Sharen Duke launched the nonprofit Alliance for Positive Change (previously known as AIDS Service Center NYC) in 1990. With the help of the Design Industry’s Foundation for AIDS (DIFFA), which donated office space, and the AIDS Institute, which provided a grant, Duke and a staff of three began their mission to improve the lives of people living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS.

Alliance is now a 27-year-old organization with a strong track record and proven approach that helps New Yorkers make lasting positive changes towards health, housing, recovery and self-sufficiency. Alliance’s innovative peer education and access to medical care helps people manage and overcome addiction, escape homelessness, get back to work, and find community.

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(LEGACY -- DO NOT USE) My Challenges 

"Alliance’s greatest success has also been our challenge in that we have successfully grown our core services of care coordination, harm reduction, and peer training by expanding program volume, capacity and funding in all three areas." The challenge arising from Alliance’s programmatic successes is that the volume of program services has grown bigger and faster than our organizational infrastructure has kept pace. Now they are looking to leverage and utilize technology to help reduce redundancy and improve overall effectiveness.

Duke recommends that new entrepreneurs: 

1. Buckle up! Starting something new is a huge endeavor that will require all of your skill—intellectual, organizational, fiscal and emotional.

2. Embrace a SCORE Mentor. While entrepreneurs may have all of the ideas needed to start a small business, they do not alawys have all of the necessary experience. For example, Alvin Roselin has over 30 years of marketing and PR expertise. Alvin helped Alliance target its thinking. Entrepreneurs need to look at whether their idea already exists, who their competitors are, how they fit into the market, what’s the value proposition, how to distinguish yourself to be a star of that market, and what resources are needed to get started—all with an eye towards whether the vision is the best use of the time and resources available to generate a successful business.

"It’s a great opportunity because the mentors at SCORE have years of experience at very high levels in a variety of businesses. If you can be targeted and clear about what you need help with, then SCORE can be very targeted and clear in matching you with the best mentor who has the most direct skill set. And, together you will be able to achieve great things."

My successes. 

Currently, Alliance has more than 170 staff members, 130 Peer interns, and a budget of nearly $25 million. More than 5,000 clients come to Alliance for services each year and 14,000 people are reached through Alliance’s Peer outreach and harm reduction education in communities across New York City. Alliance also was recognized by SCORE as the 2014 Outstanding Non-Profit Organization.

In 2012-2017 Alliance went through a restructuring as Duke developed the organization's strategic business plan and goals for the future. They had a Medicaid case management program that provided targeted service plans tailored to address each client’s unique needs regarding healthcare, housing, public entitlements, mental health and substance use issues. In 2012, the Medicaid case management program was part of NY State’s Medicaid redesign plan and “morphed” into what is now called a “Health Home” program for Medicaid enrollees with two or more chronic conditions. While change can be scary, Alliance saw this program transition as an opportunity to construct a service model that would lead to program growth, and be based on co-location of my community case management staff within hospital clinic settings. 

Alliance was able to establish co-location relationships with premier hospitals—Mt. Sinai and NY Presbyterian—that augmented the hospitals’ social work staff, provided “feet on the ground” accompaniment for patients to see their doctors, increased patients’ adherence to medications, decreased missed appointments, and ultimately created a Win-Win-Win for the patient, the hospital and the organization.

Duke has continued to work with Roselin at SCORE on a new round of strategic planning. This new stage included a merger—the acquisition of the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center— and an expansion of their existing Peer training services and their treatment adherence support program for people living with HIV and AIDS.

"I am proud to say that, from 2012 to 2017, Alliance doubled our organization’s budget from $10 million to $22 million, and SCORE was extremely helpful in this growth and success."

How SCORE helped. 

In 2010 the impacts of the economic recession presented Duke and Alliance with new, unfamiliar challenges. Duke reached out to SCORE to help her in an area she had not been formally trained in: finance. Duke's mentor, Munir Saltoun, was a retired corporate CFO and he worked with Duke and Alliance's Board Treasurer to create and implement a five-year plan to fiscally restructure the organization in order to get it on a sustainable financial track.

What's great about my mentor? 

"I turned to SCORE and was matched with two amazing mentors who were able to help me develop a business plan that included clear and compelling presentation of agency financial statements, as well as marketing strategies for outreach to commercial banks, so that I would be able to establish the ideal banking relationship for Alliance that included a line of credit."

Munir Saltoun helped Duke review Alliance financials and create a strategic financial plan. Alvin Roselin helped to create a marketing plan. "Together, we targeted banks, went to meetings, and ultimately persuaded Chase to continue our banking relationship. It was a very successful endeavor."

Alliance for Positive Change (Alliance)