A new $15 million challenge grant in support of Human Rights Watch – the largest in the organization’s 26-year history – will significantly strengthen its ability to respond to urgent crises.

The extraordinary challenge grant came from longtime Human Rights Watch supporters Herbert and Marion Sandler, CEOs of Golden West Financial Corporation. The Sandlers, with their children through the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, will donate $3 million a year for five years contingent on Human Rights Watch raising $6 million annually in matching funds from first-time donors or existing donors who increase their contributions. Over five years, the campaign entails a $15 million donation from the Sandlers, matched by $30 million in new donations.

“We want the leadership of Human Rights Watch to do today what it would otherwise have to wait five, six, or seven years to do,” said Herb Sandler. “Human Rights Watch desperately needs to grow now at a moment of intense demand for its work.”

The Sandlers cited Human Rights Watch’s ability to effect change as an important motivation for their giving. For example, they noted, Human Rights Watch played a pivotal role in alerting the world to ethnic cleansing in Darfur, western Sudan. Although Human Rights Watch cannot always halt violence, Marion Sandler said, “early warnings and action can save lives.”

Human Rights Watch said that the gift is already spurring enormous generosity from its community of supporters.

“From Darfur to Abu Ghraib, the human rights movement is facing profound, fundamental challenges,” said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director. “Herb’s and Marion’s challenge grant allows us to meet these challenges far more effectively.”

Human Rights Watch is a non-partisan organization that investigates and works to curb human rights abuses in more than 70 countries worldwide. It accepts no money from any government directly or indirectly. For more information on the work of Human Rights Watch, see https://www.hrw.org/about/whoweare.html.

Human Rights Watch said that the challenge grant means that for every new $500 contribution received during the challenge period, the organization will receive an additional $250 gift from the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation.

“Every dollar we raise will now be matched by half,” said Roth. “The Sandlers have allowed donors not only to support human rights, but also to get added value for their contribution.”

As co-CEOs of what Forbes.com has described as one of the best run and most profitable financial companies in the United States, Herb and Marion Sandler have a reputation for making careful, focused and wise business decisions. They are known to bring a similar investment philosophy to their philanthropy.

“We wanted to strengthen Human Rights Watch’s research, advocacy, and communications at a critical time,” Marion Sandler said. “It’s a great organization, and its only limitation is funding.”

“Many organizations do wonderful things, but only a handful are truly great,” Herbert Sandler said. “Human Rights Watch is one of them.”