Neil and Louise Tillotson (Photo courtesy of Steve Barba).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- The Coös Networks is a virtual community connecting more than 250 members who live and work in and are passionate about the region. It is a meeting place for exchanging ideas, sharing information and deepening community relationships across disciplines and geography. We always encourage new membership and participation.
- 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.
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 2021 Empower Coös Youth Grants Program. Committee members will help decide how to award up to $50,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations that are making our communities better.
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
The people, communities and nonprofits of the North Country have responded to this time of great challenge with great resilience. Read more in the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund 2020 Report to the Community.
Sonya Salanti of Bethlehem has joined the Charitable Foundation as director of the Neil and Louise Tillotson Funds. She talked to the Foundation’s Lois Shea about the joy of applying her skills in the place where she lives, the Tillotson Funds’ work during COVID – and how volunteering to park cars in the rain helped connect her to her new hometown.
Trail Finder puts up-to-date, trail-manager-sourced information for multiple outdoor activities at users' fingertips, along with information about local businesses — from inns to bike shops to breweries. Grants from the Foundation's Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund are supporting the service.
The ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic mean an increase in need for services from the nonprofit that represents people in civil cases. Unlike in criminal cases, litigants in civil court have no guarantee of counsel, even when their homes, economic stability or personal safety are on the line. That is where New Hampshire Legal Assistance comes in. A grant from the Foundation's Community Crisis Action Fund is helping meet the need.
The New Hampshire Food Bank has hired a North Country food systems coordinator, with help from a grant from the Foundation's Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, to work with local organizations, strengthen infrastructure, improve accessibility to fresh food and improve distribution in the region.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it hit the lives of vulnerable families with an overwhelming tangle of complication and peril. Family resource centers around the state rose to the moment, coming to the aid of people who needed them.
Keri Wade of Gorham Middle High School , Erica Hicks of White Mountains Regional High School and Patti Dugan-Henriksen of Groveton High School are recognized for their creativity, commitment to ongoing professional development, and extraordinary dedication to students.
Many children rely on school breakfast and lunch programs for an important part of their daily nutrition. When schools closed because of the public-health crisis, nonprofits and school districts stepped in to fill the gap, making sure children continued to get those meals. Many are now working on starting or expanding meals programs to cover the summer months.
Salanti, of Bethlehem, NH, was hired after a nationwide search. The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is one of the largest rural philanthropies in the country, distributing about $3.5 million in grants each year in Cöos County and surrounding communities.
Taproot Farm & Environmental Education Center makes communities stronger by connecting people with healthy, local food.
The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation made $3.4 million in grants to 58 nonprofits in Coös County and surrounding communities in 2019.
New position created with funding from Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund brings energy-efficiency to towns and school districts, with an eye to driving demand for sustainable energy systems and creating jobs in related industries.
Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund announces more than $210,000 in grants to support efforts in the North Country
Hikers exploring the Cohos Trail in Pittsburg will cross bogs using new bridges — and leave vegetation intact. The City of Berlin will update its master plan. Teachers in Colebrook will get the tools they need to support the social and emotional well-being of their students. And more
Megan Flanagan, a four-year recipient of the Neil and Louise Tillotson Scholarship, graduated last spring from the University of Vermont with a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism. She is now pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration while running two small businesses — and dreaming of a bright future in the North Country
Life science teacher and the STEAM coordinator at White Mountains Regional High School awarded fellowship that recognizes excellence in public education and strives to retain outstanding educators in North Country schools
Jobs for America's Graduates and the Appalachian Mountain Club have partnered up to offer Berlin students meaningful, paid summer employment, skill-building work in environmental stewardship, and exposure to careers in conservation and land management
Families will have increased access to nutritious foods. Community forests in Gorham and Milan will expand, providing additional income, lumber and open space for recreation. A local community college will train students for high-demand careers in industrial mechanics. And more
Since 2007, the Louise Tillotson Fellowship has awarded $445,100 to North Country public school educators
A few examples of recent grants making a difference in communities around the Granite State: Portsmouth Music and Arts Center builds community through the arts; Christa McAuliffe's legacy continues; Kids in Chichester get new playground equipment; Empower Coös Youth Grant Committee makes its first round of grants; Veterans get support and services; History is preserved in Manchester; The largest remaining dairy farm in the Monadnock region is conserved
Results of the 10-year Coös Youth Study by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire show that a strong civic culture and deep sense of community act as protective factors for young people in the North Country, even as the region struggles to adapt to a shifting economy and out-migration. Data will be used to inform grantmaking in the region
Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund announces more than $350,000 in grants to support efforts in the North Country
Adventure seekers will learn about mountain-biking opportunities in Coös County thanks to a new marketing campaign. A local theatre will entertain thousands of guests with live performances and film. And more
White Mountain Science, Inc.'s Mobile STEM Lab crisscrosses the North Country to bring STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics — programs to students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to dive into this modern curriculum. The mobile lab was launched with support from the Charitable Foundation's Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund
Tilly Players, after-school program at Boys & Girls Club of the North Country and After School Kids in Whitefield receive support from youth-led program of the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund
The Coös Cycling Club is providing outdoor recreation opportunities for local residents, drawing tourists, and contributing to economic revival in the Gorham area. The group has now joined forces with the Borderlands Trail System, which is promoting trail networks and communities across the Northern Forest region. Grants from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation support this work and other efforts to promote sustainable economic development for the North Country
Coös Family Dental, on Berlin's Main Street, is open to anyone in the community who needs care. The clinic is filling a need that is particularly acute in the North Country, where more than two in ten adults have not seen a dentist in the past five years, and very few dental practices are accepting new Medicaid patients. The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation has supported the clinic with a grant to upgrade equipment
A decade-long collaboration funded by the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation has resulted in a coordinated system of care and services aimed at improving outcomes for every child in Coös County. A research brief about that work, “By Us and For Us, A Story of Early Childhood Development Systems Change and Results in a Rural Context,” has been published in the The Foundation Review, a national, peer-reviewed journal. Now, lessons learned in Coös County can be applied to other rural communities around the country to improve outcomes for children
The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation made more than 70 grants and totaling $3.3 million in 2018. Read the stories of just a few of those grants in the Tillotson Fund's annual Report to the Community
Patty Hood, who has spent her career devoted to Berlin's students, has been awarded the annual Louise Tillotson Teaching Fellowship, which recognizes excellence in public-school teaching
The Empower Coös Youth Grantmaking Program of the Charitable Foundation's Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund is giving young people the opportunity to make some grantmaking decisions, learn about local needs and trends, develop leadership skills and deepen connections to community
Initiative of the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund brings leaders together every year to focus on opportunities and strategies to help North Country communities thrive
Program of Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund helps build and strengthen network of local leaders and enhance community and economic development
Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund announces $1.5 million in grants to support efforts in the North Country
Kids will get backpacks filled with nutritious food to keep their bellies full for the weekend. Residents will stay informed with more in-depth news coverage. And more
The Community Practitioners Network, a program of the Foundation's Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, graduates its second class of local leaders
Since 2007, the Louise Tillotson Fellowship has awarded $372,500 to North Country public school educators
New Hampshire Legal Assistance’s North Country staff provides civil legal services to those most in need
Matt Faucher of Berlin is earning an associate degree in IT with help from a Foundation scholarship. New Hampshire's "dual admission" program means all of his credits will transfer toward a bachelor's degree at one of the state's public universities
Susan Griffin, awarded the Louise Tillotson Teaching Fellowship, has taught at least a thousand students in Berlin over 40 years
Coös County students are engaging community members in conversations about values, activities and resources that create positive school and community experiences for local youth
The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund 2017 Report to the Community tells the stories of work that is boosting Coös County and surrounding regions — made possible by the Tillotsons' generosity
Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund Announces More Than $220,000 in Grants to Support Efforts in the North Country
Kids will leave school on Fridays with backpacks full of food to keep their bellies full through the weekend. And residents who need help making ends meet will get support through their local Salvation Army. And more
Program officer Kirsten Scobie on how one component of one small grant had a profound impact on the lives of young people
A magical, nighttime journey through Parc De La Gorge thrills visitors and helps revitalize a local economy
Magda Randall's dream was to open a bakery and help revitalize Main Street. Economic-development initiatives supported by the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund helped that dream come true
Program officer Phoebe Backler and her family connected with their North Country community by helping build a new warming hut for the local ski club
Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund announces more than $1 million in grants to support efforts in the North Country
Kids will have fun and stay on track with afterschool and summer activities. Low-income residents will have access to legal services. And more
Since 2007, the Louise Tillotson Fellowship has awarded $372,500 to North Country public school educators
High school students created a public awareness campaign – engaging community members in conversations that create positive school and community experiences for Coös youth
Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund announces more than $324,000 in grants to support efforts in the North Country
Students will have nourishing meals for the weekend. Environmental organizations will teach local youth about invasive species. And more.
In March, we gather in person over evaporators. All year, the Coös NetWorks brings people together online
Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund announces more than $612,000 in grants to support efforts in the North Country
Kids will learn how to save for college. Students will learn about energy and climate science through hands-on STEM education. And more.
Fund established in 2006 has granted $34 million to support the region
Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund announces nearly $700,000 in grants to support efforts in the North Country
An historic theatre will expand to serve more customers. A town will get a new soccer field for its kids. And more.
Community forests providing income, lumber, open space and more for towns in the North Country.
Community Practitioners Network trains and connects North Country leaders to make communities stronger.
Fellowship program has awarded more than $337,000 to public school teachers since 2006
Kids will be getting new books when they visit the doctor. Families will enjoy free children’s theatre. And more.
Support from the Foundation’s Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund touches thousands of lives every day
Young firefighter wants to help those close to home
Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund announces $1 million in grants to support efforts in the North Country
Recent grants are supporting innovative economic development programs, afterschool programs, outdoor education,locally grown food and more.
Public awareness campaign helps young people in the North Country feel heard, loved and valued by their communities
Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund helping North Country communities to thrive
Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund grants support substance use prevention, economic development, education, conservation and more
Three North Country public school teachers recognized for excellence
Grants support education, economic development, basic needs
Quick: what is the largest forest east of the Mississippi River?
The sleeves-rolled-up women of the Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network help people in the North Country become economically self-sufficient
The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund invests $5 million to improve early childhood outcomes in the North Country
Appalachian Mountain Club program teaches the science of the natural world
Louise Tillotson Teaching Fellowship boosts the communities she loved the most
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.
We're here to help
To learn more about the Tillotson Funds and our work in the North Country, contact:
- Sonya Salanti
- Director of Tillotson Funds
- 603-225-6641 ext 24200
- Email Sonya
- Phoebe Backler
- Senior Program Officer, Tillotson Funds
- 603-225-6641 ext 247
- Email Phoebe
- Jean Clarke
- Tillotson Funds Manager
- 603-225-6641 ext 238
- Email Jean