Long known for their generous political donations the DeVos family donations to other causes often gets overlooked. While their political donations are substantial, they account for a small portion of the charitable contributions the family has made. With Betsy DeVos named as the U.S. Education Secretary Dick and Betsy DeVos recently decided it was time to set the record straight about their philanthropic giving through the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation.
The data released shows a family that has donated millions of dollars to charities, $11.6 million in 2015 alone and almost $139 million in their lifetimes. Over the last five years, they have contributed $5.3 million in support of Republican political candidates. The DeVos family has been active in Republican politics for several decades, beginning with the co-founder of Amway, Rich DeVos. DeVos senior and his four adult children made $104 million in charitable donations in 2015 ranking them 24th on Forbes’ top donor list. Using the information available Forbes estimates the DeVos family has done around $1.33 billion during their lifetimes or 25 percent of the family fortune.
Betsy DeVos is no stranger to charitable giving. She is the daughter of a wealthy Holland, Michigan industrialist known for his charitable and political donations. Dick and Betsy have made school choice their priority, giving over $3 million to education in 2015 or 26 percent of their entire charitable contributions. Dick DeVos does not feel the current education system is working. He compares it to a civil rights issue, noting that kids growing up in the wrong zip code do not have the same educational opportunities, making it harder for them to realize the American dream. Dick DeVos has made school choice a goal, arguing the one-size-fits-all public education system is not working. That said, he has high praise for the educators themselves, feeling school administrators and teachers are doing a great job.
Tax records from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation indicate that in 2013 most of their donations went to schools in Michigan. Donations made to schools in Midland, Detroit and Grand Rapids. For example, Dick DeVos’ alma mater, Northwood University was the recipient of $200,000. However, there were donations to schools in Wyoming and New Mexico with several gifts to faith-based programs.
Dick DeVos is a staunch supporter of Michigan; he once ran for governor and Grand Rapids in particular. AS far back as 1991 when the city was thinking about building a multi-purpose sports and convention arena, he lobbied against the idea. Dick felt a convention center, located north of the city, would be a detriment to the city’s downtown area. He noted the moving of the Lions and Pistons to cities outside the city turned out to be harmful to Detroit. His opposition led to the formation of Grand Action, a group dedicated to the betterment of the downtown area. This group was instrumental in the construction of several venues that have changed Grands Rapids for the better. They include the DeVos Place Convention Center, the Grand Rapids City Market, and the Michigan State University’s medical school to mention only a few. Dick DeVos continues to work for a better education system and the overall good of the people.