Philly United Way Cuts 40% Of Staff In Restructuring

October 24, 2018       Mark Hrywna      

The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) laid off almost 40 percent of its staff last week in an effort to restructure the organization around three priorities.

Effective Oct. 15, the affiliate eliminated of 37 of its 97 positions but projects to add four new senior-level positions that previously did not exist, according to President and CEO Bill Golderer, who started in the position in March.

The restructuring is an evolution of narrowing dozens of strategies in the region down to three: early learning, financial empowerment, and financial stability, with a fourth of measuring progress against these goals.

It’s been an evolutionary process to determine the problem they’re trying to solve, according to Golderer. “Now we’re at the how moment,” he said.

“It’s a fit for purpose exercise. We’re trying very much to create an organization that is aligned with the purpose that we have,” Golderer said. “It’s not only a reduction in force but really is truly a restructuring,” he said. “Most organizations that are in real distress don’t announce hiring. We’re trying to do more with less. We’re aiming to eliminate positions that don’t make sense,” he said.

For instance, the affiliate will invest staff resources into changing emphasis from a day of service model to one of sustained engagement. The department dedicated to producing days of service is now rethinking that entire structure, trying to figure out who could provide leadership and skills, Golderer said.

The Philadelphia, Pa.-based affiliate reported $41.4 million in support for the 2017 campaign, down 22 percent, more than $11 million from the $53 million in 2016. It ranked 15th among United Way affiliates in the United States but the third largest aggregate drop, behind Los Angeles (-$21.9 million) and Twin Cities (-$12.8 million). The $53 million reported for 2016 was the lowest amount in the past decade until the 2017 figure of $41 million.

“To say the revenue picture isn’t a driver would be misleading,” Golderer said. “It’s that we have an opportunity and a challenge. The prosperity and the renaissance of our region is really something. We have the highest rate of retention and movement of Millennials into this region of any part of the country,” he said. “Companies are growing and expanding here but according to Census data we just read, our most vulnerable neighbors are falling behind. Not all boats are rising with the tide. To make prosperity and poverty our focus, our revenue picture needs to turn around,” he said.

“If that revenue picture was different, I don’t know if it’d be the same conversation we’re having. There’s a sense of urgency around the need to evolve,” Golderer said, with the 100th anniversary of the affiliate approaching in the coming years.

“If we’re going to continue to drive private sector volunteerism to deploy and maximize human capital into problems we’re trying to solve, there will be in the future less emphasis on episodic volunteerism,” he said. An example of that is a day engagement. “Now we’ll be refocusing resources on what we are hearing about what the community needs and wants,” Golderer said.

With the reduction in force (RIF) completed, the affiliate now is identifying the right players and people to add in instrumental roles, Golderer said, and they soon will announce revenue against this new model. “There are new dollars being committed against this new strategy. By articulating this case, we’re doing that to attract new investment,” he said.

“We’re aligning everything we do — technology, where we show up to work, expenditures of human capital. That all needs to be singularly aligned with the mission we’ve adopted,” Golderer said.

In 2012, seven affiliates merged to create the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, including two in Pennsylvania (Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southeast Delaware County) and five in New Jersey (Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County and Greater Cumberland County).

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