Philanthropist Jean Shafiroff is currently living with six people and five rescue dogs, having her family at home with her is what is getting her through the pandemic. She took time out of her busy home life and fundraising schedule to talk to Journalist Raj Gill.
Tell me a little about yourself.
My name is Jean Shafiroff. I am a philanthropist, advocate, author, and TV host. In addition, I am a mother and wife – a family woman who loves people. I am fairly easy-going and love being social; I tend to be a bit of a workaholic.
What inspired your philanthropic journey?
I believe that those who have resources have an obligation to give back.
What values and principles have led to your success?
My education and upbringing played a major role. I attended 12 years of Catholic School, where the nuns taught us the importance of helping the underserved. My higher education, a BS in Physical Therapy from Columbia University, and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University were also beneficial. My father was a music teacher. He truly cared about his students’ education and future – and he cared about his family and what he taught us. My parents both believed it was important to help those that have less than us. They were good role models.
What do you hope to achieve with your philanthropy?
To help others and to be useful to society.
What, aside from donating, are the top three things a western woman could do to improve her situation and help the world beyond herself?
We can all give our time, knowledge, and compassion to those in need. However, for those that have resources, I believe we have an obligation to give available resources.
Another great philanthropist Melinda Gates said: “Great wealth can be very confusing. It can inflate and distort your sense of self.” Have you ever found it did that for you?
No, but I do not have a great wealth that the Gates have. However, I am fortunate. I grew up very middle class, and I have never forgotten my roots. We come into this world with nothing, and we leave with nothing. We must always remember this.
What made you want to write the book?
I wrote my book, “Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give,” to inspire others to learn about the great pleasure of giving. I wanted to motivate others and help people realize that we all have something to offer. When you give – you feel rewarded. It is personally rewarding. My book’s premise is that anyone can be a philanthropist, and it is done by giving time, knowledge, and available resources.
Now I have a TV show based on the book. The show is called Successful Philanthropy. As the host and producer, I interview philanthropic leaders about the work they do. This show airs 4 times a week on LTV in Easthampton, NY. You can watch it by going to LTV’s You-tube channel. The show is very successful – and I love hosting and producing it!
Also, I use my social media platforms to promote philanthropy. Anyone can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter @jeanshafiroff. I am happy to say I have about 500,000 Instagram followers – who all seem interested in learning more about philanthropy!
How do you think about where you put your resources?
I try to give where the need is greatest and those causes that I am most passionate about.
What are some of the issues you’ve been focusing on?
I have specifically focused on health care, women’s rights, underserved populations, and animal rights.
There are some people in the world with the view that there’s too much concentration of wealth in the hands of too few. What do you think about when you see the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the U.S.?
Those who have wealth have an obligation to help the underserved. This is very important.
A strong society needs a strong middle class. We must make opportunities for everyone to be able to achieve success. Education opens all doors, and we must make a good education accessible to everyone. Social programs must always be maintained. Racial justice must be achieved.
Even though your daughters are surrounded by privilege, how do you instill the values of being grounded, responsible, and kind?
Children must be raised with good values. My youngest daughter is the co-founder of the charity Global Strays. She spends her full day working as a volunteer on her charity’s work that sends funds to animal rescue groups into countries with a great need. Right now, her charity is helping animal rescue groups in Central American countries. I am proud of her work – and honored to see that she has chosen a life of philanthropy.
Before the pandemic began, my oldest daughter was doing a tremendous amount of volunteer work with foster children. She loves this work. Once the pandemic is under control and is safe to go back to this work, she will resume her foster children’s work. Both my daughters believe in philanthropy and are young philanthropists.
Do you feel there are areas where you made mistakes that you regret now or that have helped inform how you’ve gone forward?
We can always do more and achieve more. My advice to everyone is that we must accept our mistakes and learn from them. We must not make them again.
How involved do you get in politics? There are lines around what can be philanthropy and what can be advocacy. What’s your strategy?
I believe that advocating for the rights of all living beings is important. In the United States, charities (or 501(c)3 non-profits) cannot be political. But we can advocate for the rights of the people – and the rights of animals, and then we can advocate saving the environment. I also believe that philanthropy is something that should be taught at school.
Do you have any philanthropic role models?
Melinda and Bill Gates for sure. Warren Buffet, Mother Teresa, and many others.
What person has had the most influence on you and your life?
I believe that rather than a person, it was my religious upbringing that had the most influence. I am a Catholic; however, all religions teach the importance of giving back. My parents and teachers also had a great influence.
Which of your philanthropic endeavors are you most proud of?
Whenever we can help another being, we improve this world. I have done a great deal of volunteer fundraising – and giving. I am proud of that fundraising work, and I am happy to give to good causes.
Did you feel like philanthropy was an obligation?
I enjoy the volunteer philanthropic work I do. It is the obligation of mankind to help the underserved. We are not put on this earth only to consume and make life better for ourselves and our families. Rather we must help those who we may never meet but who are in great need of help. I love philanthropy and feel honored to be engaged in it. Since I live a good life, I feel obliged to help out. It is a great honor and privilege to be able to help.
What’s been your best giving experience?
Serving others and making them happy
What’s been your worst?
There are times that people are very impolite. As a volunteer fundraiser and someone who gives away my time without a salary, I find it difficult to respect those rude to volunteers.
What are your top 3 philanthropic interests, and why?
I actually have 5
1.Women’s rights – Women’s equality is essential to me. Women are equal to men, but not all cultures believe this. This type of thinking has to change.
2. Health care – Everyone should be able to receive health care when sick.
3. Animal rights – Every animal should be treated fairly.
4. Underserved populations – We must provide for those who live at or below the poverty level.
5. Racial justice – No one should be treated differently because of the color of his/her skin
If you could volunteer full time – what would you do?
I spend a great deal of my time volunteering – so maybe I would not change anything.
We are living in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic; how has this affected your philanthropic endeavors? And going forward, how will it shape your philanthropic endeavors?
My husband and I have focused on donating to many covid-19 funds. During times of extreme hardship, it is important to help where help is needed the most. We will continue to do this. During the covid-19 pandemic, I have done a great deal of advocating on national TV and radio for food pantries, animal rights, and racial justice. I now have a TV show titled Successful Philanthropy, where I interview leaders of philanthropic causes. On the show, the pandemic is always mentioned and how we can help. Also, my social media platforms are used to help my followers cope and learn how they can help others during this terrible time.
Regarding all the charities I am involved with, our big fundraising galas have now been canceled and replaced with virtual fundraisers or matching fund campaigns. I am involved with these new ways of fundraising. Moving forward, I expect my philanthropic work to increase in scope.
What is your take on the future for philanthropy? What’s next for you personally?
Philanthropy will become more global. For the world to move forward, it must become a priority of all groups. There will need to be more concern for the underserved – we are moving in that direction each day.
Our reporter Raj Gill’s thoughts on Jean:
Jean is clearly abundantly wealthy and easy on the eye! A dynamite combination.
Beyond that, she is also engaging and articulate. I found her to be deeply religious and very humble. Jean took the time to be interviewed in the hope that it would inspire others to give. She was delighted to interview, and I look forward to hearing about her continued success.