Herb and Marion Sandler

NET WORTH: Unknown

SOURCE of WEALTH: Golden West Financial Corporation

FUNDING AREAS: Medical Research & Health, Policy, Environment, Human & Civil Rights, Media

OVERVIEW: Herb and Marion Sandler established the Sandler Foundation in 1991. The foundation invests in “strategic organizations and exceptional leaders that seek to improve the rights, opportunities and well-being of others, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.” The Sandlers’ philanthropic initiatives include medical research and health, policy, the environment, and human and civil rights.

BACKGROUND: Herb Sandler is graduate of the City College of New York and Columbia Law School. Marion Sandler graduated from Wellesley College and earned an MBA from New York University. Early in her career, she worked as a buyer at Bloomingdale’s and was the first female analyst to be hired by the financial firm Dominick & Dominick, in New York. The couple wed in 1961, and in 1963, they purchased the Golden West Savings and Loan Association for $4 million. The Sandlers served as co-CEOs for more than four decades. When the company was purchased by Wachovia Bank in 2006, it was worth $24 billion, netting the Sandlers $2.4 billion for their share in the company. 


MEDICAL RESEARCH AND HEALTH: The Sandlers have supported medical research in several areas. Through their foundation they have invested about $100 million into asthma research and were involved in the foundings of both the American Asthma Foundation and the Sandler Asthma Basic Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Other past grantees in the area of medical research include the Program for Breakthrough Biomedical Research, the Sandler Center for Drug Discovery and the Center for Next-Gen Precision Medicine Diagnostics, which are all located at the University of California, San Francisco. At Stanford University, the Sandlers have supported the Clinical Excellence Research Center, which is “dedicated to discovering, testing and evaluating cost-saving innovations in clinically excellent care.”

POLICY: The Sandlers’ work in the area of policy has prioritized the financial well-being of middle- and low-income populations in the U.S. They were involved in the establishment of the Center for Responsible Lending, the Student Borrower Protection Center and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which works at the federal and state levels “on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals.” Additional past grantees in the area of policy include progressive causes such as the Centers for Equitable Growth, the American Constitution Society, the Campaign Legal Center and the Truman National Security Project.  

ENVIRONMENT: The Sandler Foundation has invested heavily in ocean protection and restoration, climate change research and conservation. Past grantees include Oceana, “the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation;” Earthjustice, an environmental law organization; and the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

HUMAN & CIVIL RIGHTS: The Sandlers have given about $45 million each to the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch. They also helped to establish the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

MEDIA: The Sandlers bankrolled the founding of ProPublica, a non-profit news organization that produces high-quality investigative journalism in collaboration with other media outlets.

LOOKING FORWARD: While the Sandlers are open to supporting new initiatives in their areas of interest, their foundation prioritizes organizations that have maximum potential for impact. It is likely that they will continue to support the organizations that they helped to create, as well as organizations that have proven records of effectiveness.


Sandler Foundation
121 Steuart Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 777-0411


Sandler Foundation

Guiding Principles for Grants

Past Grantees