Vanguard Public Foundation

Vanguard Public Foundation


* Assets: $3,505,096- (negative) (2007)
* Grants Received: $2,044,766 (2007)
* Grants Awarded: $2,724,307 (2007)
* The Vanguard Public Foundation was forced to close in 2011 as a result of fraud

The Vanguard Public Foundation was created in 1972 by Peter Stern and others as a pass-through for donors wishing to give money to organizations they considered crusaders for “peace and justice” in the U.S. and around the world. In the words of Vanguard, its grants were funded by “a broad spectrum of individual donors who have pooled their collective resources in order to maximize efforts to end social and economic injustice.” Viewing the United States as a nation rife with discrimination against minorities and women, Vanguard strove “to eradicate racism in all its manifestations and promote civil rights, economic justice, gender equality and community empowerment.” Other areas of concern were “sexism, homophobia, and environmental degradation.”

A number of prominent leftists currently held key positions with Vanguard. Co-Chairs of its Board included actor Danny Glover and attorney Walter Riley, both of whom were longtime civil rights and anti-war movement leaders. Another civil rights/peace activist, Hari Dillon, served a stint as the Foundation’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Cobie Kwasi Harris, a professor of Political Science & African American Studies at San Jose State University and the Co-Chairman of the Campus Coalition for Human Rights and Social Justice, was a Director of the Foundation.

Among the Foundation’s former Executive Co-Chairs were entertainer Harry Belafonte, California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and United Farm Workers of America founder Dolores Huerta. Julie Dorf, who founded the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, was once a Vice President of Vanguard; Yvette Radford, an activist for Black Women Organized for Political Action, was a Vice Chairman of Vanguard’s Board; and Anamaria Loya — the current Executive Director of La Raza Centro Legal and the Founding Organizer of the magazine Fuerza — was a Vanguard Director.

The Vanguard Public Foundation oversaw four separate grant-making programs:

  • The Social Justice Fund (SJF) provided support to community-based organizations seeking to bring about progressive social change. SJF’s funding priorities focused on groups with leftist approaches to such issues as homelessness, civil rights, cultural activism, criminal justice, environmental justice, economic justice, human rights, immigration, and youth advocacy and leadership.
  • The Community Institution Building Program supported social justice organizations.
  • The Technical Assistance & Capacity Building Program provided grant support, access to professional consultants, and skills workshops for community-based organizations that focused on “environmental justice” and other health-related problems in the Central Valley.
  • The Social Justice Sabbatical Fund gave money to community activists in order to enable them to take a two- to three-month break from their daily activities.

Among the many recipients of Vanguard Public Foundation grants were: the Advancement Project; the Agape Foundation; Alternet; the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Friends Service Committee; Amnesty International; the Oakland Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN); the Center for Constitutional Rights; Centro Legal de La Raza; Changemakers; the Children’s Defense Fund; Earthjustice; the Environmental Defense Fund; the Environmental Media Association; Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting; the Funding Exchange; Global Exchange; Greenpeace; Human Rights Watch; If Americans Knew; the Immigrant Legal Resource Center; Global Indymedia; the Institute for Policy Studies; the Institute for Public Accuracy; the Progressive Unity Fund/International Action Center; the International Development Exchange; the Jewish Fund for Justice; Jewish Voices for Peace; the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area; California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund; the League of Women Voters of San Francisco; the Movement Strategy Center; the Ms. Foundation for Women; the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty; the National Lawyers Guild (NLG); the National Organization For Women Foundation; the National Wildlife Federation; the Natural Resources Defense Council; the Nature Conservancy; the New America Foundation; Oxfam America; KPFA (Pacifica Network Free Speech Radio); the Peace Action Education Fund; People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals; Physicians for Social Responsibility; the Planned Parenthood Federation America; the Ploughshares Fund; The Progressive; the California Public Interest Research Group Charitable Trust; the Rainforest Action Network; the Shefa Fund; the Sierra Club Foundation; the Southern Poverty Law Center; the Threshold Foundation; the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center; Witness for Peace; the World Wildlife Fund; and Z Magazine.

To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Vanguard Public Foundation, click here.

The Vanguard Public Foundation was forced to close in 2011 as a result of fraud, after it fell victim to an elaborate scheme by Israeli entrepreneur Samuel “Mouli” Cohen. Cohen swindled Vanguard donors out of more than $30 million. In April 2012, Cohen was sentenced in a San Francisco federal court to 22 years in prison. In exchange for the testimony that put Cohen behind bars, Dillon pleaded guilty to money laundering and wire fraud and was sentenced to 40 months in prison in January 2013.

(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)

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