Susan Sandler launches $200 million fund for racial justice

Susan Sandler launches $200 million fund for racial justice

Philanthropist Susan Sandler, the daughter of Giving Pledgers Herb and Marion Sandler, former co-CEOs of Golden West Financial Corporation and World Savings Bank, has announced the launch of a $200 million fund in support of organizations working to advance racial justice. 

In a blog post published Monday, Sandler wrote that the Susan Sandler Fund will be housed at the Sandler Foundation, a private foundation established in 1991 by her parents. The fund will be led by Vivian Chang, who co-founded Oakland Rising and held senior executive positions at the Asian Pacific Environmental NetworkGreen for All, and the East Bay Community Foundation before joining the Sandler Foundation in 2018 as grants director.

Sandler, who has worked in the nonprofit sector and progressive donor spaces for decades, has accelerated her philanthropic investments after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer four years ago. In her post, she wrote that the fund will be guided by a theory of change she developed over her years as a philanthropist that is focused on supporting people of color-led organizations working to boost the power and influence of historically marginalized communities.

"I have come to believe that, rather than trying to use persuasive papers and reports to attempt to change the minds of those who are making decisions, the more effective way to transform societal priorities and public policies is to change the climate and environment in which decisions are made," she wrote. "Specifically, to make the faces of the people with whom policy makers have to interact reflect the full racial, cultural, and economic diversity of the population that is affected by those policies. When our government, corporate, and other societal institutions are responsive to — and, frankly, fearful of — the people who most bear the brunt of inequality and injustice, then better priorities, practices, and policies follow."

An initial round of awards announced by the fund includes grants to the Asian American & Pacific Islander Civic Engagement FundAdvance Native Political Leadership, the Arizona Center for Empowerment, State Power Caucus, the New Georgia Project, the New Florida Majority Education Fund, the New Virginia Majority Education FundPICO California, and the Texas Organizing Project.

"[T]he investments are not so much targeted to battleground states but looking at the landscape of racism and demographic change," Chang told the New York Times. "This fund really underscores what's left out of many philanthropic discussions....This concept of being accountable to real people with real problems, that is what catalyzes change, it's what generates urgency and creativity. And so that's why we're focused on increasing the power and influence of those who bear the brunt of racism."

Susan Sandler. "My cancer milestone and my philanthropic legacy." Medium blog post 09/14/2020. Astead W. Herndon. "Progressive donor Susan Sandler to give $200 million to racial justice groups." New York Times 09/14/2020.