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.

Read more: http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2017/06/ex-british_pm_david_cameron_pr.html

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.

Betty Devos: A Background to Her Giving

Betsy DeVos, graduating from Holland Christian High School, went on to get her Bachelor of Arts degree from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She “married entrepreneur, philanthropist, and community activist Dick DeVos, and together, they have four children and five grandchildren. She was elected four times as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, served as Chairman of American Federation for Children, and a board member of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. This organization pairs at-risk elementary students with Christian adults to mentor these children at least one hour a week. Her conviction, “Reform America’s broken education system by giving parents more options for their children’s education.”

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/us/politics/devos-sessions-transgender-students-rights.html?_r=0

Along with her husband Dick, Betsy DeVos founded in 1989 the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. Their primary focus is on education and Arts & Culture. In 2015, they spent $10 million on organizations like The Potter’s House, Partnership for Educational Justice, Success Academy Charter Schools, and many more. They also donated $22 million “to launch the DeVos Institute of Arts Managements at the University of Maryland.” This Organization was to strengthen the business side of art organizations. Donations also go to civic, community, leadership, Public Policy, Health & Human Services, and churches. What is remarkable about their donations is that they put no restrictions on how the organizations use the received donations. What they want to see is that the donations are used to make a difference. The DeVos donated $200,000 to the Potter’s House. When looking into the Potter’s House their own children were of school age. It was hard for them to see the struggles parents, many low-income families, of the Potter’s House Christian School to keep their children in a save, loving environment where learning is exciting! Tuition was a real sacrifice for them. The DeVos were constantly drawn back to that school and finally they decided to support individuals there. That commitment continues to grow today. The Partnership for Educational Justice received $400,000 from the DeVos family Their projects challenge unfair educational policies and propose common sense solutions. Policies in education should be based on evidence and common sense. Sometimes things that seen obvious are the things we overlook. Their commitment is to strengthen their schools by pursing these means. Another DeVos commitment was $150,000 to the Success Academy Charter Schools. The original school founded in 2006 was offered in Harlem for Kindergarten and 1st grade scholars. In 2008, because of their success and high parent demands to send their children there, three new elementary schools opened. In 2015 they opened two new middle schools. Today there are 41 free public schools, including high schools all founded on the principle that every child can succeed.

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