“In the two years that I have been working with my SCORE counselor, John Edwards, the agency and I have been successful even though these have been difficult economic times,” said Mary Ellen Peterson, CEO of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation Parents Helping Parents (PHP) in a 2002 interview. PHP is a nonprofit agency that specializes in fostering effective solutions to the challenging issues that impact children with special needs and their families, thereby increasing successful outcomes for the child, his/her family and the community-at-large. Peterson added, “… with John’s guidance and support I have been able to document increased services to our community and at the same time develop and strategize cost effective measures, keeping with a tight budget.”
Peterson indicated that with the advice she received, she was able to identify 4 key agency-wide indicators and implement a zero based budgeting system to help measure the effectiveness of and set priorities for PHP programs. “In the beginning I did not understand or appreciate the significant benefit that SCORE could offer me through the guidance and friendship provided by my counselor. I have come to rely on the perspective that he brings to conversations around the agency, staff and board issues,” she said.
In the ensuing 4 years, PHP increased its budget available to support programs by about 40 percent while maintaining administrative costs at only 17 percent of the total budget. The number of direct services delivered increased from about 18,000 to 24,000 per year. Also, the agency added to its list of 14 service programs by absorbing an additional program that was in financial difficulty. PHP has been recognized around the country and even overseas for the effectiveness of its programs. Recently, a group from New Zealand came to PHP’s offices in Santa Clara to learn about their activities. In addition, PHP has given workshops for nonprofit family and children’s assistance organizations in Japan.
Now PHP is facing new challenges as funding from government grants and from local agencies such as United Way andFIRST 5 of Santa Clara County is being redirected toward service agencies that focus on high risk clients and crisis centers. Peterson credits her SCORE counselor with “being instrumental in helping us to look at the environment in the broad community with a more business-like perspective.” She explains, “We tend to be myopic and we need to see ourselves in the context of the bigger world.” Peterson is leading PHP through a revision of its strategic plan that reflects these changes and the challenges they create. Here, again, the SCORE counselor is helping by facilitating the strategic planning process.
Peterson remains highly complimentary of her SCORE counselor and mentor, John Edwards. “John is completely trustworthy and provides good advice that I couldn’t get elsewhere.” She adds, “He tells me things that I need to hear, even if they are unpleasant.” Trudy Holmes, Chief Development Officer of PHP says, “We on the staff have seen incredible growth in Mary Ellen as a leader over the last few years with the coaching and mentoring that she has received from SCORE.”
PHP faces significant challenges going forward, but Mary Ellen Peterson and the PHP staff feel that they are ready to deal with them with the help they have already received and will continue to receive from SCORE.