Nova Scotia

Movember Canada trying to move beyond the moustache

The charity that was on thousands of men's lips just a few years ago now has a much lower profile but is still trying to advance men's health research.

Despite a decline in donations, organizers say Movember still makes a difference for men's health

Since Movember started a decade ago, it has become common for men to grow moustaches in hopes of raising money for cancer research. (Getty Images)

The charity used to be on people's lips.

Now the fundraiser that prompted thousands of men to grow moustaches for a month has a much lower profile and is trying to shift attention away from facial hair to advancing men's health research.  

At the peak of Movember's popularity in 2012, it pulled in more than $40 million in donations in Canada to help fight prostate and testicular cancer and people frequently grew mustaches to show that they were part of the fundraising efforts.

"It exploded bigger than we ever thought it could," said Mitch Hermansen, business development director for Movember Canada. 

As Movember marks its 10th anniversary in Canada, donations are down. But Hermansen said the movement for men's health is still strong with 55,000 Canadians taking part last year, raising more than $15 million.

Getting past the gimmick

While the moustache remains a major part of Movember's brand, Hermansen said the campaign has expanded its focus to include raising money for men's mental health and suicide prevention.

"People will get bored of the moustache if that's all your talking about. The good news is that we've got a great cause and that's going to be the sustainable piece when people get on board," he said. 

Benoit Baulne says he'll grow a moustache, but he's mostly drawn to the cause because it's making advances in men's health research. (Blair Sanderson/CBC)

Benoit Beaulne, who registered with the charity for the first time this year, said he'll grow a moustache, but he said he was mostly drawn to Movember's focus on prostate cancer detection.

"Knowing that the impact of science and technology these days has grown exponentially has been a huge motivator," he said. 

Focus on exercise, mental health

In Movember's branding, the moustache logo is now fairly modest with the message "Stop men dying too young" in the forefront. 

This year the Movember Foundation is also emphasizing a new campaign focused on getting people to do more exercise. The idea is to "move" for Movember. 

Movember is pushing a stronger message about men's health while allowing the moustache to remain a symbol for the cause. (Movember Foundation)

Part of the reason the moustache is no longer at the fundraising forefront may have to do with the success of Movember itself. 

New facial hair trend

Mark Peyton, who owns several barbershops in Halifax that cater to men who grow out their facial hair, said moustaches have become more popular over the past decade, particular among younger men.

Mark Peyton says moustaches are more popular now than when Movember started, and the charity could be part of the reason why. (Blair Sanderson/CBC)

He said Movember helped drive that trend, which is why it may not be as effective now as a fundraising tool.

"I think some guys, they just saw it, maybe the reaction was good, maybe they heard 'Oh, you look good with that,' or whatever and it just kind of stuck around."

Loyal supporters 

Cathy Mann knows all about trendy fundraisers. In addition to taking the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS in 2014, she runs Ryerson University's Fundraising Management Program.

"In the world of philanthropy, we straddle a delicate balance between marketing and engaging people in cause they really care about," she Mann.

"[Movember] now has what appears to be a base of loyal supporters who are going to stick with the cause over time."

Cathy Mann takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. She says trendy fundraising campaigns can be effective, but sustaining them is a challenge. (Submitted by Cathy Mann)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blair Sanderson is an award-winning nationally syndicated current affairs reporter for CBC Radio. He's based in Halifax, where he's worked for 10 years. Contact blair.sanderson@cbc.ca

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