Enable Accessibility

Plus Button

Neil and Louise Tillotson (Photo courtesy of Steve Barba).

Neil and Louise Tillotson (Photo courtesy of Steve Barba).

Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund

Championing the North Country

One of the largest permanent rural philanthropies in the U.S. is strengthening communities and spreading economic opportunity.

Neil Tillotson’s philosophy was simple: “Be humble, be creative and be kind.”


When he passed away in 2001 at 102, he left the bulk of his assets for charitable purposes. His wife Louise established the donor-advised Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation in 2006. The fund is one of the largest permanent rural philanthropies in the country. It is guided by a local advisory committee and distributes more than $3.5 million annually. Since 2006, more than $41 million has been awarded to organizations in Coös County and surrounding regions.

It was a bold strike. And it was an act of creativity and kindness for a region that needed both.

The vision of the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund is “To serve as a catalyst for the region to move toward sustainable community and economic development in Coös County and surrounding communities in the United States and Canada.”

The Tillotsons had wide interests and global connections. In addition to the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, the Foundation manages the Louise Tillotson Teaching Fellowship, the Neil and Louise Tillotson Scholarship Fund, the Coaticook (Quebec) Region Fund, Hereford Forest Fund, Dixville Cemetery Fund and the Tillotson Guatemala Fund.


PDF-icon      Read our 10th Anniversary Brochure

PDF-icon      Read our 2021 Report to the Community

PDF-icon      Read our 2021 Report to the Community (Français)

Grantmaking goals

We want — as Neil and Louise Tillotson wanted — the North Country and surrounding regions to flourish.

We’re funding systems-change-level projects while, at the same time, supporting basic community needs.

Tillotson Funds work to:

  • Revitalize population hubs and strengthen community gathering places;
  • Enrich people’s sense of place through connection to their communities and one another;
  • Promote and enhance cultural and social assets throughout the region;
  • Enhance the region’s natural resources by promoting sustainable use of the region’s forests, farms and waterways;
  • Address gaps in basic needs for underserved, low-income residents.

What We're Funding

  • Economic development

    In addition to ongoing funding to strengthen communities and the region’s economy, the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund is taking a systemic approach to supporting two industries with significant potential for growth: Energy efficiency and non-motorized outdoor recreation (from hunting and fishing to hiking, biking and skiing).

    • Outdoor recreation: Grants to the Conservation Fund and Appalachian Mountain Club are supporting in-depth analyses of demand for outdoor recreation, barriers to industry growth and opportunities for inspiring entrepreneurship and strengthening this sector.
    • Energy efficiency: the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation is helping residents and businesses improve energy efficiency, stimulate renewable energy use and identify solutions for serving those not reached by traditional utility and state energy assistance programs.
  • Community resiliency

    The Tillotson Fund invests in organizations and projects that strengthen communities and connect people with one another, and with the region.

    • Regional planning and capital improvements that emphasize vibrant and walkable downtowns, community gathering places, cultural enrichment and revitalization of existing infrastructure.
    • Efforts that ensure that the region’s rural landscapes are healthy, intact and available for public use and long-term community benefit.
    • Youth development and leadership. The fund supports and is helping expand youth development and leadership programs, such as Youth Leadership Through Adventure, that help young people become more engaged with their communities, take leadership roles in their schools, and make healthy choices throughout their lives.
    • Basic needs. The fund supports efforts ensure that everyone in our communities can thrive and contribute, including expansion of affordable and safe housing; increase in access to critical health care services, including services for substance use disorders and access to dental care; increased access to healthy, fresh and locally produced foods, and efforts that address the causes of increased need for food assistance; and access to legal services regardless of income.
  • Education

    The Tillotson Fund is supporting education from early childhood through adulthood.

    • Investing in a comprehensive series of early childhood development initiatives designed to reach every child in Coös County and make the region a model for excellence.
    • Awarding scholarships to post-secondary students from Coös County and surrounding communities in Vermont from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Scholarship Fund.
    • Recognizing exemplary North Country teachers with the Louise Tillotson Teaching Fellowships and providing them with professional development and educational opportunities.
  • Leadership development

    The Tillotson Fund supports and sustains a robust series of leadership development initiatives designed to create and deepen connection among leaders and communities, and to strengthen the pipeline of emerging leaders for the North Country.

    • The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund’s Community Practitioners Network, a multiyear leadership program for emerging and seasoned leaders, helps participants build knowledge, strengthen skill sets, and cultivate a leadership network with shared goals and plans.
    • The Coös Symposium and Northern Regional Forest Symposia, signature initiatives of the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, works to build relationships and trust across communities and disciplines, deepen understanding of forces shaping the region, identify potential opportunities for change and further connect communities to the region, and the region to the global community.
    • Youth leadership development. The fund supports efforts that strengthen the region’s pipeline of emerging leaders and empower young people to take leadership roles in their schools and communities. Designed by high school students, the Empower Coös Youth Grants Program convenes youth in grantmaking, deepens connection to place and develops leadership skills.
    • Our Tillotson Learning Community provides learning and leadership development opportunities for North Country grantees of the Tillotson Fund and other Charitable Foundation funds. Participants learn from one another and from invited speakers and experts about strategies for effectively addressing community needs and delivering services.
  • Research

    Since 2007, the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund has partnered with the University of New Hampshire to conduct longitudinal research to better understand the hopes, beliefs, and economic changes happening throughout the region.

    The Carsey School of Public Policy’s “Tracking Changes” research includes the following studies:

    • Coös Youth Study: a ten-year panel study of youth living in Coös County from 19 public schools. Coös County students created the Empower Coös Youth campaign to encourage the broader community to read the results of this research and consider innovative ways to engage and support youth in the region. Read more.
    • North County Community and Environmental Survey: surveys and case studies of adult attitudes and community change in Coös County, NH; Essex County, Vt.; and Oxford County, Maine.
    • Socioeconomic indicators for Coös County and surrounding counties in the United States and Canada.

Empower Coös Youth Grants Program

The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund is seeking local high school students to serve on its 2022 Empower Coös Youth Grants Program. Committee members will decide how to award up to $50,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations that are making our communities better.

Learn more

The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund Advisory Committee


Ben Gayman, Chair, Manchester, NH

Steve Barba, Concord, NH

Tom Deans, South Conway, NH

Betsy Hess, Randolph, NH


Sara Favreau-Perreault, Coaticook, Quebec

Christine Frost, Warner, NH

April Lemay, Canaan, VT

Chris Masson, Canaan, VT


Jim Tibbetts, Colebrook, NH

Rick Tillotson, Colebrook, NH

Bob Wells, Hopkinton, NH

Apply for a grant

Each year, The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund awards more than $3 million in grants to support economic development, education and community safety net programs that focus on the people and communities of Coos County, New Hampshire and surrounding areas in Vermont and Canada.

Learn more

We're here to help

To learn more about the Tillotson Funds and our work in the North Country, contact:

Sonya Salanti
  • Sonya Salanti
  • Director of Tillotson Funds
Phoebe Backler
  • Phoebe Backler
  • Senior Program Officer, Tillotson Funds
Jean Clarke
  • Jean Clarke
  • Tillotson Funds Manager