Book Review: ‘Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give’ by Jean Shafiroff

Jean Shafiroff and her book "Successful Philanthropy"
Jean Shafiroff and her book “Successful Philanthropy,” Photo: ©PATRICKMCMULLAN.COM

Southampton resident Jean Shafiroff is all about giving back. “Through giving, we become more fulfilled human beings. We learn more about ourselves and the change we can help create in the world. We can achieve the satisfaction of knowing that we contributed to lasting effects that will endure beyond our lifetime,” writes Shafiroff in her new book, Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give.

Shafiroff practices what she preaches. A volunteer fundraiser, leader and spokesperson for several charitable causes, the spectrum of Shafiroff’s philanthropic work includes improving the lives of underserved populations, women’s rights and well-being, healthcare, animal welfare and resources for children in need, in addition to other causes. She serves on the boards of New York City Mission Society, New York Women’s Foundation, French Heritage Society, Couture Council (Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology), Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, Southampton Animal Shelter Honorary Board and Southampton Bath & Tennis Club’s Charitable Foundation.

Shafiroff works closely with the multiple causes she supports. Each year she chairs numerous galas and hosts events benefiting not-for-profit organizations. She is particularly well known for her leadership in fundraising for Southampton Hospital, New York City Mission Society, New York Women’s Foundation and Southampton Animal Shelter.

With so much experience, Shafiroff is an excellent guide into the world of charitable giving. Successful Philanthropy is billed as the “practical guide to modern giving that redefines philanthropy for a new era.” The book is organized into chapters with titles such as “A New Definition of Philanthropy,” “Why Should I Give?” and “How to Treat Volunteers, Paid Employees, Those Serviced by Charity, and Donors.” (Of the latter, Shafiroff writes, “Make certain to pay attention to the person who attends an event year after year…Sometimes, long-term supporters (those who give many small gifts over time) will give a large sum to a charity later or decide to become every involved with the charity at some point in the future.”)

A section called “Notable Philanthropists” provides an intimidating list: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Michael Bloomberg, John D. Rockefeller. One might think billions of dollars are necessary in order to become a successful philanthropist. Smartly, Shafiroff addresses this, writing, “[The] new definition of philanthropy means that each and every one of us can become a philanthropist: practicing philanthropy means acting out love for humanity, in any number of ways. It means we can follow our passions to help our world and all those in it.”

Successful Philanthropy provides tips and tricks for running events and personal anecdotes from Shafiroff’s own experience, including being the Chairwoman three times for Southampton Hospital’s annual gala, during which she helped to raise $5.4 million. Other details explained in the book include what charitable boards look for in a candidate and specific information for those considering starting a charity. (Hint: “be prepared to do a great deal of work and research.”)

This is the perfect book for anyone beginning a philanthropic career. It gently eases the reader into the world of charitable giving by unpretentiously assuming that all of this is new information. It also illuminates the amount of perseverance and wrangling that goes into successful fundraising. Shafiroff has written the philanthropy bible and it is a must-read for those who wish to “make a life by what [they] give.”

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