Inside Dick DeVos’ Philanthropic Heart
Dick DeVos forms part of a high-profile family dynasty whose philanthropic contributions amount to nearly $139 million. According to a new report on the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation website, the family dished out a whopping $11.6 million to charitable causes in 2015. This amount was double what the family had been contributing to campaign donations over the last five years. The DeVoses enormous contributions to charitable and political causes have attracted attention leading to a decision by the couple to lift the veil on the millions they dole out every year.
Dick may have inherited the motivation to give freely from his father and family. His father, the co-founder of Amway, may have been a player in Republican politics for many years but has contributed immensely to non-political causes. The elder DeVos, together with his four sons, gave out a staggering $104 million to charity in 2015. This contribution thrust the DeVos dynasty to 24th place on America’s Top Givers list. Dick’s wife, Betsy, may have also contributed to her husband’s astounding philanthropic tendencies. She was born to the late industrialist from Holland, Edgar Prince whose contributions to political and charitable causes was also significantly huge.
Dick’s philanthropic trends reflect the importance he attaches to education. In 2015, he doled out over $3 million to educational causes, accounting for 26% of their charitable donations that year. Also, Dick’s foundation gave $357,000 to groups supporting reforms in the education sector. He had just realized that the current system was far from helping citizens achieve the American Dream. He noted that children from what he termed wrong ZIP codes were unable to the necessary education to propel them to the American Dream. While his critics argue that Dick’s interest in education put traditional public schools at a disadvantage because it led to the syphoning of tax dollars from their coffers. Dick DeVos responded to the criticism by pointing out the underbelly of the one-size-fits-all public education platform – it disadvantages kids from poor neighborhoods.
Dick and his wife are heirs to two family fortunes and have spent most of their adult lives trying to change institutions and policies. In their capacity as GOP mega donors, they have exerted their influence on state laws that affect education and labor. In 2012, Dick DeVos engineered the law that converted Michigan from a place of organized labor to a right-to-work state where union membership would no longer be a prerequisite for employment. However, DeVos’ biggest initiative is education reform. He founded started an aviation charter high school at Grand Rapids International Airport. He defended his education advocacy by instituting equality among children from different economic backgrounds. He aspires to achieve an environment where poor children have the same educational opportunities as their affluent counterparts.