- Former board member of the Arca Foundation
- Executive director of Barbra Streisand Foundation
- Executive director of Righteous Persons Foundation
- Chairwoman of Proteus Fund
- Board member of Defenders of Wildlife
Margery Tabankin was a New Leftist who began her political activism at the age of 19, taking part in anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and civil rights rallies during her student days at the University of Wisconsin. She earned her bachelor's degree in political science in 1969, and thereafter became involved with Marxist Saul Alinsky's Institute for Community Organizers in Chicago, Illinois.
Tabankin is a protégé of publisher Stanley Sheinbaum, principal funder of the radical magazine Ramparts which, in the 1960s, sought to advance the agendas of Black Panther gangsters like Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton. Sheinbaum went on to become a major financier of numerous leftist causes and a chief promoter of the failed Arab-Israeli "Oslo Peace Process" in the 1990s. He was also a founding member of People for the American Way, the head of Southern California's ACLU chapter, and President of the Los Angeles Police Commission.
In the early 1970s Tabankin served as President of the National Student Association. In addition, she sat on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), dedicated to the legalization of that drug.
From 1977 to 1981, Tabankin was the director of Americorps VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America), under President Carter. According to the Heritage Foundation, Tabankin sought, through VISTA, to develop a “nationwide network of radical organizations” that would “work towards more equitable distribution of income and opportunities.”
Tabankin helped VISTA to institute a federally funded grant-making program which quickly developed a reputation as a significant source of cash for leftist activists and organizations nationwide. In May 1977, radical organizer Tom Hayden wrote to Tabankin: “We want a voice in the training of VISTAs in California and the definition of their work.”
In June 1977 Tabankin organized a meeting between VISTA officials and leftist organizations to determine how best to spend the aforementioned federal funds. In attendance at this meeting were representatives of such groups as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the Campaign for Economic Democracy, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, the Laurel Springs Training Center, the Midwest Academy, the National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs, and the National Training and Information Center. ACORN and the Midwest Academy were among the earliest recipients of national grants.
According to Ohio congressman John M. Ashbrook, “Of the 22 organizations represented at the meetings with which Ms. Tabankin claimed some prior association, 13 ended up as beneficiaries under the National VISTA Grants program." VISTA was eventually phased out by the Reagan administration in 1983.
From 1981 to 1988, Tabankin was a member of the Arca Foundation's board of directors.
From 1988 to 1994, she served as a director of the Hollywood Women's Political Committee, an organization of entertainers that raised almost $7 million to support leftwing candidates and causes from 1984 to 1997.
Tabankin is also a previous chairwoman of the Proteus Fund, and a former Board of Directors member of Defenders of Wildlife.
Since 1987 Tabankin has been the Executive Director of the Streisand Foundation, formed by the singer Barbra Streisand. Under Tabankin's leadership, this foundation has focused its philanthropy on leftist organizations in the fields of environmental activism, civil rights, race relations, civil liberties, gay rights, voter education, women's rights (including abortion rights), nuclear disarmament, gun control, poverty, and AIDS. Of her relationship with Ms. Streisand, Tabankin says, “After 20 years of working together and shared values, we have formed a close friendship.”
In 2002 Streisand instructed Tabankin to draft a confidential letter to House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, urging him to “go on the offensive” against President George W. Bush in the debate over the looming U.S. invasion of Iraq. “While the Republicans are shouting about the Democrats' special interests,” Tabankin wrote, “why are the Democrats not saying the same about the Republicans?” Tabankin added that “while there are serious problems with Iraq and Saddam Hussein, Barbra [Streisand] feels that we can't let this issue become a distraction from the country's [America's] domestic problems and the president's inability to fully dismantle the al Qaeda network.”
In addition to her duties with the Streisand Foundation, Tabankin is also the Executive Director of Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation.
Between 1990 and 2008, Tabankin made numerous monetary contributions to Democrat and Independent political candidates, including: Barbara Boxer, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders, John Kerry, Howard Dean, Jim McGovern, and Barack Obama. She also has given money to a number of Political Action Committees, including Progressive Majority, PAC For A Change, Hopefund Inc., and Solidarity PAC.
Tabankin is the President of Tabankin and Associates, a consulting firm “servicing several private, progressive family foundations and individuals with their philanthropic and political giving.”