On the Efficacy of Joining Crusades

Posted on March 31, 2015 by Robert Ringer


With the presidential campaigns starting to heat up, bogus crusades like the war on women, income inequality, and “institutionalized” racism are heating up right along with them. Yep, balderdash as they may be, phony crusades are back in vogue with millions of folks who are naïve, uninformed, or just plain dishonest.

If everyone who had ever joined a movement, cause, or crusade had carefully analyzed the realities of the group’s purpose in advance, I suspect that most crusades throughout history would have disappeared without a whimper for lack of support. In part, this explains why so many hard-core followers of crusades are young adults. Once an individual has had some real-world experience under his belt, he is likely to think twice before wasting his finite supply of time and energy on a cause that others happen to believe is worthy.

What few people fail to see is that in many respects there is not strength in numbers, but weakness. Suppose, for example, that you wish to help “the poor.” There is no question that charity is a noble activity, assuming you can afford the time and/or money to engage in it. If it makes you feel good to help those who are less fortunate than you, by all means do so.

But rather than waste time becoming involved in the muddled bureaucracy of some organization where you would have to confer with others over such questions as who qualifies as “the poor” and what, precisely, should be done to help such people, would it not be easier, faster, and more efficient to make all necessary decisions unilaterally and take immediate action yourself?

All you would need to do is decide which person or persons you deem to be poor, then decide how much of your money you would like them to have. Best of all, you could personally deliver the money to them — no middleman necessary, thank you. And, just think, you could do all this without having to stop and consult with anyone else.

Having accomplished your purpose, you could then about your day-to-day pursuits without harassing friends, neighbors, or strangers about your beliefs. Simple, efficient, immediate results — the kind of results that are all but impossible to achieve through group action.

If you acted in precisely the above manner, I would be inclined to believe you if you told me you had a desire to help the poor. But if you tried to hard-sell me on joining a charitable organization to help those who are in financial need, I’d have to look you over real carefully and ask a whole bunch of questions that you probably either couldn’t answer or would prefer not to.

Since it’s very easy to help others if that is your true intent, I’m skeptical about the motives of do‑gooders who form bureaucratic organizations to carry out charitable and “public good” projects. The first thing I look for in such people is a big ego; second, I look for an ulterior motive.

The next time you’re tempted to work for, or contribute to, a charity, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have firsthand knowledge of exactly how the money I’m raising is going to be spent?
  • Can I be certain it is being used to help those whom the group purports to be aiding?
  • And, if so, do I really know what percentage of the money, after bureaucratic waste, will actually end up in the hands of the designated recipients?

Even if a crusade is successful (and keeping mind that successful is a subjective term), you have no way of knowing that you will live long enough to witness the results. It seems to me that to work on a crusade all your life and not be around to see its fruition would be a bitter pill to swallow, especially if you think about all the time and energy you’ve invested in the cause — time and energy that could have been used to better your own life.

But there’s an even worse fate possible: What if the group’s stated purpose is accomplished during your lifetime, but the results turn out to be very different from what you had in mind all those years that you were donating your valuable time-and-energy resources to help bring them about? Although most groups never come close to achieving their stated objectives, disillusionment is the rule rather than the exception for those that do.

The reason for this is obvious: Given that each person in an organization is unique, your perception of the group’s purpose and the perceptions of every other member of the group — especially that of the group’s leader — are likely to be quite different.

You can be certain that the masses in the early years of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia were not envisioning the same results as the leaders who proclaimed that communism would free them. As in George Orwell’s 1984, they had no idea that the freedom promised by the Bolshevik leaders would translate into slavery. Ditto with Castro’s Cuba, Mao’s China, and Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam.

Finally, the hardest reality of all for crusade supporters to grasp: Your own personal growth in knowledge and reasoning power may shed a whole new light on a cause you once thought to be worthwhile. New facts continually arise that may take the glitter off a once seemingly worthy cause.

Bestselling author and futurist Alvin Toffler (Future Shock, The Third Wave, Power Shift) once wrote that when he was a Marxist in his late teens and early twenties, he, “like many young people, thought [he] had all the answers.” He went on to write, “I soon learned that my ‘answers’ were partial, one-sided, and obsolete.”

Any way you slice it, in most cases joining a crusade is hard to justify. Many people join a crusade just to conform, which means they are acting irrationally. Or for companionship with “like-minded” people, which means they are being dishonest with the other members of the group. And, I suspect, many join crusades, knowingly or unknowingly, for nothing more than ego satisfaction, which is the worst of all possible reasons because it tends to lead to evermore irrational actions.

Finally, if you join a crusade only because you are frustrated with your own life, you’re taking the easy way out in order to avoid real solutions to your problems — not to mention inviting additional frustration into your life as a result of not being able to get others to see things your way.

Free advice: If you want to become a true believer, learn to believe in yourself. Not only will it lead to a richer and fuller life, you will be making a greater contribution to society and the world will be a much better place for it.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

29 responses to “On the Efficacy of Joining Crusades”

  1. Taejonwill says:

    This sounds just like a chapter out of LOFNO….

  2. Burt Dubin says:

    On the mark, Robert, on the Mark! Burt Dubin

  3. Excellent advice Robert, as usual. The only caveats, in my thinking, would be; 1) our Revolution, 2) preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and, 3) the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      The 3 exceptions you list have all had the original intent subverted by others for their own gain. Look at the mess the USA is now, surely not the intent of our Founders. Jesus demonstrated many wonderful truths, but so many of the followers now want to browbeat people with principles that were created by the Church and not Jesus. The civil rights movement was just an opportunity for many to make a big political statement (the segregation that was being overcome was a function of Jim Crow laws made by govt. in the first place), and has morphed into the race hustling of Jesse Jerkson and Rev. Al. I think doing things to help others as an individual is noble, but once it becomes part of a group, corruption and dilution are guaranteed, and often those who do not belong to said group are demonized.

  4. J. A. says:

    I fully agree that many charities, so to speak, are rife with fraud, "group-think" and hidden agendas. I think Mr. Ringer's advice is very sound on thoroughly investigating a charitable organization before committing ANYTHING (time, money, energy, etc.).

    Once a worthy charity is found, however, becoming involved can yield benefits far in excess of just "feeling good"about doing good. Depending on one's efforts and volunteer positions and activities, volunteer work can definitely enhance resumes, It may also provide opportunities to gain critical skills and experience that may be difficult to obtain otherwise. Publicity is another potential benefit, and so is making social and business contacts that maybe very useful from a carer standpoint.

    Granted, any organization, by definition, will be less efficient than individual action, no matter how well-run and well-meaning the organization is. But, as Mr. Ringer notes, some organizations are worthwhile, and may be considered, once they have been thoroughly researched and pass muster regarding what WE, as INDIVIDUALS, consider worthwhile by our own definitions and personal preferences.

  5. Thomas Sleeva says:

    Dead on Robert! As usual.
    Unfortunately, "group think" is a part of every organization. You've all learned this from experience. Anyone refusing to engage in the organization's "group think" is deemed a "bad apple" "not a team player" "a personality problem" etc. Remember these behavior patterns from middle school and high school? Those who needed to be deemed "cool" enough to sit at the "right" table in the school cafeteria with the "popular" and "cool" kids. You remember those "cool" kids, the one's who peaked back in high school. This is always an issue with any group.

  6. Kerry says:

    As the Founder & Executive Director of a nonprofit organization (SAVE THE FROGS! http://www.savethefrogs.com) that I started seven years ago with my life savings of $3,000 and have devoted a significant amount of my life to, I have plenty of firsthand experience on this topic. Frogs are the most rapidly disappearing animals on the planet, with 2,000+ endangered species worldwide. Based on my initiative and unwillingness to accept the societal norm of environmental apathy, I created a worldwide movement. Myself and my supporters have conducted over 1,400 educational events in 59 countries, trained thousands of students in environmental protection techniques, passed legislation to protect frogs and other native wildlife, and significantly contributed to the health and future of our society and planet. We do this with a staff of a few recent college grads and myself, with a minimum of bureaucracy and over (90%) of contributions going directly to our programs. The issues Mr. Ringer highlights can all be overcome in the same way he overcame the obstacles in the real estate business. And indeed they must be overcome because we do need movements to fix the most significant problems the world faces. If you want to create massive change, don't go at it alone – train, inspire and enable others. And if you are wealthy, please contribute financially as well. Thanks!

    • psychicmindvandervoort231 says:

      Does the world need frogs, and several other endangered species? Better to invest in SAVE THE BEES. We DO NEED THEM!

  7. Jon says:

    I remember the adage "Charity begins at home" from the late 30s and 40s. Local churches and charities knew first hand what folks really needed help and then provided that help directly. Organized charities today are simply scams to make money for the organizers for the most part. Thanks for reminding all of us, Robert!

    • Daniel says:

      Excellent comment, Jon. May I add the biggest charity scam of them all: Government-sponsored welfare. Not only is it massively expensive (and wasteful), but its funding is obtained under coercion; most of its beneficiaries have utter contempt for its benefactors (based on my observations; no stats to support); and its effect on American culture has been (arguably) devastating.

  8. Gordon says:

    As a wise man once said, "It's easy to be generous with someone else's money."

    In my experience, most charities start out with people really dedicated to helping the needy or solving a problem, but if they grow beyond a few people or a few thousand dollars, they get taken over by smooth-talking operators who are primarily in it for themselves.

    And as Robert suggests, when we help individuals that we know, and whose circumstances are familiar to us, we are likely to actually do some good. However, when we make a donation to an organization, and trust that they will use it wisely, it may make us feel good, but the actual results may be negative. Entitlement, co-dependency, and undermining efforts of those who are striving to overcome their circumstances are all common consequences of many of our "charitable" organizations.

  9. Carol says:

    Several years ago when watching "House Hunters" on TV, I saw several episodes that featured couples looking for housing. Their occupation was "fund raiser" for non-profit charities or organizations. Without exception, these home buyers were all looking for homes in the million dollar range…give or take a half million or so. That is when I stopped giving to any and all organized charities other than the Salvation Army, and began finding my own persons in need and began giving in a very personal way, while still trying to remain anonymous.

    • Todd says:

      I've noticed the very same thing, Carol. It's really eye opening…upsetting at first, but learning can be like that.

    • psychicmindvandervoort231 says:

      Yes, based on my (limited) research, The Salvation Army is the only worthy charity out there! Since I am in my "last cycle" of life… or nearer than that… I always say that if my current keeper fails me, what I have will go to Salvation Army iinstead.

      • Robert Bonter says:

        Hate to break it to you, but the really good stuff that is contributed to the S.A., winds up as the personal property of the district captains. I know, I worked for them briefly, but long enough to know that what filters down for public dispersal is the leftover junk. And welcome to the real world!

        • psychicmindvandervoort231 says:

          Thanks, Robert… Now my disillusionment is complete. No charities are worth a sh t. When I was down but not out mid 70s, I was told my only recourse as a single male was the SA. I didn't go since I wasn't interested in hearing their religious sermons. I heard on had to suffer them before chow. But, I made it back up without them, or any Gov't help. A strong will helps.   Richard

  10. Leedees111@hotmail.com Kermit says:

    That savethefrogs.com humor site is a fantastic parody of all the BS 'charity' or 'save something' organizations out there. Too Funny!

  11. Ray says:

    Robert——–What is left to live for?

  12. Ellen Schultz says:

    I am a 68 year old woman who has fallen on hard times and tried to get help to remain in my apartment, that is to avoid eviction. I took care of my elderly parents for nine years, became ill myself and then after finally getting better tried to find a job or some clients to support myself. I took early Social Security because after my father died my mother and I needed the income to supplement her income. To be totally honest, I have no regrets about caring for my parents in their time of need, but made the serious mistake of believing I could resume my life after they were gone. I also mistakenly believed there is a "safety net" that might be able to help me to remain alive until I could find work again, to re-establish my life again. I reached out to governmental agencies and have been turned down by every one of them because they told me I need to prove I can pay the rent going forward or find a guarantor so they could help me. I haven't been able to do either. So, that brings me to the point of charities. I called many charities and was told basically the same thing by each and every one of them. I wonder who is actually receiving the money collected by their charitable organizations if someone like me, who has a genuine need, can't get help. I won't name names here but I read about one such charitable organization's CEO embezzling something like five million dollars a year or two ago. I wonder if that's what's going on in many charitable organizations, perhaps not as blatantly as that CEO, but on a much subtler level? All I know is they absolutely have no assistance for me, a person who worked 40 years in this country. I also know that many of my foreign born neighbors who never worked a day in the USA are receiving rent assistance, SSI, food stamps, and Medicaid. I know this because I've often read letters for them when they didn't understand them. So, that's your governmental agencies and charities in action.

    • psychicmindvandervoort231 says:

      Are there no Senior Citizens Housing in your area that adjusts rent in accord with amount of SS income? There was that in Michigan where I am from.

    • RealitySeeker says:

      Firstly, I'd like to say that you seem to be a kindly lady who just misunderstands how the "safety net" works. If you are truly destitute, then you should be able to receive an EBT card, rent assistance, healthcare and many other handouts and handups; however, if you have any assets, this might preclude a government handout until you divest yourself of any inheritance and/or a substantial bank savings and/or house(s) or any real estate or an expensive car(s).

      You'll have to show the government that you have almost no money, almost no possessions and no job or low-paying job before you can get onto the "safety net"….

      Do you have any family or friends who can help you to navigate your way onto the safety net?— perhaps they can set up an appointment with a caseworker, so you can find out where you stand. At the very least, you obviously have internet access and you write well and you think coherently, so I believe you could do some further research and perhaps find your way onto the safety net all by yourself.

      If you're already receiving the maxim amount of government help allowed, and it's still not enough, then you might try to live with a roommate in order to reduce costs….. Cutting costs is your only option when you have only a fixed income. Try to reach out and meet new people everyday. Go to church or a social group, take a genuine interest in other people and network with those of whom take a genuine interest in you.

      Best wishes……

  13. Ellen Schultz says:

    With all due respect to your understanding of how this works, at least here where I live, I have tried everything. I no longer have any assets. None except my low SS due to taking it early. I do get $16 a month in food stamps and yet, I have been turned down by every agency and back to the original point of what started the comments, all charities. As I have mentioned, they require exactly what the city social service agencies require, that is proof I can pay the rent going forward or a guarantor.

    I have gone to speak to caseworkers at the local senior centers and a prominent charity and they've told me what I've told you.

    The only governmental assistance I receive is the above mentioned $16 in food stamps. I do not have any family members left and unfortunately, as I've found out, my friends aren't willing or unable to help.

    While I appreciate your comments, going to reach out to new people every day isn't an option when one is faced with imminent eviction and working to prevent it. It has become a full time effort.

  14. RealitySeeker says:

    Where do you live?— if I may ask?

    • RealitySeeker says:

      With all due respect, I would just like to know which city and state you reside in, not your precise address, of course.

      The reason I'm asking is that services for the elderly vary by state, county and city. And, as I'm sure you've figured out by now, you might need to find a new place to live— before the sheriff knocks on your door and tells you he's there to enforce an eviction notice.

      You still have options: for example, some places, like where I live in Texas, offer adult foster homes. I'm not saying you'll like your new home, Mrs. Shultz, but it's better than living in a Ryder truck. And it maybe only temporary, because once your no longer fighting eviction, you'll then have time to network.

      If you live in Houston, I can send over somebody to meet you at one of the senior centers. Or, perhaps, who you might need to speak with is a pro-bono attorney. The first consultation with most attorneys is free, and, if they cannot take your case, perhaps they could recommend somebody who could help you with your eviction problem…….

      • Ellen Schultz says:

        Thank you for your kind offer. As I said in other responses you probably didn't see yet, I live in NYC.
        Obviously, I now realize I probably will be evicted. I will make another attempt to stay here, at least for one to two months to sell off everything and pack up to leave. I've had it here and it is time to go. Unfortunately, as I've mentioned it does take assistance and I plan to again ask the social service agencies to help me remain here a little while longer and then to help me move.
        Another thing I didn't mention is that I did go to Legal Aide and spoke to the head of the local office that takes care of senior housing issues. The woman did help me by giving me a letter to the judge to ask for more time, but told me she couldn't take my case as it's unwinnable. She told me as I didn't have proof I'll be able to pay the rent going forward or had a guarantor, I couldn't win. She said she couldn't utilize their limited resources for this "unwinnable" case. Again, I ask who gets helped? I promise you I have no other hidden resources that might preclude me from getting assistance.

        • RealitySeeker says:

          I've just finished reading your other posts, and you're definitely a capable, articulate individual. Actually, I was born and raised in New York State, so a know a few things. No offence, but if you can't find a welfare handout there, you can't find one anywhere.

          Not too long after Billy Joel released "Movin out" I packed up my bags, hoped in my 72' Chevy, turned on Billy's, "The Stranger" and said bye, bye to NYC for good. I haven't even been back for a visit in a decade. And I have no regrets.

          So good luck movin out, Mrs. Schultz, and I wish you very well in your new life.

          Finally, I agree with you that many people are going to be "disappointed" when they turn to the government and realize that after a lifetime of paying Uncle Sam, he can't live up to any of his promises.

  15. Ellen Schultz says:

    I live I NYC, a city that I have long considered the epicenter of social welfare in the US. Perhaps there are other places where the governments give away the store, but as I've been living in the center of a primarily immigrant neighborhood for years, I've seen how much is given away freely to those who never worked a day in this country. I, like you, like many others believed that if it ever came to me needing help, I would be able to get it while I work towards getting back on my feet.
    I want to work. I have some skills, but so far due to my own illness after my mother died and now due in part to the stress of this situation I find myself in, I haven't found anything. I'm now totally tapped out. I think I'm out of resources and places to go for help. I am facing eviction and hoping an agency will step in to prevent that at least until I can get back to work, probably online as I'm realizing it's hard to get a job or a client in a world that views seniors as either incapacitated or downright dumb and out of touch.
    One last thing about the lack of resources. Last week someone called me to say she had been listening to a local radio show. On the news break she heard a story about how millions of women, as women are still the primary caregivers for elderly parents and other relatives, are facing much like I have faced and still face. They, like I, spend years caring for loved ones, give up their jobs and as a consequence lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and in reduced SS benefits. They, like I, believe they will be able to resume where they left off, after the deaths of their loved ones. The figures vary, but I saw something that said that the earnings and SS loss can be over a half million dollars over the lifetime of the caregiver. This, of course, varies depending on the earnings of the person while they worked. My suspicion is it could be higher, much higher for some.
    Again, back to the issue this began with, what are the charities doing with the money donated to them if they're not giving it to people who need it desperately, like me? Are the only people receiving help those who come here to sponge off of American largesse? I won't bore you any more, but believe me I could tell you stories. Why would someone like me, truly an honest person, be unable to get help?

  16. Ellen Schultz says:

    One last thing I need to make clear. It might appear from my comments that my problem is with immigrants. No, not really. I grew up in NYC and have lived among people who were immigrants themselves, or like me descendants of immigrants. No, this is a culturally diverse city. The problem is with how some of those immigrants have been able to find a way to gain more support for themselves than many people, like me, who have worked their entire lives in this country. And how do we finally say to the legislators this is enough? Remember, although you might be okay today, right now, you, like I, might face some hard times. And if you've worked and contributed to your community, your country, for your entire life, you might expect it to reciprocate, for just a little while. You might be disappointed… And again back to the original point, where are the charities who collect millions and millions of your donated money? What are they doing with the money if they won't help people who are being rejected by social service agencies? Isn't that the point of the charities collecting the money, to help those in genuine need?