Sandler Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: The philanthropic vehicle of Herb Sandler and his late wife, Marion, the Sandler Foundation’s environmental grantmaking takes place under its “Advocate for Vulnerable and Exploited People and Environments” grants category.

IP TAKE:  This is a very progressive funder that has not only supported established outfits but also helped start organizations and initiatives. Unfortunately, the foundation currently doesn’t accept unsolicited proposals.  

PROFILE:  Herb Sandler attended City College of New York, and then Columbia Law School before he and his wife Marion purchased the Golden West Savings and Loan Association for a mere $4 million in 1963. The couple served as co-CEOs for more than four decades, and when the company was finally purchased by Wachovia Bank in 2006, it was worth $24 billion, netting the Sandlers $2.4 billion for their ten percent share.

Though the Sandler Foundation was formed in 1991, the vast majority of its giving has been done in the last decade, after Herb and his wife Marion sold their company and retired. Before Marion died in 2012, the Sandlers worked together to create several organizations that fight for progressive causes, including investigative journalism, progressive education reform, policy work on equitable growth and even maintaining credit card standards.

Sandler philanthropy is broken up into four major grant categories.  Its environmental grantmaking appears to take place under its “Advocate for Vulnerable and Exploited People and Environments” grants category.

Recent large sums have gone to Earth Justice (which received $2 million in 2012), and to Sierra Club’s coal campaign ($500,000 in 2012). Sandler has also supported Consultative Group on Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network in Marin County, which works to protect endangered sea turtles, and Island Conservation in Santa Cruz. A few years ago, $200,000 went to NRDC in San Francisco for an oceans program and large sums went to Palindrome Advisors for a climate program.

Some of the Sandler Foundation’s largest efforts in this area have keyed on the Baja California region, where in 2008 a group of funders partnered with the Resources Legacy Fund in Sacramento to establish the Northwest Mexico Land Conservation Program. Those on board include the Sandler Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, who partnered with the Resources Legacy Fund. In 2012 alone, Sandler gave $2.5 million towards this program.

Much of Sandler’s environmental philanthropy targets the west coast, mainly Northern California and Mexico. An outfit called Wildcoast has also received large sums. Much like Resources Legacy Fund, Wildcoast protects land on Baja California and claims to have protected 350 miles of Baja California coastline, and 1,125 acres of coral reefs in Mexico in 2013. Wildcoast also protects land in San Diego County, another site of Sandler philanthropy, where UCSD has received a steady stream of funding (mainly health related) over the years.

What’s interesting about Sandler’s environmental philanthropy so far is that it doesn’t yet seem to tap into education and the media in the way that its health grantmaking does. It’s possible that this happens down the line, however.


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Sandler Foundation

121 Steuart Street

San Francisco, CA 94105

(415) 777-0411


Sandler Foundation

Sandler Foundation— Grants Page