At 25, Doug Palmer is the deputy director of regional partnership at El Pomar Foundation, which provides grants for arts and culture, civic and community initiatives, education, and health and human services.
Palmer started with El Pomar as a fellow in 2018, and stepped into his new role in January 2021. He works with local council members and community leaders across the state to advise El Pomar Foundation trustees.
“I am motivated by the opportunity to learn and that’s what I think is most exciting about my position,” Palmer said. “[I enjoy] the opportunity to meet with community leaders across the state, research focused areas, learn about organizations, problems, and different resources and bring this information together to help decisionmakers make really informed and impactful grants.
“For me, it is a great opportunity to learn about mental health, to learn about homelessness, to learn about rule considerations … and the broadband challenges across the state. I am fueled by this opportunity to learn about new challenges and the creative solutions that people across the state are engaging in to address them.”
Palmer plans to work in nonprofits for the rest of his professional life. His passion for community improvement, especially finding ways to solve homelessness, motivates his search for creative solutions.
Palmer spoke with the Business Journal about his drive to fight homelessness, his passion for nonprofit work, and post-pandemic plans.
Tell us about your path to this role.
I went to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington where I studied business. I got the opportunity to move to Colorado Springs to pursue a position inside of El Pomar Foundation’s fellowship program, which is a two-year professional development program geared towards creating leaders for Colorado. I started there in 2018 and since then, I have been hired on for my current position.
What is El Pomar’s mission?
El Pomar Foundation’s mission is to enhance, encourage, and promote the current and future wellbeing of the people of Colorado. My primary role, as I work on our Regional Partnership Program, which is focused on rural parts of the state in particular, [is to oversee the creation of the Foundation’s annual Foundation Giving in Colorado Report and to coordinate internal development and research projects]. We’ve split the state of Colorado into 11 regions. Each region has about seven council members, which are community leaders that work on advising El Pomar’s trustees on grant-making efforts in their home areas. That is how my work ties in with the mission of the foundation.
Why did you choose to work with El Pomar Foundation instead of another organization?
I’ve been really inspired by how El Pomar, especially in the work we do with the Regional Partnership Program, engages local community leaders to increase the impact of its grant making and to ensure that the trustees are extraordinarily informed with what is happening in all corners of Colorado, so that it can have a deep-rooted presence in these communities. Since the founding of the Regional Partnership Program in 2003, the foundation has been really making strides to increase its grant making in other parts of the state outside of the I-25 corridor and I think that’s extremely important and extremely exciting work.
What does your professional future look like?
[In my] professional future, I want to continue in the nonprofit space and continue to work in ways that better communities and better people’s lives. I am particularly interested in health and human services sectors of nonprofits. I have also had the opportunity to work in entrepreneurship areas. I currently work also at [the El Pomar Institute for Innovation and Commercialization] Venture Attractor, which is a new group out of UCCS that’s been really exciting … regardless of where I end up, I intend to stay within the nonprofit space, working for the betterment of whatever community I’m in.
Any specific area of community betterment you’re focusing on?
The last two years, I’ve had the opportunity to be on the board of directors of The Place, which is a former affiliate of Urban Peak and … homelessness has been an area impact that I’ve been drawn to for a long time and something that my mom instilled in me as a place where we need to be doubling our efforts — helping to ensure that everyone has a safe place to be.
I’m currently the vice chair of the board and I’ve been so incredibly impressed with the leadership of that organization by my fellow board members and the work that’s in front of this community in Colorado Springs for homelessness and for The Place. [They are focused] particularly on youth homelessness. That’s been another great place to learn about a very challenging problem and also to give back some things that I’ve learned at El Pomar and other areas of my life, to try to work towards the betterment of forwarding that cause in particular, and ensuring that all people have a safe place to live.
What has been your biggest challenge as a young professional?
My biggest challenge — and I think the biggest challenge of many young professionals — is finding balance and determining how I want to order my life and what’s most important to me and where I want to dedicate my time, energy and attention.
How do you find that balance?
I think finding work-life balance is kind of a constant process. I think the advice that I’ve followed to continually adjust that balance has been twofold: one being prioritizing things that you’ll be thankful for 10 years from now … the other being work-life integration … which means finding ways to have your work and lifestyle complement each other.
Who’s your biggest role model?
My biggest role model has been my college mentor, who I’ve known for six years or so. His name is David Poston and he’s been a mentor and friend and advisor for me in many aspects in my life. But I think the reason he is a true role model is his immense empathy for other people and how sincerely and genuinely he cares about those around him and about their work and contributions … and also about how genuinely he’s cared about me and my family and the people who are important in my life. I look to him for a lot of guidance and as a role model in how I take care of and treat those around me.
What are your goals for 2021?
My goal for the year professionally is to really dig into the work I’m doing currently. I just started this permanent position with El Pomar in January, so I’m really excited to take some of the projects I’ve been working on over the last couple of years and think about them extraordinarily critically and start moving those forward and thinking about how can we do what we’ve done in the past, but do it better. … I’m really excited to work with my supervisor to move some of the strategic priorities forward.
Personally, I’m excited as we all come out of COVID-19 — to be out and about again and to reconnect with people and double down on efforts to connect with friends and colleagues both here in the Springs and across the country. Certainly, I think COVID-19 has taught us how important the relationships are with those who are around us. Once we’re able to see people in person, I think it will be extraordinarily important to remind those around us how important they are.