Jean Shafiroff, also known as “The First Lady of Philanthropy of New York,” sits down with Gurus Magazine to discuss the truth, passion and authenticity behind her philanthropy. As an exemplary leader in the philanthropic world, Jean shares her views on how to give in today’s modern era without the fear of monetary limitations. As a humanitarian, advocate, socialite, TV host, and author of Successful Philanthropy, How to Make A Life by What You Give, Jean has dedicated her life to humanitarian efforts. She sits on the board of numerous charities such as the Southampton Hospital Association, Mission Society of NYC, Couture Council of the Museum at FIT, French Heritage Society, Casita Maria, the NY Women’s Foundation, Global Strays, and Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation Honorary Board. Moreover, Jean has been honored a plethora of times for her philanthropic work by charities ranging from Samuel Waxman Cancer Foundation to American Heart Association to the Stonybrook Southampton Hospital . On September 22, 2022, Jean received a Proclamation naming her the “First Lady of Philanthropy of New York” from the New York State Assembly.
In addition, Jean chairs upwards of eight to ten charity galas a year to champion causes that include women’s rights, healthcare, underserved populations and animal welfare rights – all the while finding time to express her fun personality through fashion. Often seen wearing jaw-dropping gowns, couture pieces and ready-to-wear designers, Jean applies her philanthropic passions to wearing new designers and using her platform to promote their work. Furthering the notion, Jean has dedicated her life to the spirit of philanthropy.
What is your Truth? “I believe we all have a purpose,” says Jean. “We are put on this Earth to do something. My purpose is to promote philanthropy, positivity, and good will.” Philanthropy is a global accolade, with many anchoring for different causes. Jean’s giving spirit is embedded in her undeniable truth. “I believe in hard work, honesty, and integrity. I will not pretend to be something I’m not. There are many philanthropists in the world. I am not the richest. I am not the greatest. I am who I am. I try to support where I can.”
What is your Passion? “We all have something to offer. Never underestimate your value. The key is to find out how you want to give. Start slowly. Find where there is a need and where you have a passion,” says Jean. “I used that same philosophy for the philanthropy I’m involved with.” Jean sits on eight boards associated with a range of causes from rights for underserved populations, to women’s rights, to animal welfare, to healthcare. “In addition to the boards, I support many other causes on various different levels. From hosting parties to attending charity events throughout the year. I believe by hosting charity events I create a platform for new people to get involved with these charities and potentially become new donors,” says Jean.
What is your Authenticity? “About 10 years ago I took a privately funded trip to Cambodia and Hong Kong with the Cambodian Community Dream Organization. The first place they took us was to an orphanage. I literally cried every night,” exclaims Jean. “The next day we went to a school, where children were being schooled on wooden benches. They came to school on broken bicycles, wearing torn flip flops, ripped and soiled uniforms. I then funded new uniforms for the 200 school students and also supported their water well building program.”
Jean continues, “With Global Strays, I took two privately funded visits to Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Columbia. We went into villages where people were living in dire situations to help with animal welfare.Today Global Strays(a non-profit organization co-founded by her youngest daughter who also serves as the volunteer president) gives to many animal welfare groups outside of the United States. At times, the money is going to countries where the average salary is $1 a day. So, a little can go a long way.
“These trips helped to really change my life. I came back and I said I live in a bubble. I live in the United States. No matter what I do here, I believe I have a blessed life in this country. Life is not created equal. It is our obligation to work to reduce the divide. Therefore I have this strong obligation and this strong belief to help.”
Whether you are new to philanthropy, sit on a board and or volunteer your time, the possibilities of philanthropy are boundless. Our discussion with Jean eliminates the stereotypical perception that one has to be of wealth to pursue philanthropic endeavors. Anyone, anywhere, can contribute beyond monetary measures to causes that mean the most to them. “If you do not have the resources to donate, you can still become philanthropic by giving out your time and knowledge,” explains Jean. “However, if you do have the financial resources, I believe we have an obligation to give.”