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Q&A: United Way’s Bill Golderer

The president and CEO of the organization’s Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey chapter discusses tackling intergenerational poverty.

By Lisa Dukart, Main Line Today

Originally from Wayne, Bill Golderer has returned to his roots as the president and CEO of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. Now a Devon resident, Golderer will work toward the organization’s goals to raise reading levels in grade-school students, elevate more individuals and families above the poverty line, and reconnect youths to school or work.

MLT: Why did you become involved with United Way?

BG: To take on what I call the Philadelphia shrug. While we recognize that we have made great strides in so many dimensions, there are some troubling aspects that make us wonder whether Philadelphia will ever truly live up to its promise and potential. Of the top 50 cities by population size, we lag in the bottom 20 percent in median and mean philanthropic giving.

MLT: How do you combat this?

BG: There’s this issue that people in the nonprofit and poverty-elevation sectors—and even philanthropy—face. It’s what I call the symptom of the MET. Rather than embracing deep collaboration, we struggle over money, ego and turf (MET). I’ve learned and embraced that we need to take on the MET as a threat to our ability to really break the cycle of poverty. It will require incredible and intense collaboration if we’re going to get there—among all residents of the region.

MLT: What is the long-term significance of ending intergenerational poverty?

BG: There’s something called a “wicked problem.” Poverty is a wicked problem, which means you need to treat the problem holistically and recognize the interventions that don’t take on the entire family system are only going to have limited impact. If we aligned our passions and our resources appropriately, we could be known as the city that’s made the most progress in reducing the poverty rate in a 5-, 10-, 12-year window.

MLT: Would you tell us about your experience with Broad Street Ministry.

BG: I came here in 2005 to reopen the closed church building along the Avenue of the Arts, where everything is bustling and thriving. I was brought to Philadelphia from California to reimagine a future for this facility that could compliment, enhance and otherwise inspire. My mandate was to see if there was a way Broad Street Ministry could convey to the people least likely to experience the fruits of Philadelphia’s renaissance a sense that they were part of it—that they are our neighbors and due the same experiences of delight, vibrancy and growth the rest of us are experiencing.


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