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Voices of the Internship - Understanding the Role of Philanthropy

Tags: Internship


2018 intern Lily Weissgold

Before coming to El Pomar Foundation, I considered philanthropy to be simply a subset of the nonprofit sector, with similar objectives and functions. In the most technical sense, this is true: both nonprofits and foundations are considered 501(c)(3) organizations. The reality of the work at foundations, however, is incredibly different from that of traditional grant-seeking nonprofits. Foundations recognize that there is often a disparity between the organizations doing good work in communities and adequate resources to support that work. Foundations therefore make grants to both honor their own mission and to support the goals of other organizations.

The economic and social climate of Colorado and Colorado Springs especially, has allowed El Pomar Foundation to have a larger impact on the community than comparable foundations in similar cities. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a Colorado tax law passed by voter referendum in 1992, ensures that government tax revenue is low by capping and restricting tax increases. This allows nonprofits, rather than the government, to provide the social services integral to the functioning of a city. Nonprofits can often be more efficient than the government at providing services, but lack the latitude to generate tax revenue. This begs the question of funding, which is where foundations like El Pomar can step in for Colorado communities by supporting nonprofits throughout the state.


Much of my life in Colorado Springs is touched by the Foundation in some way. From attending classes in the academic buildings at Colorado College to volunteering at Pikes Peak Community Foundation and Palmer Land Trust, I am never far from El Pomar.  I was supremely grateful for the opportunity to learn and understand the inner workings of an organization with such a large impact on the local community.

While philanthropy may be a subset of the nonprofit sector in some cases, this is not true for El Pomar. Here, it is something greater, something that maximizes impact by empowering the nonprofits who are experts in their respective areas. There is no blind giving, decisions are deliberately informed and well thought-out, and understanding the care and thought that goes into each grant decision has given me a unique insight into the history and future of Colorado Springs and the state as a whole.