The news of Herb Sandler’s passing is a significant blow to everyone who cares about our democracy and this country. Herb and his late wife Marion worked to improve public policy in this country in a number of fields and thereby to improve people’s lives.
Herb was a visionary leader in the nonprofit world: he nurtured organizations, supported them financially, raised money for them, counseled them, and on occasion created them when he saw an unmet need. Support from Herb and the Sandler Foundation had an enormous impact on our work at Campaign Legal Center (CLC), for which we are everlastingly grateful.
After very successful careers as banking entrepreneurs, Herb and Marion sold their business in 2006 and placed a significant share of the proceeds into their charitable foundation. They treated the nonprofit world as a new investment opportunity. They did their research and approached organizations that impressed them with an offer of partnership. They cared about reputation and leadership, and did not invest “in the field,” but instead choosing to focus on assisting specific people and groups they thought could make a difference.
Herb believed in the importance of addressing the serious problems with this country’s political system and reached out to CLC to offer his support of our mission for every American to be able to participate in the political process meaningfully.
He was generous with his questions and advice, and also had a clear “you know more about it than we do” attitude when it came time to make decisions. I came to love calls with Herb because he almost always asked questions I had not thought of, or had a different perspective on a question.
Herb’s funding was unrestricted. It came with convictions but not with strings. He focused not only on the need for the best staff to fight our battles in court, but also on the nuts-and-bolts essentials that are necessary for any successful entity – solid bookkeeping, talented administrative staff, and experienced development professionals. He always counseled, “Wait for the best, don’t settle for second best just to fill the position.”
Herb was also the ideal funder because he encouraged others to join him in supporting our work. He was free with introductions to others he knew were interested in the field, or with those he thought should be. As much as he gave, he knew it would never be enough to meet the challenges ahead unless it was magnified many times over by the resources of others. Herb was, therefore, a great believer in grants that challenged others to contribute as well.
He was a person who used his resources to make things happen and improve our world. From the creation of ProPublica in the face of the newspaper crisis to his focus on organizations helping consumers and fighting for human rights, he sought to hold the powerful accountable and be a voice for fairness and the little guy. CLC will miss him greatly. His impact will live on through the work of CLC and other organizations he supported and the lives he touched through them.
Herb Sandler was a leader and a visionary, and he will be sorely missed.
We look forward to carrying on his vision through our partnership with the Sandler Foundation.