The Intersection of Philanthropy and my 5th Mystery Book Release: Thoughts about 2021


That’s the predominant feeling others have tried to invoke upon me the past few weeks.

It hurts so much, so deeply. 

It just breaks my heart.

What does this have to do with the title of my post — philanthropy and my 5th mystery book? Let me back up and explain what I’ve been working on in 2021.

2021 has been a pivotal year so far. After years of privately investing and funding various causes, I decided to bring more attention to the work I’ve been doing. I formed a company (LLC) to reflect my effort and philanthropic interests: Kardos Jusino Enterprises.  

Please note that my LLC work/formation is in addition to the years of writing I’ve also been pursuing, as I have three motivational books written and published under my name, and I’ve just written and released my 5th mystery book under my pen name (Lizzie Benton). And, at times, my writing yields to consulting and coaching for individuals who need or want more support to achieve personal or professional goals. As an aside, it continues to amaze me that my writing has international reach (see the screen shot below from my sales on the retailer Kobo):

In terms of my philanthropic focus, we have been supporting a number of causes or organizations over the years. In addition to supporting scholarships at New Jersey Institute of Technology, we have also been supporting She’s the First, St. James the Apostle Church, charity: water, CHD (Congenital Heart Defect) Coalition, in addition to many others when requested. Giving was always something my husband and I valued in our marriage; when we were newly married we even sponsored a child for a number of years through Compassion International

Bringing more attention to my interest in giving, however, has yielded a varied number of effects, particularly because it has opened up many unique conversations with others — and it has also made me more vulnerable to criticism. 

The interesting thing about being a donor to a number of organizations, is that I have the unique opportunity to compare how organizations interact with me. I have some personal observations about how effective these organizations are — and I determine their effectiveness based on how “joyful” I feel to give to them. Of course, I believe in the causes themselves. But, at the end of the day, life is often dictated by how someone, or an organization, makes you feel. If I feel an organization is not meeting my expectations, whether that’s in stewardship of my funds, or their interaction with me, I might adjust my contributions accordingly. 

One outstanding model is the She’s the First organization. Co-founded by my sister’s college friend, Tammy Tibbetts, She’s the First does an exceptional job engaging with donors, especially since they offer town halls, and they provide regular and timely updates on how my funds are being used, etc. I also find that they are a little more in touch with what my generation needs or expects, whether it’s in terms of how to accept payment, or concerning engagement/interaction. A few months ago, I shared an article on LinkedIn about how female donors often want to give not necessarily for the recognition, but for the engagement with the organization. I suspect millennials in general like this as well, based on my interaction with others and conversations with friends. 

This brings me to the beginning of my post, the shame that is being inflicted upon me. Recently, I participated in a number of difficult conversations, particularly where I expressed my concerns and raised the idea of adjusting my contributions based on my dissatisfaction. The organization, instead of saying, “How can I make it up to you?” or “How can I make this better?” resorted to shaming me. Clearly, there was something wrong with me, because they said they didn’t understand why I would adjust my contributions due to various disappointments in my treatment, communication, or interaction, that I should be donating based on the cause only. This spiraled out of control, where others heard about this, and jumped on the bandwagon to shame me even further.

This saddens me so deeply. So much so, I don’t think the individuals involved realize how much it hurts me. I honestly don’t think they can relate to how seriously I take things, or how I put my whole heart into every single thing I pursue. So, this has been my recent personal challenge, trying to maintain the joy in giving while feeling shamed. I’m just not sure I can get there, despite how much I believe in the overall cause. After all, I am a human being. And I respond much better when I feel cared for. I do believe that philanthropy should be a two-way street, and when I feel genuinely cared for — meaning not just in empty words, but appreciation shown through action — it’s easier for me to give more generously. But in some cases recently, it feels very one-way, to the point where I feel like I am “not enough.” I am doing as much as I can, whether it’s with my time, or financially, and so it cuts so deeply, right through my heart.

So how do I move forward? This has been the question in my mind recently. I’ve been simultaneously focusing on how I can provide value in other ways, in other areas of my life. One way I am able to do this is through my writing, particularly my mysteries. I have several contacts who, to my surprise, absolutely enjoy my writing. It’s an escape for them, and it provides them joy. What better way to provide value to someone’s life than to give them a few hours of joy, especially since time is a limited resource? 

Therefore, I am working on my sixth mystery. My fifth mystery, just released in August, was unique in that it somewhat paralleled my life the past few years. The main character, a PhD chemical engineer turned cafe owner/amateur sleuth (sound familiar? 😉 ), is trying to decide if she should continue teaching part-time at the university. I similarly had to make this decision a few years ago; in fact, my decision to pause my part-time teaching was in part to allow me more time to focus on my family, as well as to strengthen my focus on my other pursuits such as philanthropy. It was at that time that we formalized our first scholarship at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and the seed was more firmly planted that funding scholarships would become a stronger interest for me, especially since I benefited from scholarships years ago in college. So, I must say, I’m absolutely delighted that the inception of that scholarship has led to my support of two additional scholarships at the university, and that I’ve also recently joined the Newark College of Engineering Board of Visitors, allowing me an opportunity to volunteer and help the students in a different way.

In addition to working on my sixth mystery, and my volunteer work at  NJIT, I’ve also mapped out future self-improvement books, created covers for future self-improvement and other mystery books, and spent significant time strategizing some of my goals and work for the next couple years. While I am disappointed and sad about the incident I discussed here in the post, I remain interested in philanthropy as a whole, and will continue to focus where I feel there is the best fit in terms of my personality — the seriousness in everything I pursue, and my heart — and the organization.

Finally, I’ve made some updates to my website. The email subscription service I was using under Google Feedburner has been discontinued, so you will need to sign up again on the main part of the site if you’d like blog updates. 

I hope all of you are safe and healthy, and I wish you all well, as always. Thank you for reading.