De Vos Family
De Vos Family
Amount donated: $1.2bn
Philanthropic Causes: Education, health, the arts.
Region of philanthropic focus: United States.
Ranking: 20th on Forbes’ America’s 50 Top Givers list in 2014
Net Worth: $4.9bn according to Forbes as of April 2016
The DeVos family are collectively one of the biggest givers in the United States, ranking at a respectable number 20 in Forbes’ annual America’s 50 Top Givers list. However, until recently the family had been reluctant to declare just how much money they had donated through their five family Foundations. Guided by their Christian faith, the DeVos family have donated an impressive $1.2bn to charity over their lifetime and were moved to disclose their philanthropic endeavours in a bid to encourage others’ generosity.
Richard DeVos, patriarch of the DeVos clan, cofounded direct-selling giant Amway with his lifelong friend Jay Van Andel in 1959. Speaking of their secret to success, DeVos has said: “We were two kids who were hungry for success and who wanted to give others the chance to be in business for themselves, too.”
Amway expanded rapidly, opening branches across the globe and acquiring millions of distributors for a variety of health, beauty and homecare brands. As of 2015, Amway was listed at number 30 on Forbes’ list of America’s Largest Private Companies, after raking in $10.8bn in revenue. DeVos retired from Amway in 1993, and the company is now run by his family. Despite Amway’s clout in the business world, DeVos is perhaps better known in his native United States as the owner of Florida-based NBA team, Orlando Magic, which he purchased for $85m in 1991.
In1970, DeVos and his wife Helen founded the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. Their four children have since followed suit, each setting up a foundation with their spouse to create: The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation, the CDV5 Foundation, and the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation.
“A focus of our philanthropy has always been our home area. We want to create an atmosphere for everyone to improve their circumstances while advancing our community, whether through Christian compassion, education, health care, or the art,” the DeVoses have stated in the past.
With that in mind, the family have made Grand Rapids, Michigan, their focus, pumping tens of millions into everything from the regional symphony to local schools and sports programs, as well as a number of Christian non-profits in the area. Thanks to their numerous grants, the DeVos name can be spotted on a number of important West Michigan institutions, including the children’s hospital, the
convention center and Grand Valley State University’s downtown campus.
Educational reform is at the heart of the Devoses’ giving, and over the past five years Douglas and Maria DeVos’s Foundation has gave over $2.6m to Grand Rapids schools. “We don’t want a single one of those 17,000 students to ever feel like we are not behind them or that they don’t matter,” DeVos said in 2013. For many years, the biggest share of their grant money went to the Education Freedom Fund, which gives needy children scholarships to private schools.
The family are also known for their support of conservative politicians and causes. They have donated over $1m to the conservative think tanks American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation and Richard DeVos has been known to donate large sums to the Republican party, backing both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaigns.
Coordinated efforts from all five family Foundations have also seen the DeVoses gift $1.2m to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, and $1.3m to the Gerald R. Ford Foundation.
Aside from their own Foundations, the DeVoses are also prominent board members on a number of charities across the United States. Over the years, their influence has been felt at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Constitution Center, the Kennedy Center and the West Michigan Sports Commission.
With all their giving, it’s little wonder the family have been recognised for their charity work. In 2006, Richard and Helen won the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership award, which is given to ‘a living philanthropist who has shown exemplary leadership through his or her own charitable giving’. With their Foundation never far from their mind, upon receiving the $250,000 prize money, the couple announced they would be splitting the sum between eight local organisations in Western Michigan ‘whose leaders all demonstrated resourcefulness in helping people help themselves’.
How and why Amway’s DeVos family gives away billions
Richard DeVos Forbes