An Interview with Jean Shafiroff – ‘The First Lady of Philanthropy’

1_Jean and Martin Shafiroff_Credit Sean ZanniPMC-min

Jean Shafiroff, 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, and has been named, The First Lady of Philanthropy by media. Each year she chairs numerous galas and hosts events benefiting numerous not-for-profit organizations, and has been honored by multiple organizations including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Youth Counseling League, Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, The Ellen Hermanson Foundation, Pet Philanthropy Circle, Animal Zone International, Women’s Leadership Awards, Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, and more.

Jean Shafiroff and her husband Martin are honorees at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s 61st Annual Summer Party on Saturday, August 3rd beginning at 6:30pm. The Shafiroffs are both longtime supporters of the hospital. Below, we learn more about Jean Shafiroff’s mission and her summer 2019 endeavors with an exclusive interview.

east end taste Jean Shafiroff ‘The First Lady of Philanthropy’

Tell us about your philanthropic mission for 2019 and how this year is particularly important to you.

This year is an exciting one! Right now, I am serving on seven charity boards and as of July 1, I joined my eighth, the Southampton Association Hospital. I have been involved with the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital for many years as a donor, volunteer fundraiser and then as the Chair of their Summer Party in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Those parties were very significant, and we raised $5.4-million from the combined three events. This year’s Summer Party on August 3 will be a very special evening for us as they are honoring my husband, Martin and me. I believe in health care for all so my involvement with the Hospital means a great deal.

On July 20, I will chair the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation’s Gala. Then on July 27, I will chair The Ellen Hermanson Foundation’s Gala which helps to fund The Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. When I get back to New York in the fall, it will get busier! I am a Co-chair for The New York Women’s Foundation Gala in early October, chair of the Surgeons of Hope’s Gala on October 15, and a Co-chair  the French Heritage Society Gala on November 21. Earlier in the year, I chaired the Viennese Opera Ball, and co-chaired the Southampton Bath and Tennis Club’s Charitable Foundation Gala, and the NYC Mission Society Gala. In addition, I hosted and underwrote large cocktails parties in my  homes for  the NYC Mission Society, Surgeons of Hope and Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.

I am now also focusing on global philanthropy. In February I was honored to have a private audience with Pope Francis through the Galileo Foundation. In December 2018, I had the opportunity to meet Prince Harry at a small reception in London for Walking With the Wounded, and this past spring, I met with Cherie Blair for the Cherie Blair Women’s Foundation. In addition, I am on the Board of Global Strays, a charity that my youngest daughter co-founded a few years ago. Other global charities that support include Surgeons of Hope, American Heart Association, Wells of Life , and American Cancer Society just to name a few.

Philanthropy has to be shared. We need to think not only of those in our immediate area but also about those who are in great need and who might live thousands of miles away.

Describe your Hamptons based philanthropic efforts over the years and how have they evolved.

My philanthropic involvement in the Hamptons started after we purchased a home here in 1996. I recommend if you want to get involved in philanthropy start by looking at  charities that interest you and where there is a need. Of course, always look for a well-run charity. In my book The Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give, I help the reader with the process of finding charities and causes that would be of interest to them. I also help the reader analyze charities and learn a little about fundraising. I am very active with the organizations that mean something to me. In the Hamptons, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, The Ellen Hermanson Foundation, and the Southampton Bath and Tennis Charitable Foundation are organizations that are dear to me. I also support many other charities here in the Hamptons by attending their events, purchasing tickets and making donations.

Jean Shafiroff - ‘The First Lady of Philanthropy east end taste
Images courtesy of Jean Shafiroff

Describe your typical summer’s day out east.

My philanthropic work continues throughout the summer and my days can very busy. On a perfect day, I would eat breakfast and then go to Exhale in Bridgehampton for a workout class or Anada Yoga in Southampton. I would then go home to work for several hours. Taking trips to the beach or to our club are things I love to do when I have the time. On most summer weekends, I attend different charity events, but I also love to entertain so we usually always have weekend guests, creating a fun filled happy home.

Where are your favorite spots to dine in the Hamptons?

I love Nick and Toni’s, Sant Ambroeus, Tutto il Giorno, and Yama Q. It is always fun to try new restaurants and so we do a lot of that.

What other activities do you enjoy?

I love working out, yoga classes and walks on the beach. I also enjoy the social whirl around the charity and other social events.

What are your fashion staples for this season?

I love fashion and add new day time and evening pieces every summer. This year, I have been experimenting with different styles of fashion sneakers and I’m having fun trying out new designs. I also love sunglasses – a summer essential, and I buy several pairs each season and rotate them.

I love the romance of ballgowns so when I know I will attend several black-tie events; I look out for exciting pieces to add to my collection. Of course, the ones I wear in the Hamptons are more relaxed and casual. In general, the clothing worn in the Hamptons is more relaxed and fun. We are all here to get away and have a good time and fashion should reflect this.

What are three ways anyone could make philanthropic efforts this summer?

There are so many ways to help in the philanthropic arena during the summer.

First, I suggest supporting some of the local causes. If you live in the community, you hopefully see the need to support charities that help out the less fortunate in that community. I especially believe that we all need to support the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. The Hospital serves the entire community and never turns anyone away.

Second, I recommend finding local charities that are of particular interest and then volunteering with them. For example,  you could volunteer at the Southampton Animal Shelter, or the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons.

Third, I recommend taking the time to learn about some of the charities you are interested in and see how you might get involved. Joining a charity board is a great thing to do. But if you think you may not have the time and resources for a board position, get involved as a volunteer. Help is always needed!

How can we particularly teach philanthropy to our children? Even as young as my daughter who is five?

My suggestion is to participate in a few philanthropic activities together and then teach you daughter about the importance of philanthropy. When my daughters were young, we baked brownies together for most of the fundraisers at their school. I volunteered to be a class mother and then to work on the school’s annual fund. My daughters saw that I had an interest in volunteering and this had a positive effect on them. Later on, we adopted dogs and then got involved with the Southampton Animal Shelter. Today, we all have rescue dogs. A few years ago, my youngest daughter decided to start her own charity. She is the co-founder of Global Strays, a charity that funds animal rescue groups in areas like Nicaragua, Columbia and the Dominican Republic. My older daughter is very involved with a number of charities and enjoying serving as a volunteer.

I think that talking to your children about those who are in need is important. In my book, I discuss the importance of teaching philanthropy both at home and in the schools. In this way the groundwork is built for a lifetime of consciousness and caring about those in need.