Mind Your Manners 101: Society Queen Jean Shafiroff Shares Her Charity Event Etiquette Guide

Jean ShafiroffPhoto Credit: Michael Paniccia

Just in time for summer soirees, Haute Living sat down with “First Lady of Philanthropy” Jean Shafiroff. The socialite, author of “Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give” and host of the weekly show, Successful Philanthropy on East Hampton’s public broadcasting station LTV is the perfect person to give us advice. She knows how to get it done tastefully, elegantly and charitably (she serves on the boards of several organizations, including the New York City Mission Society, Southampton Hospital Association, French Heritage Society, Couture Council — Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology —, Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation Honorary Board and Global Strays. A passionate animal lover and advocate, Jean is the National Spokesperson and Ambassador for the American Humane Feeding America Program and the Ambassador-at-large for the Southampton Animal Shelter. She is also an Honorary Trustee of the Jewish Board and served as a Trustee of their board for 28 years. In addition, Jean is a New York Women’s Foundation Board Alumna and remains active with the Foundation. Each year, she serves as the chair of high-profile charitable galas and uses her wide social network to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But today, this icon of elegance, who has attended the best soirees in the city, gives us her take on the mistakes one should never make at any gala — but in particular, as we emerge blinking and shaking from the darkness of the past year — and what etiquette must always, always, always be used — in the age of Covid-19, and otherwise.

Jean ShafiroffPhoto Credit: Michael Paniccia

What are the 5 key mistakes NOT to make at a Hamptons soiree this summer?

Charity galas are sought out events, and many people want to attend. However, if you are planning to support or attend an event, these are the key facts to keep in consideration.

1. First, to attend a charity event, you must buy a ticket unless you are an invited guest. As an invited guest, the nice thing to do is make a donation in honor of whoever invited you or the charity. Never crash an event or call up a charity group asking for a free ticket.

2. Do not complain about the food, drinks, decorations, or seating arrangements. Never move around place cards. That goes for any dinner party, anywhere.

3. Make sure you follow the dress code. If the event calls for black tie attire, do not show up in jeans or beach attire. Black tie means tuxedo for men and a formal dress for women.

4. At the dinner table, do not be on your phone. It is rude to be face down in your cell phone texting while others are trying to engage with you. Suppose you have to take a call or send a text, excuse yourself to get up and do so. It is important to engage with other guests.

5. Do not dine and dash. If you are attending the soiree, make sure you allocate enough time in your schedule to stay. If you have to leave for any reason, make sure you politely excuse yourself at an appropriate time (not during a speech or when food is served). If you have to leave early, after the main course, or after the cocktail hour is appropriate. If you do not plan to stay after the cocktail hour, inform the charity a day ahead of time, so they do not leave a blank place card at the seat.

Jean ShafiroffPhoto Credit: Michael Paniccia

Is it still acceptable to decline an invitation if you don’t feel comfortable attending?

Yes, of course. If you are not comfortable attending due to COVID or have prior plans, of course, you can decline. But, if it is a charity event and you are on the charity’s board, always try to make your best effort to attend and support the event in any possible way.

Is it acceptable to have guests show their vaccination card or negative test 72 hours prior to attending the event?

Honestly, I believe that is up to the hostess of the event. But if your state has specific event requirements regarding prior testing or showing vaccination cards, the guests should follow the guidelines.

In general, what are the new Covid protocols?

Generally, I think we have become much more cautious of our health, surroundings and following state guidelines. Just as we saw people during the height of the pandemic carrying around hand sanitizer, wearing masks, social distancing, and frequently washing their hands, these patterns will continue. It has kept a lot of illness away, including colds and the seasonal flu.

Jean ShafiroffPhoto Credit: Michael Paniccia

What decor is essential for embodying elegance?

I think décor should be attractive and cost-efficient. It should be very simple and clean – that embodies elegance in my eyes. Glitz is played out, in my opinion. Especially today and due to the pandemic, toned down is the direction to go in unless it is a child’s party.

What trait(s) or etiquette(s) speaks to class and elegance?

By far, manners. Be courteous to others. Allow people to speak, and make sure you engage with both the person to your left and your right. In my opinion, that shows class, elegance, and thoughtfulness and, of course, show kindness, but that goes without saying.

Which Hamptons locale is the most chic, in your opinion, and why? Where are you shopping for elegant decor and elegant clothing this summer in the Hamptons?

They are so many beautiful locations in the Hamptons. The beaches are some of the most beautiful ones in the world, the landscape is exquisite, and we have many wonderful restaurants and shops. I do not think I could ever pick just one location.

My tip for anyone searching for a beautiful area to visit would be to take a trip to the beaches. There are so many towns, Southampton, East Hampton, Montauk, Sag Harbor, and each location has beaches, shops, and restaurants that are all unique in their way. Some of my favorite clothing stores to shop at in Southampton are INTERMIX, Tenet, and Michael Kors. In East Hampton, my favorite clothing stores are Ralph Lauren, ZIMMERMANN, and Tory Burch.

Jean ShafiroffPhoto Credit: Michael Paniccia

What inspired you to become a philanthropist and work with nonprofits?

I firmly believe that there is tremendous need and importance for people who can give back to do so. Those who have resources have an obligation to give. To be a philanthropist, you must provide your time, knowledge, and available resources. Those individuals who do not have significant resources to give away can volunteer and help by giving small donations.

I attended 12 years of Catholic school where the nuns taught us the importance of giving back. But all religions teach the importance of giving back. My father was a school teacher, and his students’ education and well-being were very important to him. Growing up, I had very strong role models, and I thank them for instilling in me the importance of philanthropy.

A few years back, I wrote and published the book Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give to inspire others to give back. I wrote the book to inspire others to engage in the philanthropic process and to serve as a practical guide to giving. In addition, I host the TV show Successful Philanthropy, which airs several times a week in East Hampton and South Hampton. It also airs in New York City each Friday at 8:30 PM EST.

What causes are the most important to you and why?

Presently I serve on the boards of several charitable organizations, including the American Humane, New York City Mission Society, Southampton Hospital Association, French Heritage Society, Couture Council (Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology), Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation Honorary Board and Global Strays.

The areas that I focus on are women’s rights, rights of the underserved, animal rights, and healthcare.

Women’s rights because, unfortunately, women do not have the same rights as men. And this is not just happening here in the United States but all across the world. In the United States, we are actually ahead of many other countries, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I am a woman, and I believe every single individual should be treated equally no matter their race, gender, or sexual preference.

Healthcare because good healthcare and doctors should be available to everyone.

Rights of the underserved because I would love to see everyone have a good life. No one should have to suffer with food insecurity and serious financial problems.

Animal rights because I love animals, and I believe as humans, we need to protect the voiceless. We must make sure they are fairly treated.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?

The most incredible luxury in life will always be to spend time with my family and loved ones. Good health is another luxury that I never take for granted.

Jean ShafiroffPhoto Credit: Michael Paniccia



Follow Jean on Instagram here