What We Do

Social, economic, and environmental factors—such as poverty, homelessness, language barriers, and lack of community and social cohesion—play a major role in the disproportionate burden of social disadvantage and illness borne by vulnerable populations in New Jersey.

In 2002, we started to focus on improving the ability of human service delivery systems to respond to these challenges. We collaborated with others to fund new models of service delivery to better meet the needs of returning offenders, fragile families, and at-risk teens. 

We came to recognize, however, that we could not maximize our impact without addressing healthcare and early care and education—two critical entry points that influence the complex web of problems that accompany poverty and social disadvantage. Efforts to achieve transformative, sustainable systems reform in healthcare and early childhood care and education are now, therefore, the Foundation’s primary focus.

Jan Nicholson, President of The Nicholson Foundation, discussing big data and health with Harlan Krumholz, MD, Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) at Yale University Medical School, and Maureen Deevey, a Senior Program Officer at The Nicholson Foundation.


Over the past several years, the country has been involved in a national dialogue about healthcare reform. This dialogue, subsequent legislation to advance reform, and growing evidence about how changes in healthcare delivery and payment could result in improved outcomes and reduced costs for vulnerable populations, provided a springboard for our work in this area. The healthcare projects we fund promote systems transformation in three areas:

  • Service delivery reform. We’re helping safety-net providers deliver coordinated and patient-centered medical care, behavioral healthcare, and related social services.

  • Payment reform. We’re strengthening the ability of community-based healthcare coalitions to become successful Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and/or develop shared savings arrangements with Medicaid Managed Care Organizations. This work is reinforced by our support for collaboration and for learning networks to promote Medicaid ACOs and strong community-based healthcare coalitions among diverse stakeholders in New Jersey.

  • Data and decision making. The projects we are funding are exploring new ways to gather, map, and analyze health data as well as social, economic, and physical data that influence health status and outcomes. In addition, we’re exploring potential applications of Big Data principles to healthcare issues.

Early Childhood

In recent years, a growing body of research has demonstrated that experiences between birth and age 5 lay the foundation for later abilities to learn, work, and adopt healthy behaviors. This research, as well as other evidence about persistent disparities in social and education outcomes for vulnerable infants and children, have dramatically escalated national interest in efforts to improve the quality of care and education programs for children ages 0 to 5. In New Jersey, these efforts have been aided by significant investments of federal and state resources and by the commitment of early childhood stakeholders to work together to improve the quality of, and access to, programs and services for young children. These trends have created opportunities for us to concentrate in three areas:

  • Infant and toddler programs. We’re strengthening the quality, availability, and funding of early care and education programs for children ages 0 to 3.
  • Professional development. We’re supporting efforts to strengthen the skills and expertise of early care and education professionals working with children ages 0 to 5.
  • Policy reform and new approaches. We’re funding efforts to achieve adequate and sustainable financing of high-quality early care and education programs and supporting new strategies to promote learning by young children ages 0 to 5.

Other Human Service Delivery Systems

The Nicholson Foundation also continues to seek other opportunities to improve the lives of vulnerable populations in New Jersey. For example, we fund job preparation and placement programs and support accessible and coordinated services for child and adult victims of domestic violence. As in all the projects we fund, we strive to create lasting effects on a meaningful scale through systems reform. 

Visit our Projects page to learn more about The Nicholson Foundation’s funded projects.