Susan Sandler

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Susan Sandler

Susan Sandler serves on the board of the Center for Community Change. She works at the Sandler Foundation with her parents Herb Sandler and Marion Sandler, and brother James Sandler.

Susan Sandler continues a family tradition at the Sandler Foundation, where as of December 31, 2012, the Foundation had made charitable grants exceeding $600 million to fortify infrastructure in the progressive space. Sandler Foundation, established in 1991, rigorously researches opportunities and makes strategic general support investments in exceptional individuals and institutions. In addition to her general responsibilities as a Foundation trustee, Susan leads the Foundation’s work in civic participation and education.[1]

She is also President of a donor collaborative called the Progressive Era Project that is building a social justice infrastructure in California (building political power and networks to move a bold social justice policy agenda. Susan spent more than 17 years working for racial justice in education as an organizational leader, policy advocate, researcher, professional development provider, school therapist, teacher, and activist.

She was President of Justice Matters, which advocates for policies for racially just schools. Susan also sits on the board of directors for the Center for American Progress.

In 1992 she married Steve Phillips.


Susan Sandler is a philanthropist and political donor. She was the first and largest donor behind the independent efforts to support Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. She was also the lead investor in the independent activities supporting Kamala Harris’ 2010 campaign for California Attorney General and Cory Booker’s 2013 election to the United States Senate. She is a national leader in education reform and has served as a board member of several progressive non-profit organizations including the Democracy Alliance. [2]


Susan 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 Susan Sandler Fund includes grants to the Asian American & Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Fund, Advance 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 Fund, PICO 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."[3]


Susan holds a Master’s in Social Work from San Francisco State University and a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University.[4]

Old comrades


Steve Phillips May 5, 2013;

Can't believe it's been 13 YEARS since Lisa Neeley moved to England! So great to see her. Where does the time go? Lisa went to high school with Susan, then college with both us. #goodfriends — with Lisa Neeley and Susan Sandler.

Obama connection

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Race Will Win the Race conference

PowerPAC+ June 25, 2014;

Today's the day! #WINin2014 Race Will Win the Race conference is finally here. Check out what's to come and join us on Twitter @PowerPAC_Plus using #WINin2014. — with Stacey Abrams, Cory Booker, Trey Martinez Fischer, Representative Marcia Fudge and Mark Takano in Washington, District of Columbia.[5]

Race torace.JPG

Plus speakers Aimee Allison, Deepak Bhargava, Susan Sandler, Steve Phillips, Ingrid Nava, Andy Wong, Subodh Chandra, Linda Hammond-Darling, Alida Garcia, Julie Martinez Ortega.

Ear to the Ground Project

Ear to the Ground Project was financially supported by the Center for Third World Organizing, the Movement Strategy Center, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, the Common Counsel Foundation, the Solidago Foundation, Steven Phillips and Susan Sandler, Quinn Delaney, and Connie Cagampang Heller & Jonathan Cagampang Heller.[6]

April 2016 Democracy Alliance Santa Monica meeting

April 2016 Some of the biggest donors on the left huddled behind closed doors with liberal politicians including Nancy Pelosi to strategize about electing Democrats and confirming Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but they also discussed ways to use Hollywood to advance their causes.

The occasion was the annual spring investment conference of the Democracy Alliance, which officially kicks off at the tony Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica, California.

The agenda also showed a particular focus on the California liberal donor community’s efforts to prepare for an impending upheaval in their state.

“As we approach the end of the Senator Boxer, Governor Brown, and Democratic Party Chair Burton era of California politics, a number of progressive policy, labor, and donor leaders have been strategizing together on how to win targeted candidate and initiative elections in 2016 and beyond, as well as policy battles in Sacramento,” read the description of a Saturday session called the California Donor Summit. It is sponsored by some of the biggest names in California progressive donor circles, including San Francisco real estate developer Wayne Jordan and his wife Quinn Delaney, Cookie Parker and Democracy Alliance board member Susan Sandler and her husband Steve Phillips.[7]

Champion in Community Leadership Award


Movement Voter Project Advisory Board

Movement Voter Project Advisory Board members, as of January 24, 2018 included Susan Sandler.[8]

Supporting Jones and Abrams

Stacey Abrams is vying to become the first African American governor in Georgia and some influential donors are putting their money where their mouths are—to the tune of $2.5 million

Donors are stepping up to support the former House Minority Leader for the Georgia General Assembly and State Representative for the 89th House District in hopes of seizing the Republican Party’s stronghold over the state.

San Francisco-based philanthropist, Susan Sandler is spending $1 million to help boost Abrams’ Democratic campaign, according to USA Today. Sandler has also recruited other big donors and has commitments for another $1 million.

The Democrats believe that the red Southern state could turn blue given what happened in Alabama. Seeing Doug Jones lay the groundwork for flipping states and turning deep-red Alabama blue and becoming the first Democrat elected to the Senate in the state in 25 years means anything is possible.

“The upset election of Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race in December gave a glimpse of a new electoral equation,” Sandler wrote in the memo. “If we elect Stacey, we will show that we know how to win in the South without compromising our principles and beliefs.”

And she knows what she’s talking about.

Sandler and her husband Steve Phillips helped fuel the large voter turnout in the Alabama Senate race. They plan to use the same strategies: a mix of door-to-door outreach, phone calls and advertising to turn the tide on the Georgia governor race.

The Sandler Phillips Center

December 2017, two major Democratic donors, the husband-and-wife team of Steve Phillips and Susan Sandler, unveiled a new data and political analysis clearinghouse to help other wealthy Democrats figure out how to get the most bang for the millions of dollars they will plow into next year’s midterm elections.

The Sandler Phillips Center is akin to a “financial advisory" firm for politics, Phillips said, that will dig into voting patterns and demographic data and vet on-the-ground activists to help guide investments of liberal political money to federal and state races where it can make a difference.

It also is conducting post-election autopsies to help the party, and its donors, learn from their missteps.

In the 2016 races, Democrats spent “hundreds of millions of dollars … to disastrous results,” Phillips said Wednesday in an interview with USA TODAY. “It’s sort of surprising how little quality information there is that donors get and ask for before cutting big checks."

A key goal of the new operation: Driving turnout among the coalition of voters — minorities, young people and college-educated whites — that twice elected President Barack Obama to help flip control of Congress to Democrats next year and seize governors’ mansions.

In a report making recommendations for 2018, they are calling for early investments in voter mobilization.

Phillips said his team already deployed their research in Alabama where they convened a conference call that connected roughly 40 Democratic donors with several local groups working to drive black voter turnout ahead of Tuesday's special election. In a two-week period, the team helped direct about $500,000 from those out-of-state donors to the groups working in Alabama, he said.

Exit polls show black turnout surged on Tuesday, and 96% of African-American voters in Alabama backed the winner, Democrat Doug Jones.

Voter data from other key races in 2017 reveal an "enthusiasm gap" between the parties with Democrats who voted in 2016 turning up at higher rates than Republicans in this year's contests, Phillips said.

"If that replicates itself, we can take back the Congress," Phillips said.

Democrats must flip 24 House seats to win that chamber. They also face a daunting Senate map with 10 Democratic incumbents on the ballot in states that Trump won.

In 2018, the center plans to target several Senate races — Arizona, Nevada and Texas — and between 47 and 66 House districts in its efforts to win the majority in Congress.

It also wants to help Democrats oust Republican governors in blue states, such as Illinois and Maryland. In addition, the couple has launched a Georgia-specific political operation with plans to spend between $10 million and $15 million to help elect Democrat Stacey Abrams as the nation’s first female black governor and the state's first black chief executive.

The new center — and its recommendations for the 2018 elections — will be unveiled Thursday to donors in the Democracy Alliance, an influential coalition of the Democratic Party’s biggest givers. Its founders include billionaire financier George Soros.

Phillips and Sandler, San Francisco-area philanthropists, have been big players in Democratic politics for years. Sandler sits on the Democracy Alliance’s board. Her parents' savings-and-loans fortune has helped bankroll Democratic candidates and causes, including the Center for American Progress, a prominent liberal think tank in Washington.

Phillips, a lawyer and author, deployed his own political group, PowerPAC, to mobilize voters to back Obama in his successful 2008 battle against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. The group also conducted voter turnout efforts to aid Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.[9]

African Americans make up about 30% of the electorate in Georgia. Sandler and Phillips want some 80,000 black voters to back Abrams in the primary. They plan to hire 250 to help them push the campaign.[10]

Sandler Phillips Center Leadership

Sandler Phillips Center Leadership April 25 2018;

Supporting Jealous

Most of the big individual contributors to Maryland Together We Rise, a pro Benjamin Jealous PAC, are well-known donors from Northern California who have given to many other Democratic campaigns.

The largest single donor, with contributions totaling $250,000, was Susan Sandler. She and her husband, Steve Phillips, founded the Sandler Phillips Center, which advises donors to progressive politicians on how to maximize the impact of their contributions.

She also has been a major contributor to PACs backing Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — both of whom have endorsed and campaigned with Jealous.

A PAC disclosure initially reporting that a $100,000 contribution came from Phillips was later amended to say that it came from Sandler.

Sandler contributed to the pro-Jealous PAC because Jealous “has been a national social justice leader and anti-poverty crusader for decades,” said Emi Gusukuma, the center’s executive vice president.

Gusukuma said Sandler also liked Jealous’s work advocating in Maryland and elsewhere on behalf of “the Dream Act, marriage equality and ending the death penalty,” as well as increasing voter participation among racial minorities.

Another donor, Mitch Kapor, is managing partner of the venture capital firm Kapor Capital, where Jealous is also a partner.

Kapor, founder of the Lotus computer software company, said it’s rare for him to give money to a PAC because, in general, “Politics is broken and the funding is broken.” He made an exception in this case, donating $50,000 to the pro-Jealous PAC, because of his personal familiarity with Jealous and because Phillips, a friend, asked him to do so.

The other two big donors to Maryland Together We Rise are Quinn Delaney, founder of the Akonadi Foundation, which she and her husband launched “as an outgrowth of their commitment to racial justice”; and Mark Heising, who has given more than $500,000 since 2008 to mostly Democratic candidates and PACs.

Heising’s daughter, Caitlin Heising, contributed $50,000 to the Progressive Maryland PAC. [12]