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Foundation Watch: What groups received funding from the Van Andel family foundations?

August 14, 2019

In the past few months we have made several posts about the various DeVos family foundations and some of the foundations run by those that act as financial advisors to the DeVos family

Today, we want to look at the family that began a partnership with DeVos, a partnership that led to the creation of Amway. Of course, we are talking about Jay Van Andel and his family. Van Andel was always less of a public figure that Rich DeVos, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t as politically active in a variety of causes.  Even though Jay Van Andel has been dead for years, it is important to note that for several decades he financially supported numerous far right entities in the US, both religious and political

The two Van Andel family foundations we are examining today, are the David & Carol Van Andel Foundation and the Steve & Amy Van Andel Foundation.

According to Guidestar, the David & Carol Van Andel Foundation states that it has just over $90 million in assets. We looked at the 990 documents between 2014 and 2017. However, both the 2016 and 2017 990s did not provide any information on specific recipients of the David & Carol Foundation. Therefore, the amounts listed below are only from 2014 & 2015.

Some of the larger entities that have received funding from this foundation were:

  • Cascade Fellowship CRC $1,200,000
  • Grand Rapids Christian Schools $647,000
  • GREAAT Schools Inc. $233,000
  • Grand Rapids Opera $225,000
  • Grand Rapids YMCA $260,000
  • Western Theological Seminary $1,000,000
  • Grand Action $175,000

The largest recipients of funding from the David & Carol Van Andel Foundation are Christian entities, specifically Cascade Fellowship CRC, Grand Rapids Christian Schools and Western Theological Seminary. These entities fit within the ideological framework of the Van Andel Foundation and the Van Andel family.

Another recipient was Grand Action, which fits within the family’s public/private partnership model, which is essentially a Neoliberal economic model, where the public contributes part of the money, but there is no public oversight. Then there is GREAAT Schools, Inc. According to the Guidestar, “GREAAT Schools Inc. is hands-on in the formation of charter school models from concept to implementation.  We are committed to organizing high performing school models, including a college preparatory curriculum and a focus on achievement culture.”

Lastly, the David & Carol Van Andel Foundation contributed to civic entities like the YMCA and Opera Grand Rapids. The Opera is a recipient, since Betty Van Andel, David’s mother gave lots of money before she died, which is why the newer building on East Fulton is named after her.

Steve & Amy Van Andel Foundation

According to Guidestar, the Steve & Amy Van Andel Foundation has assets of $93 million. Like the other Van Andel family foundation, there is significant financial support to Christian organizations. We looked at the 990 documents between 2014 and 2017, so the totals below reflect 4 years of contributions. Here is a list of the larger recipients from the Steve & Amy Van Andel Foundation:

  • Hillsdale College $4,800,000
  • Holland Home Foundation $1,755,000
  • Camp Rogers $1,040,000
  • Trillium Institute $500,000
  • Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation $250,000
  • Michigan State University $250,000
  • Children’s Healing Center $250,000
  • Gerald R. Ford Foundation $200,000
  • Meijer Gardens $200,000
  • Family Promise $150,000
  • Potter’s House $92,500
  • American Enterprise Institute $50,000
  • Foundation for Michigan Freedom $50,000
  • Acton Institute $35,000

Like the rest of the Van Andel family foundations, a great deal of money has been contributed to Christian entities or conservative organizations, both of which fit within the family’s ideological and political history.

Hillsdale College is a great example of the kinds of entities that the Van Andel family has supported over the decades. We wrote about Hillsdale College in late 2017, which included information about how the college has a history of opposing things like public education and affirmative action. 

Some of the ideologically driven entities that received funding from the Steve & Amy Van Andel Foundation are the Foundation for Michigan Freedom, which is a political lobby group that is run by the DeVos family operative Greg McNeilly. The American Enterprise Institute is one of the most influential right-wing think tanks in the US and the Acton Institute plays a similar role, since by AEI and Acton elevate market-driven economics as what must be protected and expanded.

On the matter of education, the Steve & Amy Van Andel Foundation, like the other Van Andel and DeVos foundations, supports Christian Schools like Potters House, but also contributed to the GRPS by way of the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation, with the intent of influencing public education to reflect their religious and ideological framework.

Both of the Van Andel family foundations we have looked at today, continue the same kind of religious and political support that was begun by their father Jay Van Andel. And, like their father, both Steve and David Van Andel do it with less attention than the members of the DeVos family, even though they share the same goals.

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