For Dick DeVos, philanthropy is little different from rational calculus of business

Most people associate the name of Dick DeVos with politics. This is a perfectly understandable response. DeVos has become somewhat famous as a result of his 2006 gubernatorial candidacy in the state of Michigan. Although he lost, the race was one of the closest in the state’s history, only being beat by then-incumbent governor Jennifer Granholm by a couple of percentage points.


But many people would be surprised to learn that Dick DeVos is not a career politician at all. On the contrary, he has spent a life in business, dedicating himself to bringing projects to fruition and getting things done. As a member of the famous DeVos family, founded by Rich DeVos, the billionaire cofounder of Amway, Dick DeVos has been involved in running both the family businesses and many of his own highly successful firms. He has racked up an impressive track record of leadership, successfully leading Amway from economic difficulties into a high-tech 21st century future, as well as building his own companies from the ground up into highly successful businesses.


But for many in West Michigan, DeVos is best known for his philanthropic activities. Along with his wife, Betsy DeVos, he has given away over $100 million to various charitable causes. Many of these have been focused on health and education, and most of the donations have centered around Michigan in general and West Michigan in particular. The DeVos family has always firmly believed that charity does, in fact, start at home.


The DeVos family has long been renowned in charity circles for its lack of stipulations attached to the donations that it makes. Dick DeVos has almost never required the money he gives to charitable institutions to be used in a certain way, instead opting to fully trust the administrators running the programs that are the targets of his largesse. But this is not to say that he doesn’t do his research thoroughly.


On the contrary, to DeVos, charity is no different than business or investing. The DeVos family has only given money to causes that have demonstrated, evidence-based track records of getting real results. This is especially true in education. In a field filled to the brim with snake oil salesman, the DeVos family has invested heavily in some of the only schools in the state of Michigan that have proven the ability to bring inner-city youth up to the level of scholastic excellence.