big family and a challenging, rewarding, and well-paying job. I feel it is time to give back,” said Rob. When he retires, Rob plans to explore ways to work with the poor and to promote the interests of the church. He would also like to spend more time with his family – “There are so many of them it’s going to take two retirements!”—and pursue hobbies.
Leverage Impact, Stay Humble and Give from the Heart
When asked about his hopes for the vision, mission, and work of El Pomar in the future, Rob shared three key pieces of advice:
- Continue to get more than a dollar’s worth of philanthropy on every dollar that is spent.
- Don’t lose track of our mission to help the nonprofits. Remember, it isn’t us solving the world’s problems. It’s them and the work they are doing in their communities. As far as I’m concerned, they’re my heroes. Stay humble.
- People try to make philanthropy scientific. Don’t over analyze. Don’t let this become such a ritual that you can’t take a chance on someone or you are afraid to enter into a hard area in giving. Give from the heart.
On behalf of everyone at El Pomar Foundation, thank you to Rob for his commitment and service to El Pomar and the communities of Colorado.