Menus Subscribe Search
disembodied-mustache

(PHOTO: MEDIAGRAM/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Is Movember Getting Overgrown?

• November 14, 2013 • 12:00 PM

(PHOTO: MEDIAGRAM/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Not quite, but after a few years of growth it might be time to shift the focus.

What if you started this cool little thing with your friends, and over the course of a decade it spiraled into a massive behemoth that was worth millions of dollars and responsible for the distribution of even more? That’s the story of Movember, the reason some dude you know is probably sporting some pretty hideous facial hair right now.

The Mo movement is maturing. In some of the more moustache-established countries like Australia and Canada, the goal is to maintain Movember’s place rather than to continue its torrid growth. (“You’re at peak mustache in Australia?” I jokingly asked Whiteside. “A country of 24 million people raised $23 million,” he responded, “so yeah.” Point taken.) Other campaigns, like some in Europe, continue to sprout faster than the whiskers on your face.

Movember made men’s health cool; the next step might be doing a bit more to push young men to actually be active in their own health.

The effort in the United States is somewhere in the middle of the pack. Here, Movember raised $21 million in 2012, up from $15 million the previous year. Of that, 83 percent went toward men’s health programs, while 11 percent was allocated to fundraising and administrative costs, and the remaining six percent went into a retention fund that’s dedicated “to cover future campaigns and to ensure the long-term continuity of the organization.”

In the U.S., Movember donates to three causes: the Livestrong Foundation, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and its own Global Action Plan (GAP) program. I wondered about the effectiveness of those charities, so I asked Daniel Borochoff, president of CharityWatch, to examine Movember’s 2011 tax forms (the last ones available) for me. He said his organization gave both the Livestrong Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Foundation an A-minus. “It’s pretty comforting,” he said of the choices the Movember group made when it comes to giving out its cash. “I thought they were going to do something sneaky but actually it’s fairly clear-cut.” Taking in $15 million while spending only $1.4 million in fundraising is an excellent ratio. Clearly, it helps that a person’s face—a free but obvious advertisement—helps spread awareness.

ONE POTENTIAL ISSUE IS the GAP program, which is Movember’s homegrown “research collaboration initiative.” The idea seems admirable but perhaps a bit misguided. Raising money and giving it to accredited charities is one thing. Starting a program on your own is another, and one that requires an entirely different skill set. Why even bother when there are clearly dozens and even hundreds of charities around the globe that could do similar work? “I think the idea was that because we are a global organization, we’re in a unique position to leverage research on a global scale that other groups weren’t able to,” Whiteside said. “We thought we could make an impact on research. With GAP, we’re bringing together researchers and scientists from all over the world.” The organization’s site details the projects that are currently ongoing.

While I question how truly unique Movember’s global reach is—other men’s health charities are worldwide in scope as well—they do deserve credit for the transparency of their fundraising and distribution efforts. It’s simple to go on the site and find out where the funds end up and what (low) percentage is used for administrative tasks. They seem genuinely committed to staying lean and using the money they raise in smart, efficient, and effective ways. No organization like this is perfect, and Movember isn’t an exception, but they do a solid and commendable job. It’s not a bogus group aimed at making a select few founders rich while claiming to help the world. (The organization also gives report cards for all other projects, each of which focuses on one of four areas: aligned men’s health, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health.)

But it goes beyond money, too.

In a post on Refinery29, Anne Friedman argued that “it would be great to see the foundation require its participants to pledge not just to talk about men’s health and raise money for the cause, but to see the doctor for a general checkup themselves.” I asked Whiteside about whether he thought this would be a good idea, and he countered with some stats. According to a survey the organization conducted after the 2012 campaign, 70 percent of participants talk about men’s health issues, 57 percent recommend that someone else see a doctor, and 43 percent grew more aware and educated about the health risks they face.

That’s all good, but Friedman’s point is well-taken. A vague sense of increased “awareness” only goes so far. Movember made men’s health cool; the next step might be doing a bit more to push young men to actually be active in their own health. Still, their intentions are good. Their execution, so far, is as well. Not bad for a couple of guys who just wanted to grow some weird hair on their upper lips and maybe raise a few bucks in the process.

Noah Davis
Noah Davis is a writer living in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @noahedavis.

More From Noah Davis

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

September 2 • 4:00 PM

Professors’ Pet Peeves

Ten things to avoid in your classrooms this year.


September 2 • 2:00 PM

Music Lessons Enhance Brain Function in Disadvantaged Kids

Children from poor neighborhoods in Los Angeles who took regular music lessons for two years were able to distinguish similar speech sounds faster than their peers.


September 2 • 12:00 PM

California Passes a Bill to Protect Workers in the Rapidly Growing Temp Staffing Industry

The bill will hold companies accountable for labor abuses by temp agencies and subcontractors they use.


September 2 • 10:00 AM

SWAT Pranks and SWAT Mistakes

The proliferation of risky police raids over the decades.


September 2 • 9:12 AM

Conference Call: The Graphic Novel


September 2 • 8:00 AM

Why We’re Not Holding State Legislators Accountable

The way we vote means that the political fortunes of state legislators hinge on events outside of their state and their control.


September 2 • 7:00 AM

When Men Who Abstain From Premarital Sex Get Married

Young men who take abstinence pledges have trouble adjusting to sexual norms when they become husbands.


September 2 • 6:00 AM

The Rise of Biblical Counseling

For millions of Christians, biblical counselors have replaced psychologists. Some think it’s time to reverse course.


September 2 • 5:12 AM

No Innovation Without Migration

People bring their ideas with them when they move from place to place.


September 2 • 4:00 AM

Why Middle School Doesn’t Have to Suck

Some people suspect the troubles of middle school are a matter of age. Middle schoolers, they think, are simply too moody, pimply, and cliquish to be easily educable. But these five studies might convince you otherwise.


September 2 • 3:13 AM

Coming Soon: When Robots Lie


September 2 • 2:00 AM

Introducing the New Issue of ‘Pacific Standard’

The science of self-control, the rise of biblical counseling, why middle school doesn’t have to suck, and more in our September/October 2014 print issue.


September 1 • 1:00 PM

Television and Overeating: What We Watch Matters

New research finds fast-moving programming leads to mindless overeating.



September 1 • 6:00 AM

Why Someone Named Monty Iceman Sold Doogie Howser’s Estate

How unusual names, under certain circumstances, can lead to success.



August 29 • 4:00 PM

The Hidden Costs of Tobacco Debt

Even when taxpayers aren’t explicitly on the hook, tobacco bonds can cost states and local governments money. Here’s how.


August 29 • 2:00 PM

Why Don’t Men and Women Wear the Same Gender-Neutral Bathing Suits?

They used to in the 1920s.


August 29 • 11:48 AM

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.


August 29 • 10:00 AM

True Darwinism Is All About Chance

Though the rich sometimes forget, Darwin knew that nature frequently rolls the dice.


August 29 • 8:00 AM

Why Our Molecular Make-Up Can’t Explain Who We Are

Our genes only tell a portion of the story.


August 29 • 6:00 AM

Strange Situations: Attachment Theory and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

When college women leave home, does attachment behavior make them more vulnerable to campus rape?


August 29 • 4:00 AM

Forgive Your Philandering Partner—and Pay the Price

New research finds people who forgive an unfaithful romantic partner are considered weaker and less competent than those who ended the relationship.


August 28 • 4:00 PM

Some Natural-Looking Zoo Exhibits May Be Even Worse Than the Old Concrete Ones

They’re often designed for you, the paying visitor, and not the animals who have to inhabit them.


August 28 • 2:00 PM

What I Learned From Debating Science With Trolls

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but occasionally ignoring it can lead to rewards.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

When Men Who Abstain From Premarital Sex Get Married

Young men who take abstinence pledges have trouble adjusting to sexual norms when they become husbands.

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.

The Big One

One third of the United States federal budget for fighting wildfires goes toward one percent of such fires. September/October 2014 big-one-fires-final

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.