TORONTO – During Movember—or the month previously known as November—thousands of men across the country will start clean-shaven and grow their moustaches for 30 days, getting friends, family and colleagues to join their team and donate to their Mo-growing efforts.
Meanwhile women, or Mo Sistas, will act as ambassadors and help spread the word about men’s health.
“It’s about caring about your dad, uncle, father, son, husband,” said Pete Bombaci, country director of Movember Canada. “The movement keeps growing because people are increasingly understanding its not about just the moustache but about helping each other and becoming more involved and aware about men’s health.”
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For three years in a row, Canada was among the top fundraisers in the world in raising money for Movember, an annual campaign that aims to increase awareness and engagement about men’s health with a particular focus on prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’ mental health.
Last year alone, the country raised more than $33.9 million, bringing the total to $151.6 million since Canada first became officially involved with the Movember movement in 2007.
So what makes the campaign so successful?
“We don’t take ourselves so seriously,” said Bombaci. “There is some fun in growing a moustache, whether in the office or with your friends, and it’s at the core that makes Movember what it is.”
Whether it comes to sharing images of growing facial hair, events or personal stories, Bombaci said social media does play an important part in their campaign.
“Over 2.3 billion conversations about Movember and men’s health took place on social media last year,” said Bombaci. “It’s growing because people are increasingly understanding that it’s not just about just the moustache but about helping each other and becoming more involved and aware about men’s health.”
Campaign success and Generation Y
Anisa Mirza, CEO and co-founder of Giveffect, a Toronto-based donation platform built exclusively for non-profits and charities, said the movement has managed to attract a key generation, one that represents more than one-third of Canada’s population: the millennials or Generation Y.
“They have done a tremendous job at wowing younger people and having them endorse and participate in their campaign,” said Mirza.
“Through their social events and strong online presence, they have successfully targeted the fastest growing demographic.”
The 2013 Millennial Impact Report revealed that millennials want to become emotionally invested in the cause. Every participant that registers for Movember has an online profile where they can share why men’s health is important to them. That page can then be shared on various social media platforms to family, friends and community in hopes of continuing the conversation.
Has the effectiveness of Movember waned?
According to Movember Canada, over 173,000 men and women showed their support of the moustache last year. In 2012, that number was 247,441.
Does this mean interest in Movember has decreased or plateaued?
“Absolutely not,” said Bombaci. “As we approach Movember 1st, we’re already seeing incredible support from coast to coast.”
Movember is not the only campaign to have “gone viral” in recent years. Earlier this year, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge became a hit online with everyone from groups of kids to celebrities.
Around the world, millions poured ice-cold water over their heads and encouraged friends and family members to do the same to raise awareness and funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
According to the organization, over $100 million was raised globally.
Changing the attitudes and actions of participants
In 2014, it is estimated 23,600 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 4,000 men will die from this disease.
From those who participated in Movember fundraising and awareness efforts in 2013, 75 per cent said they became “more aware” of the health issues they face, while 62 per cent went to see a medical professional to improve their health.
“Those are powerful numbers around not just men who are changing their attitudes but changing their actions and are seeking help from health professionals,” said Bombaci, who believes the issue of men not talking openly about their health is generational.
“It didn’t start five or ten years ago. It started with my dad and my granddad who thought they had to be tough as nails and therefore weren’t so open about their health in general,” he said. “Not every man will get the full message every year, but hopefully through the numerous conversation and those around them, men will be more open to receive it.”