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Grand Rapids Foundation contributions for 2017: The Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation

March 11, 2019

Foundations have to submit 990 statements annually, in order to avoid scrutiny from the federal government. Because of the paperwork that is involved and the documentation that recipients of foundation money must submit, the government provides two years for foundation 990 reporting. This means that foundations are only now submitting their 990 forms from 2017.

Over the next several weeks, as foundations make their 2017 990s available, I will be providing a summary and analysis of foundation giving for 2017 from members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure. We begin with the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation.

As we have documented in the past, the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation is one of the largest in the area.  According to Guidestar.org, the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation reported Gross Receipts at $48,711,749 and Assets at $14,017,852. To see the full 990 file for 2017, go to this link https://griid.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/richard-helen-devos-foundation-2017.pdf.

990 documents have payments to entities that occur during the year and a separate section for future payments. We will include the total from both as it applies.

The largest recipients of contributions from the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation tend to fall into the category of educational institutions.

  • Aquinas College $3,000,000
  • Calvin College $1,020,000
  • Davenport University $1,525,000
  • Grand Rapids Christian Schools $500,000
  • Grand Valley State University $5,040,000
  • King’s College $8,400,000
  • Kuyper College $2,000,000
  • Lee University $1,900,000
  • Michigan State University $2,600,000
  • Potter’s House $325,000
  • Rehoboth Christian School Association $1,000,000
  • South Christian High School $1,500,000
  • Western Theological Seminary $1,450,000
  • Zuni Christian School Mission $1,050,000

This level of contributions to schools serves two purposes. First, it underscores the value that the DeVos Family puts on private religious education, specifically religious education that embraces a similar worldview of the DeVos Family. Second, in the instances where they contribute to public schools, here the seek to have influence on the policies of those schools, such as GVSU, which we have documented. https://griid.org/2018/09/13/gvsu-canonizes-rich-devos-but-some-students-push-back/

The next large category that the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation contributed were churches or organizations that identify as Christian. We only include those which are $50,000 or more for 2017.

  • Alliance for Children Everywhere $450,000
  • Back to God Ministries International $50,000
  • Bethany Christian Services $500,000
  • Central Presbyterian Church $500,000
  • Christian Leaders NFP $300,000
  • Christian Reformed Church in North America $300,000
  • Christian Schools International $50,000
  • David’s House Ministries $500,000
  • DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative $100,000
  • Evangelism Explosion III International Inc. $250,000
  • First Christian Reformed Church $50,000
  • Focus on the Family $50,000
  • Guiding Light Ministries $75,000
  • Holland Home $60,000
  • Holland Senior Citizen Center Inc. $500,000
  • Hope Network $100,000
  • ICCF $75,000
  • International AID Inc. $95,000
  • Keystone Community Church $300,000
  • LaGrave Avenue CRC $1,100,000
  • Luis Palau Association $670,000
  • Madison Square CRC $430,000
  • Mel Trotter Ministries $50,000
  • Nueva Esperanza $50,000
  • Partners Worldwide $1,500,000
  • Pillar Church $1,100,000
  • Pine Rest $1,875,000
  • Pregnancy Resource Center $50,000
  • Prison Fellowship Ministries $600,000
  • Right to Life of Michigan $150,000
  • The General Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in America $100,000
  • Words of Hope Inc. $50,000
  • World Renew $625,000
  • Youth for Christ USA Inc. $50,000

Funding to these faith-based entities clearly fits into the DeVos agenda, since they are also Christians, particularly Christians that do not threaten systems of power and fall on the conservative side of Christianity.

A third category that the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation has contributed to would be the Think Tank/political advocacy sector. Again, we only include those who received $50,000 of more.

  • Acton Institute $125,000
  • Alliance Defending Freedom $50,000
  • American Enterprise Institute $150,000
  • Heritage Foundation $250,000
  • Mackinac Center $115,000
  • National Constitution Center $2,050,000
  • National Review Institute $75,000

These Think Tanks and advocacy groups play a vital role in promoting the Right Wing political agenda that the DeVos family has been promoting for the past 5 decades. These groups collectively support a neo-liberal economic agenda, privatization of public services, the privatization of education, an attack on unions and worker benefits/pensions, the subsidization of the business class and US interventionist and imperialist policies.

In addition, the Think Tank/Advocacy groups work compliments the direct political funding that the DeVos family gives to state and federal candidates, such as the $11.3 million they gave in the last election cycle. In fact, the Think Tank/Advocacy groups often write the policy positions that the politicians will introduce, such as the Right to Work policy that the Mackinac Center crafted, which was pushed by DeVos funded state policy makers.

A fourth group that the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation made contributions to were social service agencies, mostly in West Michigan. The benefit of providing groups like the Baxter Community Center with funding is that it ends up making social problems the fault of individuals and not structural injustice. Indeed, these social service agencies do not advocate for policy change or structural transformation, rather they provide assistance to individuals and families who are “in need.”

A fifth and final category of groups receiving funding from the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation are cultural groups like the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the St. Cecilia Music Society and ArtPrize. Contributing to to these groups provides great PR value, thus suppressing or re-directing any criticism of the overtly far right policy objectives of the DeVos Family.

We feel that is is vital to scrutinize the contributions from the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation and to see them as a form of strategic funding for the short and long-time objectives the family has been promoting for decades.

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