Sunsetting in West Michigan: Celebrating the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation

May 1, 2024, marked the sunsetting of the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation after 54 years. Rich and Helen DeVos, who passed away in 2017 and 2018, distributed $1.1 billion in grants to over 1,000 nonprofit organizations during their lifetimes. Their giving gave them great joy and was driven by their faith and belief in the unlimited potential of individuals and communities.

One media outlet noted the foundation’s impact in leaving “an indelible mark on West Michigan” and “put[ting] Grand Rapids on the map as a community where philanthropy came alongside the public sector to make investments in projects designed to elevate the region.”

The DeVoses deeply cared for the people in their hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and focused on a variety of issue areas central to enhancing and sustaining the quality of life for all who lived in and near the town where they were born, married and raised their children. They invested heavily in relationships. What followed was a rapidly growing legacy of thoughtful partnerships with causes and organizations that reflected their deeply held values in the arts, education, faith, health care and economic development sectors.

As their relationships with community leaders deepened over time, their investments not only touched the lives of individuals but also transformed organizations. They did not hesitate to make large, multiyear pledges and gifts to nonprofits they considered essential to a thriving community and with whom they had typically enjoyed a long and trusting relationship and a shared vision for the future of Grand Rapids and the greater West Michigan area. Among those organizations were the Grand Rapids Symphony, Grand Valley State University and Spectrum Health (now Corewell Health).

In one of several interviews with the children of Rich and Helen, their oldest child, Dick DeVos, remarked, “It was more than just philanthropy. It was leadership; it was engagement. They were involved hands-on with this community; they cared deeply about this community. They didn’t just write checks, they also came up with ideas.” They also spurred the generosity of others. In another interview, Dick’s brother, Dan DeVos, noted, “If there was an opportunity to bring people together around a common cause for the betterment of the community, they were sure to be early cheerleaders and encouragers.”

The DeVoses were also committed to setting an example so their children would continue the legacy of engagement and generous giving. Rich and Helen’s philanthropy expressed their personal values and passion areas, and they believed others should have the same opportunity. They also wanted to ensure their philanthropic investments were aligned with their intentions. As a result, Rich and Helen designed their foundation to sunset after their deaths, passing the baton to future generations.

Their youngest child, Doug DeVos, explained, “They had things that they wanted to do, but at the end of the day, they wanted it to stop so that the opportunity would be available for others to move forward. They didn’t want to have everybody, if you will, trapped in their legacy. They had their own purpose and sense of why they were doing what they were doing, and they wanted others to have that same joy.”

To mark the sunset of the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, their family held a celebration attended by some 400 people, including staff and leaders of the many nonprofits that had benefited from the couple’s generosity. A video created for the event highlights the strong relationships forged over the foundation’s 54 years.

Philanthropy Roundtable’s donor services help givers protect their charitable intent. Learn more about this topic through our donor intent resources.    

Let’s Keep in Touch

Our Values-Based Giving Newsletter helps philanthropists and charitable organizations apply their values to their giving and follow the best practices for success.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.