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Competitive Fundraising: Wearing Your Cause on Your Face

April 2, 2013 | By Heidi Waleson

Or, having fun while raising awareness of—and millions for—men’s health

Throughout history, mustaches have been symbols of virility, villainy, and veneration. Recently, however, the male pushbroom has also become an instrument of charity.

The Movember Foundation’s slogan, “Changing the Face of Men’s Health,” refers both to its mission—raising funds to fight prostate and testicular cancer while raising awareness of men’s health in general—and its method—growing mustaches. Launched in 2004 in Australia (where “mo” is local slang for a mustache) the charity is now international, steadily increasing its annual totals to over $133 million in 2012.

“MoBros,” as the fund-raising individuals are called, solicit funds from friends to support their participation. They start November clean-shaven, and over the next 30 days, grow their mustaches and raise funds through parties, races, contests, kissing booths, bike rides, and just simply asking. Sandy Goodman, 50, a seven-year participant and the winner of this year’s Mo Mo award for raising the most money in the U.S. ($35,152), cohosts with fellow Mo Bros a mid-month party (by which time the Bros’s Mos are credible), charging admission and offering games, raffles, and the like. He also sends weekly email updates to all his friends, linking to articles and to photos of his Mo-in-progress on the lively Movember web site, hoping they will press the “Donate” button. Goodman belongs to a team of Mo-growers that ranges from 25-30 men every year. His employer, Western Asset Management in California, allows him to host a Movember 1 shave-down party at work. Companies including Amazon, Nike, ebay, and others have also hosted “Shave the Date” parties.

MoSistas get in on the action as supporters; participants can submit their Mo-related videos to the Movember web site and compete for the best “Moscar” (this year’s winner is a music video titled
“Call Mo Maybe.”) And of course, there’s merchandise—shaving gear, apparel, and the like, created by Movember corporate sponsors.

As the month progresses and MoBros are questioned by colleagues and friends about their newly sprouting facial hair, their responses serve as an explanation of both the cause and an opportunity to make a contribution. With the focus on keeping things fun, the movement has been unusually successful in recruiting men in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. For 2012, Movember counted over 1.1 million participants around the world, with 21 official countries ranging from Singapore to Canada. The 209,333 U.S. participants raised over $20 million, which goes to the LIVESTRONG Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, in addition to other cancer awareness groups.

Other charities have taken a leaf from Movember’s book: in December 2012, Stand Up to Cancer, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, asked supporters to wear ugly holiday-themed sweaters for as many days or weeks as they could stand, and post online pictures of themselves so attired. Online pledges to the charity’s web site totaled $250,000, one-third more than was pledged the same month in 2011; traffic rose by the same amount, and its Facebook page added 15,000 “likes” for the month.

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