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

July 28 • 4:00 AM

A Belief in ‘Oneness’ Is Equated With Pro-Environment Behavior

New research finds a link between concern for the environment and belief in the concept of universal interconnectedness.


July 25 • 4:00 PM

Flying Blind: The View From 30,000 Feet Puts Everything in Perspective

Next time you find yourself in an airplane, consider keeping your phone turned off and the window open.


July 25 • 2:00 PM

Trophy Scarves: Race, Gender, and the Woman-as-Prop Trope

Social inequality unapologetically laid bare.


July 25 • 1:51 PM

Confusing Population Change With Migration

A lot of population change is baked into a region from migration that happened decades ago.


July 25 • 1:37 PM

Do Not Tell Your Kids That Eating Vegetables Will Make Them Stronger

Instead, hand them over in silence. Or, market them as the most delicious snack known to mankind.



July 25 • 11:07 AM

The West’s Groundwater Is Being Sucked Dry

Scientists were stunned to discover just how much groundwater has been lost from beneath the Colorado River over the past 10 years.


July 25 • 10:00 AM

Shelf Help: New Book Reviews in 100 Words or Less

What you need to know about Bad Feminist, XL Love, and The Birth of Korean Cool.



July 25 • 8:00 AM

The Consequences of Curing Childhood Cancer

The majority of American children with cancer will be cured, but it may leave them unable to have children of their own. Should preserving fertility in cancer survivors be a research priority?


July 25 • 6:00 AM

Men Find Caring, Understanding Responses Sexy. Women, Not So Much

For women looking to attract a man, there are advantages to being a caring conversationalist. But new research finds it doesn’t work the other way around.


July 25 • 4:00 AM

Arizona’s Double-Talk on Execution and Torture

The state is certain that Joseph Wood’s death was totally constitutional. But they’re looking into it.


July 24 • 4:00 PM

Overweight Americans Have the Lowest Risk of Premature Death

Why do we use the term “normal weight” when talking about BMI? What’s presented as normal certainly isn’t the norm, and it may not even be what’s most healthy.


July 24 • 2:00 PM

California’s Lax Policing of the Fracking Industry Has Put the Drought-Stricken State in a Terrible Situation

The state’s drought has forced farmers to rely on groundwater, even as aquifers have been intentionally polluted due to exemptions for the oil industry.


July 24 • 12:00 PM

What’s in a Name? The Problem With Washington’s Football Team

A senior advisor to the National Congress of American Indians once threw an embarrassing themed party that involved headdresses. He regrets that costume now, but knows his experience is one many others can relate to.


July 24 • 11:00 AM

How Wildlife Declines Are Leading to Slavery and Terrorism

As wildlife numbers dwindle, wildlife crimes are rising—and that’s fueling a raft of heinous crimes committed against humans.


July 24 • 10:58 AM

How the Supremes Pick Their Cases—and Why Obamacare Is Safe for Now

The opponents of Obamacare who went one for two in circuit court rulings earlier this week are unlikely to see their cases reach the Supreme Court.



July 24 • 9:48 AM

The People Who Are Scared of Dogs

While more people fear snakes or spiders, with dogs everywhere, cynophobia makes everyday public life a constant challenge.


July 24 • 8:00 AM

Newton’s Needle: On Scientific Self-Experimentation

It is all too easy to treat science as a platform that allows the observer to hover over the messiness of life, unobserved and untouched. But by remembering the role of the body in science, perhaps we humanize it as well.


July 24 • 6:00 AM

Commercializing the Counterculture: How the Summer Music Festival Went Mainstream

With painted Volkswagen buses, talk of “free love,” and other reminders of the Woodstock era replaced by advertising and corporate sponsorships, hippie culture may be dying, but a new subculture—a sort of purgatory between hipster and hippie—is on the rise.


July 24 • 5:00 AM

In Praise of Our Short Attention Spans

Maybe there’s a good reason why it seems like there’s been a decline in our our ability to concentrate for a prolonged period of time.


July 24 • 4:00 AM

How Stereotypes Take Shape

New research from Scotland finds they’re an unfortunate product of the way we process and share information.


July 23 • 4:00 PM

Who Doesn’t Like Atheists?

The Pew Research Center asked Americans of varying religious affiliations how they felt about each other.


July 23 • 2:00 PM

We Need to Start Tracking Patient Harm and Medical Mistakes Now

Top patient-safety experts call on Congress to step in and, among other steps, give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wider responsibility for measuring medical mistakes.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Do Not Tell Your Kids That Eating Vegetables Will Make Them Stronger

Instead, hand them over in silence. Or, market them as the most delicious snack known to mankind.

The West’s Groundwater Is Being Sucked Dry

Scientists were stunned to discover just how much groundwater has been lost from beneath the Colorado River over the past 10 years.

How Wildlife Declines Are Leading to Slavery and Terrorism

As wildlife numbers dwindle, wildlife crimes are rising—and that's fueling a raft of heinous crimes committed against humans.

How a CEO’s Fiery Battle Speeches Can Shape Ethical Behavior

CEO war speech might inspire ethical decisions internally and unethical ones among competing companies.

Modern Technology Still Doesn’t Protect Americans From Deadly Landslides

No landslide monitoring or warning systems are being used to protect vulnerable communities.

The Big One

One in two full-time American fast-food workers' families are enrolled in public assistance programs, at a cost of $7 billion per year. July/August 2014

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