Michigan Philanthropists Establish Funds for Grandchildren to Boost Local Giving

The legacy of several wealthy families in Grand Rapids, Michigan — the second most generous city in the nation, according to a recent survey — may extend beyond their personal philanthropy, as they establish funds for their grandchildren and look to help develop the next generation of local philanthropists, the Grand Rapids Press reports.

Before he passed away last month, billionaire retailer and philanthropist Fred Meijer established funds for his grandchildren at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation so that they could begin to experiment with giving to local charities. And not long before she passed away in November, Ruth Loeks, matriarch of the family that owns a local movie theater chain, set up funds for her twelve grandchildren.

Several other wealthy families in the area also have established such funds. Yet, some observers are concerned that younger generations will not give at the same level or in the same way as their parents and grandparents. Indeed, many fear that growing numbers of younger donors will support projects and initiatives that may or may not be in the region where the family fortune was made. For example, Rick DeVos — the grandson of Rich DeVos, who co-founded the Ada-based direct selling company Amway — has targeted his support for experimental and entrepreneurial projects instead of the more traditional charities funded over decades by his grandfather.

"The thing about the next generation is that they are the technology generation," said Grand Rapids Community Foundation CEO Ellen Satterlee. "They want to see impact statements. They want to see how our dollars make a difference. They are the ones that ask for measurable change."