ALL PHO TOGRAPHS COURTESY OF MOVEMBER FOUNDATION
Movember encourages men to grow mustaches and hold lighthearted
events to raise money to fight prostate cancer. The movement, which
started in Australia, has raised $174-million since 2004.
Fast-Growing Group Uses Humor and Fun to Raise Money for Men’s Health
By Raymund Flandez
IF ADAM GARONE GETS HIS WAY, mustaches will soon become as powerful and iconic a fund-raising sym- bol as the pink ribbon is for breast-cancer groups.
What started out as a joke between Mr. Garone and
his friends in Australia has blossomed into an international movement that has raised $174-million since
2004, primarily for groups that help men detect and
treat prostate cancer. This year the Movember Foundation, a charity he co-founded, hopes to raise $95-
million in the United States and 13 other countries, a
big leap from the $81-million raised last year.
Mr. Garone’s charity enlists thousands of men to
grow mustaches—what he calls the “hairy ribbon”—to
symbolize their concern about prostate cancer and as
a way to get friends and relatives talking about men’s
Movember runs contests, parties, and other lighthearted fund-raising events to encourage men and
women to donate money.
His group took its name from the word “mo,” which
is Australian slang for mustache, and merged it with
the name of the month during which it asks volunteers to grow mustaches and get donations. So far,
some 720,000 people have signed up to raise money
at events that will take place around the world this
month, an increase over the 450,000 participants last
No Grim Statistics
While the emphasis on competition and raising
money from friends and relatives mimics other health
charities, Mr. Garone’s fund-raising and marketing
philosophy is a far cry from more established groups.
He says he doesn’t want people to feel pressured to
give to Movember. “We want to be different,” he says.
“Let’s celebrate life. And let’s have fun.”
Rather than citing grim statistics or deploring how
little money goes to prostate-cancer research, Movem-
ber relies on humor and irreverence.
“We’re not going to motivate people through fear and
sadness,” Mr. Garone says.
The approach is particularly effective in attracting
men in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s, a group that other charities have had trouble reaching, fund-raising
“Mo Bros,” as Movember’s male supporters are
called, not only grow mustaches but recruit their buddies to sprout them too, partly in camaraderie and
partly to compete for donations.
Most of the men raise money online by setting up
a “Mo Space” page through the Movember Web site,
where they can track donation amounts and post pic-
tures as their mustaches grow. Groups of friends or
co-workers can set up teams as well.
Started as a Drinking Bet
Movember was first conceived in 2003 when Mr. Garone’s brother, Travis, and his friends discussed growing mustaches for kicks over a few beers. That first
year, they recruited 30 people to grow mustaches.
The next year, the Garone brothers and their friend,
Luke Slattery, decided to peg a health cause to their
monthlong stunt. Some 450 people participated and
raised $54,000 in Australia.
It has been only in the last couple of years that
Movember’s fund raising has taken off in the United
States, where last year some 65,000 volunteers raised
$7.5-million, more than double the $3.2-million garnered by 28,000 participants in 2009, when Movember
gained official charity status from the Internal Revenue Service.
The charity’s origins in a drinking bet may be
one reason Movember puts a premium on creative
fund-raising events. Volunteer organizers are encouraged to hold “shave down” events on Halloween, the
day before the November mustache growing competitions start.
For example, last month Movember volunteers held
a “Sweeney Todd” event at Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gas-tro Pub, in Arlington, Va. The bar’s owner, Mark Kir-wan, hired a barber who shaved the mustaches and
beards off of 16 customers and staff members to get
ready to raise at least $1,500 for Movember, while an
alternative Irish band played and costumed patrons
chugged Guinness beers.
At the end of the month, scores of volunteers will
hold parties to thank fund raisers and donors.
The parties serve as part incentive, part reward
for those who want to show off their mustache. Those
who raise a certain amount of money, say $100, are of-
fered a free ticket to a mustache-theme costume party.
Men and women compete for prizes like Miss Movem-
ber (the best-dressed Mo Sista), Best Mo in Charac-
ter, Lame Mo (for the “facial follically challenged”), or
Man of Movember (the Mo Bro with the ultimate mus-
and Cancer Charities
Susan G. Komen for the Cure is now one of America’s
most successful charities, raising more than all but
38 nonprofits and making its pink-ribbon symbol for breast-
cancer awareness a prominent icon. Few charities take off
as fast as it did, but a group called Movember hopes
it can follow a similar trajectory in raising money
to curb prostate-cancer rates and promote men’s health.
Here’s how Movember’s early fund raising compares
(in 2011 dollars)