Our History

The UAC Story


In 1968, just days after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, a coalition of Philadelphia’s leaders gathered at the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society Building at 12th & Chestnut Streets. Fearful the riots across the country could ignite riots in Philadelphia, the leaders gathered to discuss how the city would and should react to a hurting populous in this terrible tragedy. Charles “Charlie” W. Bowser – lawyer and the first African American to become Deputy Mayor in Philadelphia – led the discussions.

Over the hours of this meeting, the leaders were able to develop consensus that the best way to quell the community’s unrest was a community investment in hope. Over a two-day span, the leaders’ investment was a commitment to more than one million dollars that would be invested in needed community resources; And, most importantly, the leaders empowered community groups and individuals to direct how those funds would be spent. This historic, partnership between business, government, labor, and community leaders resulted in the founding of The Philadelphia Urban Coalition in 1969. 

The Philadelphia Urban Coalition, “was created to fight inner city and other social inequities by bringing together the various public and private sectors in our city… not so much a new organization as a new structure though which existing organizations and existing leadership can coordinate and expand their efforts.”

This model, as a Home for Nonprofits, has been the essence of the Coalition’s existence over the last 50 years.


UAC by the Decades


  • Charlie Bowser became the first Executive Director of The Philadelphia Urban Coalition in 1969.
  • Many of the Coalition’s founding initiatives began under Charlie Bowser’s leadership – and continued by John Bowser – including UAC’s work in education, which lead to the “Phila Jobs Program” – Philadelphia’s first city-wide initiative to provide paid, part-time, summer jobs to teens.


  • Through the 1980s strong alliances grew through the founding of The Urban Affairs Partnership, an organization created to improve the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia Region. 
  • Several founding direct services stemmed from this partnership, including our Community Economic Development (CED) Program) - which brings capital to underserved
    communities to ensure the stability, growth, and vitality of the region.


  • In 1991, under the leadership of Ernest Jones and Dr. Bernard E Anderson, The Urban Affairs Partnership and the Philadelphia Urban Coalition merged to create the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC).
  • The successful merger transformed the Coalition from a $2M organization to a $20M agency. GPUAC deepened its programing and services to help the disadvantaged and working poor throughout Philadelphia’s diverse neighborhoods, including directly supporting the growth newer diverse organizations.


  • In 2010, the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition changed its name to the Urban Affairs Coalition or, “UAC.” Over the 2010s decade, UAC has doubled in size, working with over 80 programs, employing more than 500 individuals, and managing over $40M in social impact.
  • The Coalition’s Growth is a direct outcome of the professionalization of the “fiscal sponsorship” model the Founders started 50 years ago. UAC’s Home for Nonprofits has become the platform where funders support marginalized communities while ensuring they have the access to infrastructure, networks, and funding that they as individuals have been historically denied access to. 


  • Today, under the 20-year leadership of Sharmain Matlock-Turner – the first woman to lead the Coalition - UAC has successfully managed over one billion dollars of social impact over its 50 year history.
  • UAC is starting investment today for the next 50 years with the “UAC Fund for the Future.” The Fund for the Future is UAC’s legacy fund, positioned for long-term growth and development that will allow UAC to capitalize on strategic growth opportunities by investing in potential partners and ideas that show promise for significant impact.
  • As A Home for Nonprofits, UAC is working to ensure that we continue to be a home for the Dreamers & Doers, Good Neighbors, Big Thinkers, Wealth Builders, and Next Generation Changemakers of tomorrow. 

The UAC Founders - The 1969 Philadelphia Urban Coalition Board of Directors