Another Big Sandler Cause: The Environment

Recently we took a deep dive into the philanthropy of Herb Sandler and the Sandler Foundation, which is based in San Francisco. This is the funder who has tapped a banking fortune to underwrite the creation of ProPublica, the Center for American Progress, the Center for Responsible Lending, and the American Asthma Foundation, among other efforts. 

Related - The Sandler Way: Where Big Philanthropy Meets the Art of Common Sense

But Herb Sandler and his small team have other interests, too, and protecting the environment is one of them. In fact, the foundation has quietly given away some $60 million for ocean protection and restoration, climate change, and conservation in Baja.

That makes the Sandler Foundation a significant funder in the environmental space, even though it's not well known for this kind of grantmaking. What's more, the foundation, which plans to spent itself out of existence, last reported assets of over $700 million, so there's plenty of green left in the kitty.

In our earlier piece on Sandler philanthropy, we made it clear that this funder is a super-tough nut to crack. The foundation is very strategic in its giving and supports only a small number of organizations. But support can be substantial for those groups that do get over a very high bar and through the door. Furthermore, Herb Sandler told us that the foundation is definitely open to new ideas and initiatives. 

So where have Sandler environmental grants been going so far? A few places. 

The foundation has given big to several top environmental organizations, in keeping with its strategy of backing leaders in the field. Oceana has been a major grantee, receiving multi-million-dollar grants in recent years. Indeed, Oceana is among the foundation's top grantees. Earthjustice has also gotten serious support from Sandler, receiving a $2 million grant for general support during the foundation's 2012-2013 fiscal year. 

A few other environmental groups have received Sandler money, too. The foundation has supported both the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, and it gave a $760,000 grant to the Center for Biological diversity in 2012-2013 for its Climate Law Institute, with a grant of the same size the year before. 

In perhaps its largest efforts in the environmental area, the Sandler Foundation has keyed in on the Baja California region, where in 2008, a group of funders partnered with the Resources Legacy Fund to establish the Northwest Mexico Land Conservation Program. Those on board include the Sandler Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Sandler has given millions to this effort since then.

The foundation has also backed conservation efforts closer to its home base in the Bay Area. Grants have gone to the Turtle Island Restoration Network in Marin County, which works to protect endangered sea turtles, and Island Conservation in Santa Cruz, which aims to prevent extinctions by removing invasive species from islands.

It's hard to know where this grantmaking is going, or what the future holds. What we do know is that the Sandler Foundation doesn't dip into causes in a half-hearted way, or flit with the day's fashion. This funder is into environmental causes for the long haul and, as we said, has plenty of money left to spend.