The Incredible Story Behind Movember

Movember has become the world’s biggest funder of men’s health programmes with over $595 million raised since the inception of the movement 13 years ago.

If you’re one of the millions of men around the world who’ve spent this month growing that healthy tuft of facial hair on your upper lip and carefully sculpted a handlebar or pencil moustache, know that what you’ve done goes far beyond a style statement. The concept of Movember was started by four men back in 2003-2004 and has now become a movement that’s raised over half a billion dollars to address research towards men’s health issues, specifically prostrate- and testicular-cancer as well as mental health. We spoke to Adam Garone, one of the four co-founder of the movement to take stock of just how far they’ve come with this movement.

It started back in 2003 over beers on a Sunday afternoon in a bar in Melbourne…my brother and a friend were talking about fashion and how things come back into style and the topic of why facial hair never made a comeback came up. In Australia, ‘mo’ is slang for moustache. So we renamed November a Movember and we decided to start the month with an opening party to prove that you are clean-shaven and then have a closing party at the end of the month to award the best moustache.

In 2004, we had our first campaign…after we decided that we must put the power of the conversation of growing moustaches towards a good cause. We realized that there’s not much done towards men’s mental and physical health awareness. Men still die on an average six years younger than women and there’s no biological reason but it’s because we don’t understand, talk and act on the issues. In our first campaign in 2004 we raised $64,000.

The tipping point for Movember to go really global happened in 2012… when we had 1.2million sign-ups and took the movement from country to country across the world from South Africa to Europe. Remember we started in 2004 with four members and 450 people signing up, followed by 10,000 sign-ups the following year. There are two things that made Movember go viral. One was the message: change you appearance. The second was the emotional connection which was do it for men’s health. There’s power in the messenger.

Most charities are started by someone who is affected by the issue that the charity is dealing with… but in our case none of us founders had prostrate or testicular cancer. We just wanted to do something significant for our society. Women have done such a fantastic job around women’s health awareness over the last 20 years and there’s just nothing for men.

We have three funding priorities…prostrate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health including suicide prevention. Three out of every four people who commit suicide are men.

This year we had Cindy Crawford support us… and last year we had LeBron James. Paul McCartney posted pictures of him in a moustache back in the day. We’ve had musicians, athletes, and many celebrities who have definitely had an influence on the movement.

We’ve raised over $595 million…since the beginning of the foundation. That makes Movember the world’s biggest funder of men’s health programmes. We’re funding over 1,200 programmes over the world. We’re global and in 21 countries. Each country we operate in has a national strategy for men’s health that links up to our global strategy. We have researchers around the world collaborating on their work.

The biggest partners we fund are… the Institute of Cancer Research in London, the Prostrate Cancer Foundation of Australia, the Irish Cancer Society, the New Zealand Cancer Society and many other programmes in the US and Canada.

We’re like the roadies for a rock brand…we create the stage and get everything set up, but the true rockstars are the Mobrothers and Mosisters who join us each year to raise funds. We consciously hand over the brand and the campaign to our community. We want them to own it and feel a sense of ownership.

Ultimately Movember exists to effectively cure prostrate and testicular cancer…and also to turn around the rates of male suicide and to reduce it by 25 per cent by 2030.