Dick & Betsy DeVos have never been known to put a price on the importance giving, and it’s perhaps for that reason that they’ve usually refrained from saying how much they’ve given during a fiscal year. But during the hearings for Betsy’s nomination to US Secretary of Education the DeVos’s let the pubic in on the big secret. Excluding most of their political campaign donations and activities in the Michigan Republican Party, the DeVos’s have given around $139 million in lifetime philanthropy. Some of the philanthropy is conducted through their company The Windquest Group while the rest has come through the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation and other groups they own.
Much of the work Dick DeVos does today at The Windquest Group involves investing in startups including clean energy companies, household closet and storage space manufacturing, restaurants, and venture capital firms. But he also was on the executive board at Amway Corporation for many years. Amway was cofounded by Dick’s father Richard DeVos Sr. and Jay Van Andel and has been a major direct selling business for 60 years. Richard DeVos Sr. also worked closely with former President Gerald R Ford’s administration and in 1991 purchased most of the shares to the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Dick grew Amway‘s overseas presence and generated billions in annual income over the course of his tenure as CEO from 1993 to 2002.
Dick and Betsy DeVos began most of their philanthropic work in education and civic projects. Dick won election to the Michigan State Board of Education in 1990 and held office for two years working as a school-of-choice advocate. But he and Betsy also contributed to local private schools through their foundation’s scholarship funds at Education Freedom Fund in partnership with Children’s Scholarship Fund. While the scholarships helped some families afford private schools the DeVos’s wanted to help many more do so through voucher and tax credits, but came short of passing a state initiative for that endeavor. They did later establish a charter school with a curriculum based in technology, mechanics, liberal arts and other sciences known as the West Michigan Aviation Academy.
One of Dick DeVos’s major contributions to Grand Rapids, MI was supporting and serving on the board of Grand Action Committee, a development program that helped bring business and fun activities to the downtown area. He and Betsy also support the Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan, ArtPrize and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Betsy was the chair of the Michigan Republican Party for several years in the early 2000’s and Dick ran in the 2006 gubernatorial race but lost on election day. In conjunction with Heritage Foundation and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy he did help get a right-to-work law passed in 2012. Dick DeVos also authored the book Rediscovering American Values.