Sandler Foundation




Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2019):

Revenue: $33,043,836
Expenses: $65,914,094
Assets: $948,056,423




Grantmaking foundation

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The Sandler Foundation is a left-of-center philanthropy organization founded in 2001 by billionaire bankers Herbert and Marion Sandler. It has given approximately a billion dollars in grants to support organizations like the media group ProPublica and the think tank Center for American Progress. 1

Most of the foundation’s approximately $1 billion in grants and donations have come since 2006, the year the Sandlers sold their company, Golden West, to Wachovia for $24 billion and turned their attention to philanthropy. 2 3


The Sandler Foundation funds national, policy-focused initiatives that combine mission orientation with sound leadership and strategic principles. 4 In 2006, the Sandlers donated $1.3 billion to the foundation, the second-largest single American charitable donation that year. 5

The foundation’s “Guiding Principles for Grants” include focusing on fewer grants that make a larger impact, finding and filling perceived gaps in areas of interest, and providing long-term vision and strategic support that is supplemented by grant recipients’ need to have strong internal structures for long-term success. 6

Grants generally fall into three categories: founding grants, catalyst and expansion grants, and general support. 7 Inside these categories, most grants go to left-leaning public policy groups such as the Center for American Progress and the American Civil Liberties Union, while others go to public health and scientific research initiatives. 8


Founding Grants

The Center for American Progress is a leading left-of-center policy think tank. Founded in 2003, its revenue was nearly $52 million in 2017. 9 The center supports abortion, LGBT advocacy, a $15-per-hour minimum wage, legal status for illegal immigrants, climate change alarmism, and gun control. 10 11 The Sandler Foundation gave $2.3 million to help start the center 12 and gave another $4 million in 2016. 13

ProPublica is an influential, award-winning, left-of-center investigative media organization. 14 Herb Sandler is credited as “the man who made ProPublica possible,” and sat on its board from its 2007 founding until his death in 2019. 15 The Sandler Foundation continues to donate to ProPublica, including $3 million in 2018. 16

In addition to providing founding grants to approximately 11 left-of-center political, policy, and media groups, the Sandler Foundation has helped launch a number of medical research initiatives. In 2010, the leader of one of those initiatives, a University of California-San Francisco parasitic disease research and drug development program, was given a prestigious award for his work on how parasites and related diseases affect poverty-stricken nations and regions. 17

Catalyst and Expansion Grants

Sandler Foundation catalyst and expansion grants to expand operations for grantees or to strengthen existing infrastructures. The left-of-center, religious-based social change group Faith in Action received this type of grant money. Viewing policy and culture through a racial lens, Faith in Action’s initiatives include, but are not limited to, urging local governments to not cooperate with federal immigration law enforcement. 18 The Sandler Foundation’s funding helped Faith in Action open a national office. 19 The foundation gave $500,000 to Faith in Action, known until 2018 as PICO, in 2016 alone. 20

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) received $51 million from the Sandler Foundation from 2001 to 2019. 21 The ACLU’s Strategic Affiliate Initiative, which was launched after 9/11, received $12 million. ACLU executive director Anthony Romero wrote in 2017, the initiative unknowingly prepared the organization to oppose major parts of the Trump administration’s agenda. Romero highlighted the ACLU’s goals to protect Planned Parenthood’s government funding, support LGBT policies over religious liberty, and oppose the Trump administration’s partial ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority nations. 22 The ACLU received more than $3.7 million in 2016 from the foundation. 23

Earthjustice, the former legal arm of the environmentalist advocacy group Sierra Club, has received $2 million in catalyst funding in 2016. 24 25

One of the few non-advocacy catalyst donations made by the Sandler Foundation was to the Stanford Clinical Excellence Research Center. 26 The center specializes in researching ways to improve how America’s health care system provides critical care in areas like dementia and cancer. 27

Support Grants

Support grants are provided to groups and initiatives that are self-sustaining, completed, or which work outside of the Sandler Foundation’s focus.

The left-of-center Middle East policy group J Street Education Fund received $250,000 in 2013 for its advocacy for a two-state solution to Israeli and Palestinian conflicts. 28

Four apolitical health care initiatives have received support grants from the Sandler Foundation. One of those initiatives was an international, multi-group effort to reduce bloodline infections in intensive care units. 29

2020 Social Justice Donations

Following the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020, Susan Sandler, the daughter of Herb and Marion Sandler and a trustee of the Sandler Foundation, donated $200 million to left-of-center social justice organizations dedicated to “fighting systemic racism” and encouraging minorities to vote. 30

In addition to its many left-of-center political, public policy, and cultural change grants, the Foundation has provided almost $300 million to apolitical health care initiatives related to asthma, neuroscience, and other health care fields. 31


Herb and Marion Sandler became billionaires after running Golden West Financial for 43 years. They sold the company in 2006 for $24 billion and focused on philanthropy until Marion’s death in 2012 and Herb’s in 2019. 32 Their legacy was complicated by Golden West’s development of a style of home mortgage loan that drew intense criticism after the outbreak of the 2008 financial crisis. Herb sat on the Sandler Foundation’s board as president and director. 33 34 35

Herb and Marion’s daughter Susan is a trustee of the Sandler Foundation. 36

Steve Daetz has been president of the foundation since 2019. Previously he was executive vice president from 2007 to 2019 and worked for Golden West from 2002 to 2007 as associate general counsel. 37

Sergio Knaebel is a grants director for the foundation. 38


The Sandler Foundation’s 2019 revenues were $253.2 million, $251.2 million of which came from investments. The foundation gave $85.3 million in grants out of $88.2 million in total expenses in 2019. Its assets in 2019 totaled $834 million. 39


  1. Kline, Alan, and Kate Berry. “Golden West co-founder Herb Sandler dies at 87, leaving complicated legacy.” American Banker. June 05, 2019. Accessed May 3, 2022.
  2.  Sandler Foundation. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  3. Kline, Alan, and Kate Berry. “Golden West co-founder Herb Sandler dies at 87, leaving complicated legacy.” American Banker. June 05, 2019. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  4. “Our Mission and Approach.” Sandler Foundation. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  5. “Philanthropy.” Sandler Foundation. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  6. “Sandler Foundation Guiding Principles for Grants.” Sandler Foundation. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  7. “Grants.” Sandler Foundation. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  8. “Foundation Grant Categories.” Sandler Foundation. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  9. [1] Center for American Progress. Return of an Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990). 2017. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  10. “Center for American Progress.” Influence Watch. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  11. “Our Issues.” Center for American Progress. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  12. “Thoughts on the Sandler Foundation.” The GiveWell Blog. February 24, 2015. Updated on March 09, 2015. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  13. Sandler Foundation. Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF). 2016. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  14. “ProPublica.” Influence Watch. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  15. Richard Tofel, Stephen Engelberg. “The man who made ProPublica possible.” ProPublica. June 5, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  16. “2018 Annual Report.” ProPublica. Accessed August 15, 2019.
  17. “ProPublica.” Influence Watch. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  18. “Faith in Action.” Influence Watch. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  19. Ranghelli, Lisa. “Long-term operating support: Sandler Foundation.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. April 30, 2019. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  20. Sandler Foundation. Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF). 2016. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  21. “ACLU mourns the loss of Herb Sandler.” ACLU. June 05, 2019. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  22. Romero, Anthony D., and Geri E. Rozanski. “A revamped ACLU takes on today’s fights.” Stanford Social Innovation Review. Summer 2017. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  23.  Sandler Foundation. Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF). 2016. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  24. Sandler Foundation. Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF). 2016. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  25. “Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund changes name to Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund.” Earthjustice. June 14, 1997. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  26. “Stanford’s Clinical Excellence Research Center.” Stanford Medicine. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  27.  “CERC Progress Reports.” Stanford Medicine. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  28.  Sandler Foundation. Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF). 2013. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  29. “Johns Hopkins Safety Team works to eliminate bloodstream infections in the nation and the world.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. February 25, 2009. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  30. Folley, Aris. “Philanthropist Susan Sandler investing $200M in social justice organizations.” The Hill. September 14, 2020.
  31.  “Herbert Sandler: Devoted Husband, Father and Grandfather; Businessman and Philanthropist,” Accessed May 03, 2022.
  32. “Philanthropy.” Sandler Foundation. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  33. Kline, Alan, and Kate Berry. “Golden West co-founder Herb Sandler dies at 87, leaving complicated legacy.” American Banker. June 05, 2019. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  34. Sandler Foundation. Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF). 2016. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  35. “Herb Sandler, Thrift Executive, Dies at 87.” National Mortgage Professional Magazine, April 4, 2022.
  36. “Susan Sandler.” Learning Policy Institute. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  37. “Steve Daetz.” LinkedIn. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  38. “Board.” Biodiversity Funders Group. Accessed May 03, 2022.
  39. ProPublica. Return of an Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). 2016. Accessed May 03, 2022.

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Susan Sandler
    Board Trustee
  2. Herbert Sandler
    Founder and Primary Funder

Donation Recipients

  1. Accountable Tech (Non-profit)
  2. Advance Native Political Leadership (Non-profit)
  3. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (Non-profit)
  4. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation (Non-profit)
  5. American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (Non-profit)
  6. American Oversight (AO) (Non-profit)
  7. Arizona Center for Empowerment (Non-profit)
  8. Campaign Legal Center (Non-profit)
  9. Center for American Progress (CAP) (Non-profit)
  10. Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) (Non-profit)
  11. Truman Center for National Policy (CNP) (Non-profit)
  12. Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) (Non-profit)
  13. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) (Non-profit)
  14. Compassion and Choices (Non-profit)
  15. Consultative Group on Biological Diversity (Non-profit)
  16. Demand Justice Initiative (Non-profit)
  17. Democracy Forward Foundation (DFF) (Non-profit)
  18. Drum Major Institute (Non-profit)
  19. Earthjustice (Non-profit)
  20. Free Press (Non-profit)
  21. German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) (Non-profit)
  22. Human Rights Watch (Non-profit)
  23. Indivisible Civics (Non-profit)
  24. Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (Non-profit)
  25. Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) (Non-profit)
  26. J Street Education Fund (Non-profit)
  27. Leadership Conference Education Fund (Non-profit)
  28. Learning Policy Institute (Non-profit)
  29. MDRC (Non-profit)
  30. Media Matters for America (Non-profit)
  31. National Popular Vote (NPV) (Non-profit)
  32. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (Non-profit)
  33. New Florida Majority (Non-profit)
  34. New Organizing Institute Education Fund (NOI Education Fund) (Non-profit)
  35. New Venture Fund (NVF) (Non-profit)
  36. New Virginia Majority (Non-profit)
  37. Oceana (Non-profit)
  38. Faith In Action (PICO National Network) (Non-profit)
  39. Partnership for the Future of Learning (Non-profit)
  40. PICO California (Non-profit)
  41. ProPublica (Non-profit)
  42. Resources Legacy Fund (Non-profit)
  43. Rocky Mountain Institute (Non-profit)
  44. Schwab Charitable Fund (Non-profit)
  45. Sierra Club Foundation (Non-profit)
  46. Texas Organizing Project (TOP) (Non-profit)
  47. Tides Foundation (Non-profit)
  48. Vote Solar (Non-profit)
  49. Washington Center for Equitable Growth (Non-profit)
  50. WildAid (Non-profit)
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: December 1, 1991

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2019 Jun Form 990 $33,043,836 $65,914,094 $948,056,423 $1,534,438 N $100,005 $0 $33,505,039 $585,351 PDF
    2018 Jun Form 990 $23,490,195 $64,036,863 $961,769,757 $5,248,303 Y $463,000 $0 $25,955,024 $560,276 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $164,595,644 $54,814,998 $952,650,170 $7,419,647 N $216,945 $0 $25,130,191 $540,555 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $60,540,274 $58,785,799 $882,751,652 $8,882,984 N $25,244,816 $0 $21,541,562 $526,792
    2015 Jun Form 990 $62,842,696 $48,857,947 $919,716,566 $7,706,460 N $38,632,886 $0 $24,837,427 $494,167 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $75,391,113 $56,029,050 $884,877,082 $9,911,839 N $27,146,994 $0 $16,003,232 $0 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $18,229,323 $49,428,910 $747,494,350 $3,359,583 N $3,366,687 $0 $15,138,461 $0 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $14,415,765 $52,421,873 $683,935,436 $3,739,304 N $5,048,633 $0 $11,317,853 $0 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990 $10,437,641 $88,384,926 $746,899,972 $5,709,768 N $0 $0 $11,882,645 $333,333 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Sandler Foundation

    SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94111-5982