Behind Betsy DeVos: Philanthropy and Experience

The 2017 appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education was met with praise and controversy from opposing ends of the education aisle. Well known as a leader in the school choice movement and champion in education reform, Betsy’s interest in education has been evident not only in her political actions throughout her adult life but also in her philanthropy through giving and the promotion of grassroots educational organizations over the years. As the daughter of a public school teacher, she was introduced to the concept of school choice at a young age. Throughout her college and adult life, she would begin to champion the cause not only on the front lines in public school sectors and her political work within the Michigan Republican Party but also through her philanthropy and giving through various charitable and non-profit organizations.

As former Chairman of the Philanthropy Roundtable, an organization that works to educate legislators on the need for philanthropy as well as promote philanthropy through working with donors to fulfill philanthropic needs across the nation, DeVos used her platform to encourage giving in high need areas such as K-12 education – particularly in her area of school choice and vouchers. In an interview with the Philanthropy Roundtable, Devos stated that her interest in advocating for school choice on a national scale blossomed when she served on two non-profit education charities in her state of Michigan to support legislation for vouchers and scholarships for low-income families. After the failure of school choice vouchers and scholarship legislation, she took her fight to a national level, working with additional educational nonprofits in states across the nation. Increasing both her philanthropic and political activity to increase awareness of the need for school choice advocacy.

Her philanthropy includes not only monetary donations and work through non-profit organizations such as Kids Hope USA and the Foundation for Excellence in Education, but also as an in school mentor for Grand Rapids Public Schools for 15 years. Philanthropy and giving are undeniably a family trait of the DeVos’ as her family was named as #24 on Forbes’s 2015 list of Top Givers, with Betsey and her husband contributing 11.6 million in Charity for that year alone – many of the benefactors being education and art organizations.Her giving has helped countless children in need and her philanthropic involvement has increased the awareness of school choice to those who were previously unfamiliar with the concept. And while she is still in the beginning of her career as the Secretary of Education, we hope her enthusiasm and tenacity for education and reform in the past will be indicative of her performance to come. Follow her on Twitter :

Andrew Rolfe and the unique Ubuntu Education Fund

Jacob Lief is at the forefront of innovation in the world of non profits. He knows first hand the various pitfalls that you can run into when trying to run an organization that betters the world. lief, who has spoken at events all around the world, came to a huge realization. He realized that the standard fundraising model for his non profit, the Ubuntu Education Fund, wasn’t working. He said, “It was nonsense. The money was flowing in but we weren’t changing people’s lives.” So what was his response to this realization? Well, it was simple. He decided to change the way things worked.


Jacob Lief and Andrew Rolfe, a chairman on the board of the Ubuntu Fund, are at the forefront of what could be a huge change and evolution in the realm of non profits. they are working on changing how non profits approach donors and, more importantly, how those donors give their money. This process has given way to what is now known as the Ubuntu Model. The Ubuntu Model looks for high net worth individuals and it focuses on donations that come without a ton of restrictions. Donors tend to what to have their hands on where their money is going but this can be counterproductive in even the best of situations.


Andrew Rolfe and Jacob Lief know first hand that their work is important. The Ubuntu Education Fund focuses on help impoverished and vulnerable kids who live in the Eastern Cape — a province in South Africa. The Ubuntu Education Fund knows best how to spend their money to help these kids so it makes sense that Andrew Rolfe and Jacob Lief would want to have their hands more involved on how their funds are spent. Donors typically request to be on the board, have a say in where the money goes, or even bein the room when it is spent.


Obviously the Ubuntu Model is still on the up and up. However, with the success that the Ubuntu Education Fund has been experiencing of late we can anticipate that their progress is going to be astronomical.