Jean Shafiroff is an extraordinary individual. She’s a philanthropist, activist, humanitarian, and author of Successful Philanthropy: How To Make A Life By What You Give, is at the vanguard of a new movement of modern philanthropists.
Though philanthropy is a big word, it can be practiced in small ways anywhere, and anyone can become a part of building lasting change.
Jean’s philanthropy goes beyond financial contributions and includes the gifts of extensive time and knowledge.
Through her work, she encourages and seeks to empower all individuals to become philanthropists so that they can build the fulfillment of giving into their lives.
A volunteer fundraiser, leader and spokesperson for several charitable causes, the spectrum of Jean’s philanthropic work includes improving the lives of underserved populations, women’s rights and well-being, health care, animal welfare and resources for children in need, in addition to other causes.
Jean works closely with the multiple causes she supports. Each year she chairs numerous galas and hosts events benefiting numerous not-for-profit organizations. She is well-known for her leadership in raising money for many charities, including the Southampton Hospital, New York City Mission Society, New York Women’s Foundation and the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation.
According to Jean, “The possibilities of philanthropy are almost limitless. Successful Philanthropy removes the guesswork and helps you shape your own personal path, providing much-needed insight and guidance into making philanthropy a lasting part of your life.”
She has great advice for people who want to help others in their community. “Learn to identify your passions and interests and discover how they can guide your philanthropic work. Find the best ways to choose a charity that will offer personal fulfillment while also making the best use of your contribution to the cause of your choice,” she advises.
“Giving back to those in need is among the most rewarding and self-fulfilling parts of being human, ” she adds.
[Editors note: We wanted to know more about Jean Shafiroff’s philosophy and passion about philanthropy. Here is what she told us.]
How do you define philanthropy?
Philanthropy literally means the love of mankind. To me personally, philanthropy means giving time, knowledge, and available resources to the people and causes that need them. Because I respect people, animals, and all beings. I believe in helping those in need achieve a place of dignity in society. We must show our regard for all beings and for our planet by recognizing our privilege and taking compassionate, effective action.
In my book, “Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give” I redefine the word philanthropist to say that anyone can be a philanthropist by giving what you can when you can. But to be a philanthropist you must give –and you must give to the best of your ability!
How did you first become involved?
The early years of my life were instrumental in my involvement in philanthropy. I had very good role models. My dad was a school teacher and his concern for his students left a positive impact on me. I attended 12 years of Catholic school where the nuns taught us the importance of giving back. However, all religions teach the importance of giving back.
Little by little I slowly got involved. Working in hospitals and on Wall Street meant I had a lot of exposure to very powerful industries at a young age. These fields greatly impact American society, which left a huge impression on me. I quickly gained a lot of insight into how they operate. I certainly did not forget these experiences after becoming a wife and mother.
As I raised my daughters, I did what many mothers do: I became involved with the organizations related to my children’s studies and interests. This gave me a closer look at the non-profit world. I began considering how I could assist them with my financial knowledge. I knew that knowledge was valuable. Once my daughters became older and more self-sufficient, I had time to increase my philanthropic efforts.
I got more committed because I really believed in that work and clearly I still do. I saw a lot of need in the world and knew I could not stand back. I had to use my expertise and resources to help. Today I am a board member of seven charities. I chair and host many events each year for several different charities. I give my time, knowledge and resources. I would say, my life revolves around philanthropy.
Why is philanthropy important in our society?
Philanthropy fulfills a great need to society. Philanthropy helps charities realize their missions. They cannot operate on the goodwill of their staffers alone. They need finances, volunteers and knowledge to do everything that they do. Charities need us and those in need definitely need charities.
Isn’t this something for the very wealthy?
No, not at all. If you are in a comfortable position and not a person in need yourself, you can give. Those that do not have financial resources can give available time and knowledge.
Most people don’t have millions or thousands to give to charity. Do small donations really help?
Yes, every donation makes a difference. Most people are able to give something. Charities depend on every dollar. In addition to money, you should also donate your time and knowledge as you are able. Many charities need helping hands. You don’t need a particular skill or type of education to assist them. Do a little research and then commit to showing up where you are needed. But remember this, too: Everyone has some type of experience or expertise. Maybe you can provide pro bono financial consulting as I do or something else: translation, catering, graphic design. The list goes on! You are needed, even if you don’t have millions or thousands of dollars to personally give to charity.
A lot of people say, “I give to the United Way at work”….is that enough?
It is if that is what they can afford to give. But be honest with yourself: Are you being as generous as you can be? If you are a millionaire, it’s not very kind to only donate a couple dollars a month. Of course, you deserve the money you earn, but you also have an obligation to give back to society. Those that have certainly have a responsibility to give. You can be comfortable and have fun while still recognizing the need in our world and doing what is right.
How much is enough?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this. Even people who have comparable incomes have different standards of living. Some may have children or extended family to care for. Some may live in an expensive part of the country; others might live in a more affordable area. People also have different values. But, again, be honest with yourself. Take the time to recognize the need in your community and the world at large. Exercise compassion. You cannot bring your wealth with you when you die.
Does giving give you satisfaction? Should it?
Very much. It does make me feel good to give. It gives me great satisfaction to see funds put to action. I am very happy to see homeless people sitting down to a warm meal or hospital patients resting in new facilities. When you give, you should feel satisfied, too. Feeling good about doing good will inspire you to give more.
Should people give anonymously?
That is really up to them. Again, everyone has different personal values. Just give! There is so much need in our world. People are wanting, animals are wanting, and our planet is wanting. Do not stand idle.
About Jean Shafiroff
Jean serves on the boards of New York City Mission Society, French Heritage Society, Couture Council (Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology), Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (20+ years), Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation Honorary Board, Southampton Bath & Tennis Club’s Charitable Foundation, and Global Strays.
In addition, Jean is an Ambassador for the American Humane Society and Ambassador for the Southampton Animal Shelter. She is a New York Women’s Foundation Board Alumna who remains very active with the Foundation and women’ issues.
Widely recognized for her philanthropic work, Jean has been recognized and featured in numerous publications, including The Wall Street, Epoch Times, Journal, Gotham Magazine, The New York Times, Hello, Hola, New York Social Diary, Avenue, Hamptons Magazine, and The Huffington Post, among others. She has graced the cover of several magazines including Metropolitan Magazine, NY Lifestyles, and Global Vision. In many cases, she has been of the cover of these magazines many times.
Jean has been honored by several organizations including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, New York City Mission Society, Youth Counseling League, Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, Surgeons of Hope, The Hadassah, The Ellen Hermanson Foundation, Pet Philanthropy Circle, Animal Zone International, NYC International Film Festival, 2018 Women’s Leadership Awards hosted by NY State Assembly Woman Rebecca Seawright, Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, The Better World Awards benefiting Wells of Life, The Roshni TIA Awards for Raising Awareness of Young Women with Autism, and the Dominican Women’s Development Center.
Jean is known for her sense of style and was recently put on the Daily Fashion Report’s International Best Dresses List for her Ballgowns. In 2012 she was on Hamptons Magazine’s Best Dressed List.
Jean holds an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University and a BS in physical therapy from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She has worked both in public finance and private partnerships on Wall Street. Prior to that, she was a physical therapist at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City. Jean is married to Martin Shafiroff, an investment advisor, and together they have two daughters, who share their mother’s interest in charitable causes. Jean and her family reside in both New York City and Southampton, NY.