Betsy DeVos Approaching Philanthropy from a Family Perspective

We may recognize Betsy DeVos because of the role as the Secretary of Education in the US, a title held for less than a year. Betsy DeVos is also a mother of four and grandmother to five. Motherhood inspired Betsy to advocate for better in the education sector and overall change in the community.


Betsy learned about the challenges parents endure trying to provide the best education while visiting Potter House School. Aware of the depths low-income parents have to go to afford the best school, Betsy resolved to seek equal outcomes for all. Underprivileged children had a right to access the same opportunities as all the others. Betsy then started initiatives that could improve the situation including providing scholarships.


A strong believer in personal philosophies, Betsy began influencing others to be part of the reforms in the education sector. Fruits of Betsy’s advocacy started manifesting after the inaugural charter school in Michigan was approved in 1993. In 2000, amendments to the constitution to cater for tax-funded vouchers sponsored by Betsy was unsuccessful. The rejection ignited the passion for change. Betsy shifted strategy to advocate for inclusion of the vouchers to other states. Currently, about twenty-four states plus the District of Columbia have implemented the vouchers in some form. The vouchers intend to provide parents and students more choices. Betsy DeVos also initiated the push for expansion of charter schools.


Between1989 to 2015, Betsy, through the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation invested 138.7 million dollars in community initiatives in arts and culture, health and social services, leadership programs, churches, and scholarships and education reforms for private schools. In 2015 alone, the foundation spent 11.6 million dollars in donations. Education accounts for 26% of all 2015 donations. Arts and culture make up 22% of all the donations while percentages allocated to leadership and development, community, health and social services and churches are 13%, 16%, 5% and 4% of all the donations.


In 2013, the Dick and Betsy foundation donated $ 1.016 million to education. The breakdown per institution is; $ 50,000 to the Compass College of Cinematic Arts in Grand Pricks, $ 200,000 to Northwood University, $315,000 to Michigan Aviation Academy, $100,000 to Ferris State University in Big Rapids, $ 301,000 to Potter’s House in Wyoming and $50,000 to Rehoboth Christian School.


In 2006, Betsy and Dick donated 12.5 million to the construction of the Grand Rapids Spectrum Health Systems children hospital named after Helen DeVos. The children hospital made services accessible for parents who previously had to go all the way to Mayo, Ann Arbor or Chicago.


The family institution plays an integral role in Betsy’s philanthropic works. Other than the children, the extended DeVos family also motivate pursuits greatness for all. Betsy is intentional about involving the immediate family in decisions and charities.


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