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It’s not Philanthropy, It’s Ideological and Class Warfare: How the DeVos Family Foundation contributions complement their political donations: Part V – Buying Non-Profit silence

September 3, 2020

We were recently able to access the 2018 990 documents from the various DeVos family foundations, through GuideStar.org. These foundations include, the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, the Dan & Pamela DeVos Foundation and the CDV5 Foundation.

We have been tracking the DeVos family foundations for years, since it provides useful information on how the family strategically uses their money to influence the world around us. It is important to recognize that when people generally think of philanthropy, they think of money going from those with tremendous wealth to non-profits who provide needed services in the community. While there is some truth to this, what we will demonstrate in this series of articles, is that the DeVos family uses their foundation money to primarily wage ideological and class warfare.

In Part I of this series, we looked at how the DeVos family foundation funded and influenced educational institutions in West Michigan and across the US. In Part II, we looked at how the DeVos family foundations funded far right Christian organizations, and in today’s post we want to take a look at how these same foundation have funded Think Tanks and other groups that influence public policy, along with organizations that practice far right and Neoliberal policies. In Part III, we looked how the DeVos foundations are funding far right think tanks and other public policy influencing organizations.  In Part IV, we looked at how much the DeVos foundations have contributed to organizations which they have created themselves during the 2018 fiscal year alone. 

In today’s post, we will look at which non-profits in Grand Rapids received funding from the DeVos foundations in 2018, and how that prevents them from challenging power and oppression in this community.

It is important to point out that the following non-profits provide services to individuals and families that have been marginalized in this community. A great deal of the marginalization is rooted in poverty, where families struggle to feed, house and provided the basic necessities required to have a full life.

What is interesting about this dynamic with non-profits who provides basic social services, is that the DeVos family has spent millions of dollars over several decades to fund think tanks that create policies that do serious harm to families, and fund candidates who pass legislation that enacts the harmful policies that the think tanks created. Therefore, the DeVos family funds public policy that harms families and then contributes to non-profits who provide social services to families who have been harmed by the very policies the DeVos family has financed. The main difference in this process is that the non-profits that the DeVos family funds generally do not challenge the public policies that the DeVos money has financed in the first place. In other words, there is no systemic analysis or efforts on the part of these non-profits to dismantle the root causes of the issues they are dealing with – housing, refugees, disabilities and hunger.

To be clear, these organization provide charity work, but little justice work. More often than not, these organization are a buffer between people who are marginalized and the systems of power and oppression that caused the very marginalization people are facing.

Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) – $1,757,500 – ICCF using language in the mission statement, such as Housing Justice, and they do build homes for families who are experiencing poverty. However, there is no real commitment to ending poverty or commitment to a living wages or to challenging the systems of capitalism and White Supremacy, which are at the root of housing injustice, displacement and gentrification. ICCF is also working with AmplifyGR, the DeVos-created entity, which bought up millions of dollars of property to develop before even telling residents what they were up to. In a neighborhood where I lived for 27 years, ICCF also bought up land and displaced families, despite previously committing to not displacing families in the Wealthy/Jefferson area of Grand Rapids.

Hope Network – $857,500 – Hope Network claims to be advocates for those who have serious injuries and need long-term therapy or permanent assistance from accidents that have caused significant disabilities. Hope Network does practice some form of disability rights, but they do not promote disability justice, plus they do not pay most of their staff a living wage.

Bethany Christian Services – $815,000 – Bethany Christian Services serves vulnerable kids in the US, refugees, immigrants and they do international adoption. However, Bethany does not challenge systemic or structural racism, they do not question the economic system of capitalism and they do not question US foreign policy, which contributes significantly to the creation of refugees and immigrants around the world. 

Kids Food Basket – $607,500 – Kids Food Basket provides food to school age children in West Michigan. However, despite KFB’s claim that they want to end hunger, no where in their mission or work do they have a plan to dismantle poverty or to challenge the system of capitalism, particularly in the food system.

Next Step of West Michigan – $365,000 – Next Step of West Michigan does construction and property maintenance work, hiring men and women coming out of rehab or prison. This non-profit does not question or challenge capitalism or the Prison Industrial Complex. 

Guiding Light Mission Inc. – $241,000 – The Guiding Light Mission provides temporary , emergency housing for people who are experiencing homelessness. They do not challenge the market-driven housing system or advocate for housing justice or an end to the root causes of homelessness. 

Mel Trotter Ministries – $126,000 – Mel Trotter Ministries, like Guiding Light Mission, provides temporary/emergency housing for people who are experiencing homelessness, but they do not challenge the market-driven housing system or advocate for housing justice or an end to the root causes of homelessness. 

The DeVos family foundations contribute to each of these local non-profits, and many more, precisely because these non-profits do not challenge systems of power and oppression. Whether or not there is any clear mandate from the DeVos family foundations about not challenging systems of power and oppression, the fact remains that these groups do not challenge systems of power and oppression, thus the DeVos family foundation money is ultimately hush money.

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