Betsy DeVos: Using Philanthropy as a Strategy for much needed Reform

Betsy DeVos has featured a lot in the news lately. The education reformist was recently selected as to be the new administration’s Secretary of Education. However, long before she was named to this position, Betsy DeVos was known for something else – philanthropy. For decades now she has directly engaged in or indirectly supported various projects around the country that have rightfully earned her the tag, philanthropist.

Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, are the founders of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. Created close to three decades ago, this Foundation has been the main platform through which Betsy DeVos has undertaken most of her philanthropic work. The Foundation’s specific focuses are faith, justice, education, community welfare and the arts. In 2015 alone, the foundation raised slightly more than $10 million in donations and pledges. Further, it is estimated that in the 28 years of its existence, the foundation has raised approximately a hundred million dollars that have been directed towards various charitable acts and programs all around the country. In the area of education alone, Betsy DeVos assisting around 250 thousand students spread across the country access a quality education.

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Away from her own foundation, Betsy DeVos has also served in a number of varied philanthropic roles. She has served in a number of leadership positions at research and education institution, Action Institute, including board chair, board member, and treasurer. Additionally, while serving on the board of the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in 2010, Betsy DeVos gave a very generous donation of $22.5 million to the organization. The donation was targeted at supporting communities’ recovery, through art, following the recession that affected most of the world at the time. Her passion for art and philanthropy again intersected with the launching of the ArtPrize. This art competition she founded in 2009 has a price money kitty of $500,000 annually which is distributed to the winners. The ArtPrize event in Grand Rapids, Michigan has been touted by numerous reputable print organizations, including the New York Times, as a place greatly worth visiting.

While Betsy has always had a giving heart, her biggest philanthropic efforts have come from her work in the education sector. Before becoming the reformist she is today, her only involvement in the education sector was being the parent of school going children. Even then, however, she could see a number of apparent problems with the manner in which education was being run in some areas and schools within the country. These problems only became clearer when her husband was elected to the Michigan State Education Board. Her quest to improve the state of education in the country started off through a scholarship program before expanding to a foundation and later political advocacy. Visit betsydevos.com to know more about Betsy.