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Jean Shafiroff: “Leadership is the ability to guide others in a positive way”

Leadership is the ability to guide others in a positive way. And, it is also the ability to run an organization properly with low overhead. The bottom line is you can have a positive outcome by knowing how to manage people well. You have to motivate a group of people towards achieving this goal. You […]

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Leadership is the ability to guide others in a positive way. And, it is also the ability to run an organization properly with low overhead. The bottom line is you can have a positive outcome by knowing how to manage people well. You have to motivate a group of people towards achieving this goal. You also must mentor others so that they can move forward and be part of the overall growth of your organization.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Philanthropic Leader, Jean Shafiroff.

Jean Shafiroff is a philanthropist, humanitarian, TV host, writer, and the author of the book “Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give.” Often referred to as “the first lady of philanthropy,” her generosity and extensive work as a volunteer fundraiser and board member of several charitable organizations has led to her being a leader in the philanthropic world. Among the many causes she champions are those involved in women’s rights, rights of the underserved, health care, and animal welfare.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My upbringing played an enormous role in shaping who I am today. I attended Catholic school where for 12 years the nuns taught us the importance of giving back. Also, my father was a music schoolteacher and he truly cared about the future of the students. He would come home from work every day and talk about how important his work was to him. My mother also cared about our future. Together they stressed education and concern for others.

College and graduate school played a major role in my future. I have an undergraduate degree from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons where I studied physical therapy. After receiving my BS degree, I proceeded to work as a physical therapist at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York for one year. Then I went back to Columbia as a full time graduate student and attended the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University. During this time I earned an MBA in finance and then went to work on Wall Street on the investment banking side of the business — in public finance. I worked very hard while on Wall Street. There was a lot of travel and there was no room for any errors in the work I did. Everything had to be perfect. Many life lessons were learned from my education and then from my work experiences. All of this has helped me with my philanthropic work.

My education and work experiences gave me the tools to really understand how businesses are handled and how a charity needs to be run. Simply put, a charity has to be run like a successful business. It has to be managed very carefully. Funds have to be used appropriately with low overhead.

In my book, “Successful Philanthropy: How to Make A Life By What You Give,” I discuss in detail how charities must be run. The book is a guide to encourage people to get involved in the philanthropic process. To be a philanthropist we must give our time, knowledge and available resources. We give what we can — when we can. In the book, I also write about how important it is for everyone involved in the philanthropic process to be treated with dignity and respect. Today I serve on several charity boards including the American Humane, Southampton Hospital Association, New York City Mission Society, French Heritage Society, Couture Council of the Museum at FIT, Global Strays, and the Honorary Board of Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation. As a leader, I give my time and available resources to these and many other charities .

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

After I wrote my book, Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give , I went on a television tour to promote it and the idea of philanthropy. And out of that grew an opportunity to be a guest speaker on TV and radio broadcasts — to speak on different issues such as philanthropy, the covid-19 pandemic, food insecurity and animal welfare. Then I was asked if I wanted to host my own TV show on local television on the subject of philanthropy. Of course my answer was, “Yes”!

Now I host my own TV show entitled SUCCESSFUL PHILANTHROPY which airs in East Hampton, New York and New York City. It is rapidly growing to new markets. I love hosting and producing a television show. My show enables me to interview leaders and celebrities from all over the world such as Ndaba Mandela, Kerry Kennedy, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Susan L. Taylor, and Brock Pierce, who was running for President of the United States on the independent ticket. I have interviewed countless people who all contribute to society in a good way.

Can you share a story about the most fascinating thing about your career? Can you tell us why it was surprising?

I think it is very interesting how my work as a leader in philanthropy has transitioned into a television career. It was not expected, but it has given me an opportunity to reconnect with many of my contacts and then given me the opportunity to meet many new people who are working to make a difference. Selecting the right people to go on the show is always a challenge as my guests must be truly involved in creating positive change. Hosting a TV show is something I truly love. My dream is to make it an international show!

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

My work is divided into two parts- the philanthropic work I do and then hosting my TV show.

The charity boards I have selected to work with have all created positive change in the world. This volunteer work is very important to me. My TV show promotes philanthropy as it highlights the work of other philanthropic leaders and people involved in doing good work.

All of the interviews on my show “Successful Philanthropy” are making a difference in the world. Those interviewed are taking the time to share their philosophy on philanthropy and what they are doing to change things for the better. There now is a wait list to be on the show. It is just fascinating how one thing leads to the next when you have a passion for what you do. During my show I also give suggestions to the viewers — to encourage them to get involved in philanthropy. I know that the viewers enjoy the show very much!

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who impacted or helped your cause?

I am a big fan of Nelson Mandela and the impact he had as a world leader. I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to interview his grandson, Ndaba Mandela, on my TV show SUCCESSFUL PHILANTHROPY. Ndaba is Nelson Mandela’s protege and is following in his grandfather’s footsteps. Ndaba Mandela revealed on my show that he would run for President of South Africa if his country needed him. This was a captivating moment for the audience and for me. To hear the thoughts and ideas from this notable global ambassador was something that lifted me and my audiences.

Are there things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Yes, for the world to move forward, we must create change by working together . Governments, businesses, philanthropic leaders, charities, educational institutions and religious institutions must work together to create positive change. We will see more collaboration and working together in the future — but we must work to make this happen!

What advice do you give to others who want to follow in your footsteps?

There are many things, but most of all is to find something you are passionate about and then to find a way to help society. I personally champion certain causes that I believe in by serving on their boards and volunteering my time and giving available resources. I serve on 7 charity boards and take on many leadership roles with these and other charities. I also have been a very successful volunteer fundraiser for many different causes.

In addition, I am an ambassador for American Humane and am the national spokesperson for the organization’s “Feed the Hungry” Covid-19 program, an initiative designed to provide food for 1,000,000 shelter animals. Also, I am the ambassador of the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation and a key donor and volunteer fundraiser for their work. Lastly, I am a proud New York Women’s Foundation Board Alumna and remain very active with the foundation and with women’s issues in general.

How do you define “Leadership?” Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is the ability to guide others in a positive way. And, it is also the ability to run an organization properly with low overhead. The bottom line is you can have a positive outcome by knowing how to manage people well. You have to motivate a group of people towards achieving this goal. You also must mentor others so that they can move forward and be part of the overall growth of your organization.

What is the thing you wish someone told you when you first started?

I received quite a bit of positive reinforcement when I was young. But I wish I had received even more encouragement. But my advice to others is to teach others to believe in themselves. This is key to success. If you believe in yourself and work hard, you will achieve.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I take my role very seriously, even on social media. With 800,000 Instagram followers, I need to be very careful about the message I put out. We need a movement to promote positivity. People need to feel good about who they are, especially right now. The covid-19 pandemic has caused us to go through one of the most difficult times in history . With millions of people out of work, all sorts of problems have been created. It’s been an extremely difficult time for many people. People need to be lifted up. A positive environment is key . We need to support one another now so that our world can move forward.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?”

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I think that is just perfect for anyone.

Is there a person in the world you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with and why?

That would have to be Martin Luther King Jr. because he changed history with the enactment of the civil rights movement. I think that was something that was long overdue because one of the great sins of our country was slavery. I have great respect for him.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow Jean Shafiroff:

I: JeanShafiroff

T: JeanShafiroff

F: JeanShafiroff

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