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

August 27 • 4:00 PM

The ‘Non-Lethal’ Flash-Bang Grenades Used in Ferguson Can Actually Be Quite Lethal

A journalist says he was singed by a flash-bang fired by St. Louis County police trying to disperse a crowd, raising questions about how to use these military-style devices safely and appropriately.


August 27 • 2:00 PM

Do Better Looking People Have Better Personalities Too?

An experiment on users of the dating site OKCupid found that members judge both looks and personality by looks alone.


August 27 • 12:00 PM

Love Can Make You Stronger

A new study links oxytocin, the hormone most commonly associated with social bonding, and the one that your body produces during an orgasm, with muscle regeneration.


August 27 • 11:05 AM

Education, Interrupted

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


August 27 • 9:47 AM

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.


August 27 • 8:00 AM

A Skeptic Meets a Psychic: When You Can See Into the Future, How Do You Handle Uncertainty?

For all the crystal balls and beaded doorways, some psychics provide a useful, non-paranormal service. The best ones—they give good advice.


August 27 • 6:00 AM

Speaking Eyebrow: Your Face Is Saying More Than You Think

Our involuntary gestures take on different “accents” depending on our cultural background.


August 27 • 4:00 AM

The Politics of Anti-NIMBYism and Addressing Housing Affordability

Respected expert economists like Paul Krugman and Edward Glaeser are confusing readers with their poor grasp of demography.


August 26 • 4:00 PM

Marching in Sync May Increase Aggression

Another danger of militarizing the police: Marching in lock step doesn’t just intimidate opponents. It impacts the mindset of the marchers.


August 26 • 3:03 PM

The Best Reporting on the Federal Push to Militarize Local Police With Riot Gear, Armored Vehicles, and Assault Rifles

A few facts you might have missed about the flow of military equipment and tactics to local law enforcement.


August 26 • 2:00 PM

How the Other 23 Percent Live

Almost one-fourth of all children in the United States are now living in poverty, an increase of three million kids since 2005.


August 26 • 12:00 PM

Why Sports Need Randomness

Noah Davis talks to David Sally, one of the authors of The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong, about how uncertainty affects and enhances the games we watch.


August 26 • 10:00 AM

Honor: The Cause of—and Solution to—All of Society’s Problems

Recent research on honor culture, associated with the American South and characterized by the need to retaliate against any perceived improper conduct, goes way beyond conventional situations involving disputes and aggression.



August 26 • 8:00 AM

The Transformative Effects of Bearing Witness

How witnessing inmate executions affects those who watch, and how having an audience present can also affect capital punishment process and policy.



August 26 • 7:15 AM

Being a Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All?

For those who feel guilty about watching TV, a new study provides redemption.


August 26 • 6:00 AM

Redesigning Birth Control in the Developing World

How single-use injectable contraceptives could change family planning in Africa.


August 26 • 4:15 AM

How Gay Men Feel About Aging

Coming to terms with growing old can be difficult in the gay community. But middle-aged men are inventing new strategies to cope.


August 25 • 4:00 PM

What to Look for In Dueling Autopsies of Michael Brown

The postmortem by Michael Baden is only the beginning as teams of specialists study the body of an 18-year-old African American killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri.


August 25 • 2:00 PM

Thoughts That Can’t Be Thought and Ideas That Can’t Be Formed: The Promise of Smart Drugs

Are we asking the right questions about smart drugs? Marek Kohn looks at what they can do for us—and what they can’t.


August 25 • 12:00 PM

Does Randomness Actually Exist?

Our human minds are incapable of truly answering that question.


August 25 • 10:31 AM

Cesareans Are Still Best for Feet-First Babies

A new study confirms that surgery is the safest way to deliver a breech fetus.


August 25 • 10:00 AM

What Can Hurricanes Teach Us About Socioeconomic Mobility?

Hurricane Katrina wrought havoc on New Orleans but, nine years later, is there a silver lining to be found?


August 25 • 8:00 AM

How Low Voter Turnout Helps Public Employees

To a surprising degree, as voter turnout goes down, public employee compensation goes up.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

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.

Being a Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All?

For those who feel guilty about watching TV, a new study provides redemption.

How Gay Men Feel About Aging

Coming to terms with growing old can be difficult in the gay community. But middle-aged men are inventing new strategies to cope.

Cesareans Are Still Best for Feet-First Babies

A new study confirms that surgery is the safest way to deliver a breech fetus.

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 fast-food-big-one

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