Dr. Kimberly Boller assumed the role of Executive Director of The Nicholson Foundation on September 1. In the following conversation, she discusses her priorities as The Nicholson Foundation approaches its close at end of 2021.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am the daughter of an immigrant and a first generation college graduate. I’m a mother, a traveler, and a researcher by nature. I came to the Foundation three years ago with 25 years of experience conducting policy and program evaluations for the federal government and foundations. My primary areas of research at Mathematica Policy Research were in early childhood care and education, including Early Head Start, home visiting, parenting, quality rating and improvement systems, and healthy development.
From those experiences, I was curious about how evidence and data drive funding decisions at the state and local levels. The Nicholson Foundation seemed like a great place to learn and try out ideas that support evidence-based funding and partnerships grounded in the best health and early childhood science.
What will your priorities be as Executive Director as The Foundation prepares to wind down by December 31, 2021?
We have a lot of work to do in just four months. My number one job is to bring the Foundation in for a soft and graceful landing. Our team will tie up the remaining loose ends and be able to say that we accomplished what we set out to do.
Another major goal is publication and dissemination of our legacy book, Changing Systems, Changing Lives, which describes lessons we learned as a grantmaking foundation. We are also busy wrapping up several reports that highlight key areas of the Foundation’s work.
Telling the story of our work is important for New Jersey and nationally, especially for private and public grantmakers trying to wrap up areas of funding, and that’s a story we have to tell. It’s also important for us to lift up the stories of our grantees and partnerships so this work can continue.
And finally, I'm looking forward to supporting our incredible team as members head on their next professional and personal adventures. Some of us are moving ahead professionally and some are retiring. I can’t wait to see what folks decide to do next.
What legacy/impact do you hope The Foundation leaves behind when it closes?
We have done some unique things. That includes partnering with government and community to make an impact on addressing equity — both racial and economic—across our portfolios in recent years. This is one thing I hope folks will take from what we've learned.
Another lesson we have to share is for foundations to listen and learn from others who have done the work before them and the communities most affected by their work. Also, focusing on systems is extremely important and can be critical to bring new models and approaches into a state and even nationally—to try out, adapt, and see how they work over time.
You started working at The Nicholson Foundation in 2019 as Chief Strategy & Evaluation Officer. What have you enjoyed about that role?
Bringing together the Foundation’s work in maternal and child health as part of the Nurture New Jersey campaign led by First Lady of New Jersey, Tammy Snyder Murphy, has been meaningful to me. This public-private-community partnership leads the nation in implementing strategies that aim to eliminate racial inequities in maternal and infant mortality in our state. By working together, government, philanthropy, and community will keep the momentum going and make sure all of New Jersey’s mothers and their babies are safe and thrive. We must do this.
I also enjoyed learning about how family philanthropy works and being part of a community of grantmakers in New Jersey. Seeing how purpose drives philanthropists, individuals within foundations, and their partners to aid and support grantees and their communities has been fabulous. Getting to know our Board and their purpose has been a joy.
Finally, what is something not a lot of people know about you?
In the traveling category, I have made the most of academic tourism. For decades I have consulted internationally and gone to conferences around the world. I have been to six continents, more than 23 countries and 40 plus states, and I want to get to all 50 states in my lifetime. I love traveling with my daughter, husband, sisters, friends, and colleagues; travel is really a ball for me and a great opportunity for learning.
Where can we connect with you?