Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us



Is Movember Getting Overgrown?

• November 14, 2013 • 12:00 PM


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, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 20 • 4:00 PM

The Bird Hat Craze That Sparked a Preservation Movement

How a fashion statement at the turn of the 19th century led to the creation of the first Audubon societies.

October 20 • 2:00 PM

The Risk of Getting Killed by the Police If You Are White, and If You Are Black

An analysis of killings by police shows outsize risk for young black males.

October 20 • 12:00 PM

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they’re motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.

October 20 • 11:00 AM

My Dog Comes First: The Importance of Pets to Homeless Youth

Dogs and cats have both advantages and disadvantages for street-involved youth.

October 20 • 10:00 AM

Homophobia Is Not a Thing of the Past

Despite growing support for LGBT rights and recent decisions from the Supreme Court regarding the legality of same-sex marriage, the battle for acceptance has not yet been decided.

October 20 • 8:00 AM

Big Boobs Matter Most

Medical mnemonics are often scandalous and sexist, but they help the student to both remember important facts and cope with challenging new experiences.

October 20 • 6:00 AM

When Disease Becomes Political: The Likely Electoral Fallout From Ebola

Will voters blame President Obama—and punish Democrats in the upcoming mid-term elections—for a climate of fear?

October 20 • 4:00 AM

Coming Soon: The Anatomy of Ignorance

October 17 • 4:00 PM

What All Military Families Need to Know About High-Cost Lenders

Lessons from over a year on the beat.

October 17 • 2:00 PM

The Majority of Languages Do Not Have Gendered Pronouns

A world without “he.” Or “she.”

October 17 • 11:01 AM

How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.

October 17 • 10:00 AM

Can Science Fiction Spur Science Innovation?

Without proper funding, the answer might not even matter.

October 17 • 8:00 AM

Seattle, the Incredible Shrinking City

Seattle is leading the way in the micro-housing movement as an affordable alternative to high-cost city living.

October 17 • 6:00 AM

‘Voodoo Death’ and How the Mind Harms the Body

Can an intense belief that you’re about to die actually kill you? Researchers are learning more about “voodoo death” and how it isn’t limited to superstitious, foreign cultures.

October 17 • 4:00 AM

That Arts Degree Is Paying Off

A survey of people who have earned degrees in the arts find they are doing relatively well, although their education didn’t provide much guidance on managing a career.

October 16 • 4:00 PM

How (Some) Economists Are Like Doomsday Cult Members

Cognitive dissonance and clinging to paradigms even in the face of accumulated anomalous facts.

October 16 • 2:00 PM

The Latest—and Most Mysterious—Player in the Nasty Battle Over Net Neutrality

As the FCC considers how to regulate Internet providers, the telecom industry’s stealth campaign for hearts and minds encompasses everything from art installations to LOLcats.

October 16 • 12:00 PM

How Many Ads Is Too Many Ads?

The conundrum of online video advertising.

October 16 • 11:00 AM

Unlocking Consciousness

A study of vegetative patients closes in on the nature of consciousness.

October 16 • 10:00 AM

The False Promises of Higher Education

Danielle Henderson spent six years and $60,000 on college and beyond. The effects of that education? Not as advertised.

October 16 • 8:00 AM

Faster Justice, Closer to Home: The Power of Community Courts

Community courts across the country are fighting judicial backlog and lowering re-arrest rates.

October 16 • 6:00 AM

Killing Your Husband to Save Yourself

Without proper legal instruments, women with abusive partners are often forced to make a difficult choice: kill or be killed.

October 16 • 4:00 AM

Personality Traits Linked to Specific Diseases

New research finds neurotic people are more likely to suffer a serious health problem.

October 16 • 2:00 AM

Comparing Apples to the Big Apple: Yes, Washington, D.C., Is More Expensive Than New York City

Why shouldn’t distant locales tied to jobs in the urban core count in a housing expenditure study?

October 15 • 4:00 PM

Why Asian American Parents Are the Least Likely to Spank Their Kids

Highly educated, middle-class parents are less likely to use corporal punishment to discipline their children than less-educated, working-class, and poor parents.

Follow us

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they're motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.

How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.

Unlocking Consciousness

A study of vegetative patients closes in on the nature of consciousness.

Advice for Emergency Alert Systems: Don’t Cry Wolf

A survey finds college students don't always take alerts seriously.

Brain’s Reward Center Does More Than Manage Rewards

Nucleus accumbens tracks many different connections in the world, a new rat study suggests.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

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