George W. Neilson, was an entrepreneur who invested wisely and worked and lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Along with his wife and daughter, he spent most of his summers in northern Minnesota at Spearhead Lake, south of Bemidji. Mr. Neilson wanted to leave a legacy that would carry out his philosophy and those of his daughter, Katharine Neilson Cram. In 1962, George Neilson established an irrevocable trust with an endowment of 1500 shares of 3M worth approximately $100,000. This trust was named the George W. Neilson Foundation.
Katharine Neilson Cram, was Executive Director of the Foundation until her death in 2000. From 1962 to the present, the George W. Neilson Foundation's assets have multiplied, allowing the foundation to support numerous grants. In March of 2002, new trustees were appointed that were all Bemidji residents, permitting the foundation to focus entirely on the Bemidji area, a wish expressed by Katharine Neilson Cram in memory of her beloved northern Minnesota.
Katharine Neilson Cram managed her father's Trust along with her own inheritance. She was both very frugal and very generous. In keeping with her legacy we, the Trustees, strive to keep overhead as low as possible and to grant funds that have the most impact in the community. Recognizing Bemidji as having a strong community spirit with an active group of volunteers, the Trustees' primary direction has been to support good programs rather than to create our own. We have funded many facilities that have benefited non-profit organizations and have enhanced our community in a most beneficial way. We are proud to have played a part in the tremendous strides Bemidji has made in the past many years, and we look forward to continuing to play an active role in its future. We are sharing this information about the Foundation to give the community a greater sense of who we are and what we have done recently.