It’s the season of giving. Embodying all that it takes to be a modern-day philanthropist, Jean Shafiroff knows what it means to give back to her community, whether in New York City or the Hamptons.
“My life is centered around philanthropic work,” said Shafiroff.
She is one of the most successful fundraisers on the East End, raising money for foundations large and small. And she is arguably the best dressed while doing it.
Just last summer alone she co-chaired of the American Heart Association’s annual Hamptons Heart Ball, hosted the kick-off party for the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital gala at her home, was the Honorary Chair at the Southampton Animal Shelter’s Unconditional Love gala, chaired the Ellen Hermanson Foundation gala, was Chairman of the Presidents Committee for the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital gala, chaired the United Negro College Fund’s “A Mind Is . . .” gala and brunch, and was honored by The Pioneer Chapter of Hadassah in Westhampton Beach. And this doesn’t include the charities she supports by attending the fundraisers, like the Parrish Art Museum gala. “I don’t think we’ve ever missed a gala,” she said of the annual Parrish function in Water Mill.
“A good honoree has to give a nice gift,” she said. With that said, Shafiroff’s philanthropic work goes beyond financial contributions and includes extensive time and energy.
Jean and her husband, Martin Shafiroff, an investment advisor, moved to the Hamptons around 1996 when they purchased their Southampton home from friends Steven and Debra Tanger of Tanger Outlets. It started as a summer home, but now they spend time on the East End year round. “If we’re not traveling, my husband will want to go every weekend. It is beautiful and it’s very peaceful,” she said. “You can completely switch gears and relax.” Together they have two daughters who also share their mother’s interest in charitable causes.
Since moving to the East End, Shafiroff slowly became involved in East End charities.
It started when the family joined Southampton Bath & Tennis, a private club on Gin Lane. The club has a charitable foundation that gives to smaller local charities that don’t have the ability to do major fundraising themselves, Shafiroff noted. She began chairing their winter gala in the early 2000s.
Shafiroff has also become one of the top fundraisers for Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. “When you live in a community, I think the number one thing to support is the local hospital,” she said. The hospital “is there for everybody, all year round.”
She became involved with the hospital as an auction chair for its annual summer gala. “I took the job very seriously,” said Shafiroff. Later, she was asked to chair the gala in 2010, 2011, and 2013. She noted that during those years they raised about $5.4 million in total.
“I worked like crazy and I wasn’t afraid to ask people,” she said of the work that goes into raising funds at this level. “I make a lot of introductions,” she added. “What I’ve learned with fundraising and philanthropy is people have to be asked. It’s very important that charities try to engage people.”
She also noted the importance of giving back to the community you live in. “In the Hamptons you see tremendous wealth. There’s also a lot of poverty that’s hidden,” she stated. “People need help.”
“I think when you live in a community, you have a responsibility to that community,” she opined. Shafiroff believes that those with summer homes on the East End should take a good look at the community, and give back where needed by helping the underserved populations. “I have a home here and it’s my obligation,” she said.
While involved with the hospital, Shafiroff noted that Southampton Animal Shelter approached her, and she became chair of its annual Unconditional Love gala. Changing the format from a cocktail party to a dinner party, the gala now raises $600,000 to $700,000 for the foundation, she noted.
She is also very involved in the Ellen Hermanson Foundation. “Ellen Hermanson is the largest funder of the breast cancer center at the hospital,” she stated. And there’s a great need. Long Island has a high rate of breast cancer.
More recently, she has become involved in the American Heart Association and UNCF. Both national organizations host galas on the East End each summer.
There’s no doubt that the need for giving back on the East End is year round. How can others get involved? “For people who have financial resources, they really have an obligation to give. But for those who don’t, they can give their time and their knowledge,” said Shafiroff. This is also outlined in her book Successful Philanthropy: How To Make A Life By What You Give, a how-to guide for giving back. She seeks to empower all individuals to become philanthropists.
On the East End, there are a multitude of charities. This time of year, Shafiroff noted, all would be appreciative of an end of year donation.
“The Hamptons is a very special community,” said Shafiroff. “It’s very important for people to spread their wings and be involved.”