Jean Shafiroff has been honored by dozens of nonprofit organizations for her charitable giving and her activities to promote philanthropy. Shafiroff currently serves on nine charitable boards, chairs numerous annual galas and fundraisers, and hosts a TV show entitled Successful Philanthropy that gives a platform to others to discuss their charitable activities. Shafiroff also authored the 2016 book, Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give, which serves as a practical guide to modern giving, and she is currently working on a second book.
Shafiroff and her husband, Martin, recently moved into their new home in Palm Beach County and plan to split their time between Florida and New York throughout the year. We caught up with Shafiroff in early February to ask her about her philanthropic activities.
What have you been up to since coming to Palm Beach?
I recently hosted and underwrote a luncheon to benefit American Humane, which was held outside at The Colony Hotel. I am a board member of American Humane, which has a presence in Palm Beach, and the purpose of the luncheon was to introduce the charity to new people. I hosted the president, the board president and his wife, and another board member of the organization, and the rest of the guests were new to American Humane. But there have been very few events so far this winter because of the Omicron variant. In the fall and early winter, I attended many events in New York in support of charitable organizations and I served as the chair of the Viennese Opera Ball and co-chair of the French Heritage Society Gala. Then when the Omicron variant came on, almost everything was canceled. Most of the big events will not take place in Palm Beach until April and May. In New York, almost all the big galas have been postponed until May or June.
My husband and I enjoy attending charity galas. I find philanthropy very rewarding, and it is a joy to attend and host events in support of different charities, regardless of whether I am on the board or not. I believe in the importance of philanthropy, and there’s a great need for it.
I have also been recording my TV show virtually from my new home. The purpose of my show, which airs in the Hamptons and New York City, is to allow other philanthropists, as well as celebrities and politicians, to speak about their charitable activities and causes, and to inspire and motivate viewers to get involved in philanthropy.
What other organizations are you involved with?
I currently serve on the boards of the Southampton Hospital Association, New York City Mission Society, American Humane, New York Women’s Foundation, Casita Maria, French Heritage Society, Couture Council of the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), and Global Strays. I am also an honorary board member of the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation and an honorary trustee of the Jewish Board, where I previously served on the board for 28 years. I am Catholic, and I love this organization and the work they do.
I also chair or co-chair about eight or nine galas each year for various charities and host cocktail parties and other fundraisers to benefit many organizations. I look forward to becoming more involved with charities in the Palm Beach area.
With all the charity galas that you have hosted and chaired, I understand you have accumulated quite a collection of ballgowns. What are your plans for this collection?
I have been collecting ballgowns over the years with the idea that I will donate them to a museum. Before the pandemic, I was working on archiving my collection with a woman who works at Vogue and a fashion historian who teaches at FIT. I have served on the board of the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT since 2010.
The collection includes gowns by designers like Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Mary McFadden, Victor dE Souza, B Michael, Malan Breton, Zang Toi, and Valentino, and some beautiful beaded gowns by Alice + Olivia. Some of the gowns are couture. With this collection, I have focused mainly on American designers. The museums are interested because these gowns represent a period of American philanthropy, and they are beautifully made.
When I work with designers, they may come up with a few drawings, and I will pick one. I like to give my designers a lot of freedom to showcase their work.
What do people usually wear to charitable galas?
It depends on the dress code. When an event is “black tie,” men wear a tuxedo and women often wear gowns, but sometimes you may see the most fashionable women come in short dresses or a beautiful silk pant suit. Some events will have a more specific dress code, such as a “black and white” ball. When I host an event, I personally prefer not to restrict the dress code too much. I don’t want people to have to worry about going out and finding a black and white dress, for instance. I want people to buy a ticket and show up and support an important cause.