Vanguard Public Foundation

Vanguard Public Foundation was an American social justice foundation focused on providing grants to social justice nonprofits. One of the first of the "rich kid foundations," Vanguard was a model for a new generation's philanthropy. Vanguard rose as a leader among some two dozen new progressive foundations that comprised a network called the Funding Exchange.[1]

Vanguard Public Foundation
Founded1972 [1]
FounderPeter Stern[2]
Dissolved2011 [3]
FocusSocial justice
ServicesGrantmaking at the Wayback Machine (archived May 13, 2009)


The Vanguard Public Foundation established in 1972 by a group of inheritors of corporate fortunes, including Peter Stern[2] and members of the Pillsbury and du Pont families. who were devoted to supporting a progressive social and political agenda.[1][3]


In 2002, Samuel "Mouli" Cohen was introduced to Vanguard CEO Hari Dillon by actor Danny Glover.[3] Mouli said he would help the foundation by allowing Vanguard and its donors with buying shares in the privately owned Ecast, Inc.. Dillon and Glover formed general partnerships through which they thought they had purchased several million dollars' worth of Ecast.[1] At least three partnerships with Hari Dillon's Dillon Group, and an additional one with Glover, were used as vehicles to funnel investments from Vanguard Public Foundation donors to a deal with Mouli.[4] The Vanguard donors ultimately put in over $20 million more in philanthropic money and personal investment cash.[1]

Mouli stated that Ecast was to be acquired by Microsoft, which would then generate a significant return on investment, as high as 1000%. The Microsoft acquisition reportedly got delayed over EU rules, which generated a need for more fees to cover transaction costs. It was further delayed when reports that Ecast was considering a competing bid from Google. Ultimately, there was no Microsoft purchase, no Google bid, and the money was fraudulently taken by Cohen.[1][3] Further, as reported by American Greed,[5] a show on CNBC, Cohen had already been forced out of Ecast and was no longer affiliated with the company by the time he had become involved with Dillon.

Vanguard was forced to close in 2011 as a result of the fraud.[3] Cohen and Dillon were later successfully prosecuted, with Dillon pleading guilty, for their role in the scandal.[3][4][6]


Vanguard's grant making put money into social movement causes, often before they became politically acceptable and often to organizations and actions that were never going to generate mainstream support.[1] The Vanguard Public Foundation oversees four separate grant-making programs.[2]

Social Justice FundEdit

Provided support to community-based organizations seeking to bring about progressive social change. The funding priorities focused on issues such as homelessness, civil rights, cultural activism, criminal justice, environmental justice, economic justice, human rights, immigration, and youth advocacy and leadership.[2]

Community Institution Building ProgramEdit

The Community Institution Building Program supported social justice organizations.[2]

Technical Assistance & Capacity Building ProgramEdit

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 of California.[2]

Social Justice Sabbatical FundEdit

Provided funding to community activists in order to enable them to take a 2-3 month break from their activities.[2]

Grant recipientsEdit

Vanguard tended to focus on emerging projects which often went on to become more accepted by the public and therefore more fundable by other foundations. Donors also gave money to specific groups through Vanguard, enabling unincorporated groups to receive donations.[1]

Among the groups that received Vanguard grants:[2][1][7]

Criticism of grantsEdit

Their focus on projects often before they became politically acceptable attracted negative attention from conservative pundits. Glenn Beck referred to Vanguard as "Marxist foundations of the 'social justice' movement" while Bill O'Reilly referred to the foundation as "pinheads".[1]

Influence on other foundationsEdit

In 1977, Vanguard published a book designed to serve a guide to other foundations, Robin Hood Was Right: A Guide to Giving Your Money for Social Change. The book was re-issued by the Funding Exchange in 2002.[1]

Largely modeled on Vanguard are the Haymarket People's Fund in Boston, Massachusetts and the Liberty Hill Foundation in Santa Monica, California.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Cohen, Rick (August 2010). "Decline and Fall of the Vanguard Foundation". Blue Avocado.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Vanguard Public Foundation". Discover the Networks. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Walter, Shoshana (November 21, 2012). "Vanguard Foundation - idealists' collapse". SFGate. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Cohen, Rick (October 2010). "Vanguard Foundation Update: With Leader Pleading Guilty, "Truth and Reconciliation"?". Blue Avocado.
  5. ^ "Dealing in Deceit". American Greed. CNBC. Retrieved 2014-08-23.
  6. ^ "Former President and Executive Director of Vanguard Public Foundation Sentenced to 40 Months in Prison for Fraud and Money Laundering" (Press release). Federal Bureau of Investigation. January 29, 2013. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
  7. ^ "Vanguard Public Information - GuideStar Organization Report". GuideStar. Retrieved July 21, 2013.