The Nicholson Foundation Year in Review


Dear Friends,

A year ago, when we announced that The Nicholson Foundation would be spending down and closing by the end of 2021, none of us could have imagined what the ensuing twelve months would bring.

Today, as we near the end of 2020, we feel deeply proud of the work our grantees have done during this challenging time, and their resilience makes us feel hopeful as we move into what is the Foundation’s final year.

COVID-19 hit our small and close-knit staff hard in 2020. We lost a talented and joyful staff member. Many of us experienced losses in our families. We know that many in our community of grantees, and in the vulnerable populations they serve, also suffered major disruptions and personal tragedies.

To help our grantees, we modified performance requirements, benchmarks, and deliverables to ensure they would be paid in full for their vital work. The Foundation also provided bridge grants so some grantees could adapt their work.

Our grantees thought creatively, adjusted quickly, and rose to meet the challenges of the times, often taking leading roles in helping the state’s recovery. For example, in healthcare, Rutgers Project ECHO rapidly shifted its programming to become a statewide hub where frontline health workers received timely information on the coronavirus. On the early childhood front, Advocates for Children of New Jersey released recommendations that were largely adopted by the state on how to safely re-open critical child care infrastructure. 

Building a Brighter Future

In the midst of these trials and the need to adapt, we remained steadfast in our long-standing commitment to transform the systems that serve vulnerable populations in our state. We continued funding efforts to integrate behavioral health into primary care, build on the current work of New Jersey’s Regional Health Hubs, promote early child care and education, better connect families to available resources, and develop the state’s first hospital-based innovation center.

In 2020 we focused in particular on helping our grantees build partnerships with other funders, other grantees, and government—connections that should help sustain their progress long after we close our doors. It is through partnerships like this that we ourselves have been able to persevere in this difficult year. We are grateful.

Together with our funding partners, we increased the focus on protecting children from the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences, and stepped up support for complementary programs and services that build resilience and aid healthy development. Since 2018, we have invested some $3.5 million in this program area.

We have also been honored to work closely with other funders and state government on a suite of efforts to eliminate racial disparities in infant and maternal mortality and make ours the safest state in which to give birth. The capstone of this work will be the release of the Nurture NJ Strategic Plan in early 2021. 

Thus, we end 2020 feeling fulfilled and  hopeful for the future. We stayed on track and our grantees excelled. Looking forward, we will be closing out our many projects with the belief we leave our initiatives and grantees positioned for continuing achievement. We will also be releasing a book on the legacy of our foundation and the lessons we have learned over 20 years striving to create systems change.

Having carefully planned our spend-down, we think we can see forward into what our last year will bring for us, and we have a sense that "hope is smiling"—for us, our partners, and everyone in New Jersey regardless of their background or zipcode.


Best wishes for the holiday season, from all of us at The Nicholson Foundation.