Has Movember had its Moment in the UK?

Has Movember run out of steam, threatening to seriously unravel as a major funder of prostate cancer research in the UK? Movember was rapidly ascendant but it’s still struggling to achieve some kind of ‘steady state’ income. You’d probably expect some drop off in public support as Movember stopped being quite so novel but it looks as if UK income last Movember may have fallen off a cliff.

Other charity fundraising events manage to carry on year after year, with some significant and repeated investment, which might be where Movember’s issues lie. They are very proud of their low fundraising costs but if they invested more, their returns might be better. Macmillan’s first National World’s Biggest Coffee Morning in 1991 had 2,600 participants. Since then they've stuck with it, tweaking the presentation slightly and it has raised over £113 million. In 2013 154,000 people raised £20 million.

I am still awaiting the detail in the UK accounts of Movember for 2013-14 – they are not yet available on the Charity Commission website. However, their general Global report (published on their website from Australia and not relevant for the Charity Commission here) says the UK raised £20.4m via Movember 3013, itself a drop on the previous year’s total of £27m.

Movember 2014 income looks a lot worse.

On the Global Summary Movember leaderboard [of 8 Jan 2015] the UK total for Movember 2014 is £8,861,970. On 2 December 2014 it was £7,246,288. I assume the online nature of their record keeping means the totting up of money is, pretty much, real time receipts. I guess c.£10m is the likely order of magnitude for the final number at year end. Big donor partners and sponsors might add more later, so my shroud waving might be precipitate but I’m suspecting not. The whole Movember premise is MoBro, not MoCorporate.

A relatively ‘predictable’ fundraising income is the holy grail for any cause. The bottom line for prostate cancer researchers is that they’ll take what they can get and be grateful, but they'd prefer stability. Movember income has never achieved the stability that Cancer Research UK’s has, for example.

Movember’s partner is a normally configured charity - Prostate Cancer UK - which has the full range of ‘usual’ fundraising methods in-house. A pity Movember finds that all a bit dull. Move along please, nothing to learn there…. though there is. No Movember leaders have Googleable evidence of any alternate experience in charity fundraising in any other method save their sainted Mo – so there’s no internal expertise from which they can refresh their ‘ask’ or diversify their Movember idea - preferably making their ask UK specific, and more sustainable, than it seems at present. 

When CEO Adam Garone, ex-Australian Special Forces and Vodaphone sales, was interviewed by Third Sector on 19 November 2012 he said “Charity walks, runs and black-tie dinners options are a dime a dozen”. “People get fatigued. The challenge is to come up with a creative way to get people engaged with the cause that is also scalable.”

Adam seems unaware that charity walks and runs suit some audiences and are managed with different donor recruitment and retention techniques, by skilled fundraisers. Though they might be a bore to him, significant numbers take part and enjoy them whilst also raising money. London Marathon anyone? That is significant money. In 2014’s Race for Life, in aid of Cancer Research UK, more than 550,000 participating women raised £51million. It has a long history, the first ‘Race for Life’ event taking place in 1994 and 7 million women have taken part since, bringing in over £526 million.

Charity dinners are not the Movember way either, but they also work, for their different audience. That’s the key. Horses for courses. People invited to them know why they are going. The type of men or women at a FR dinner won’t be doing the Mo thing any time soon, just like most MoBros won’t ever be prospective major donors at the FR dinner.

Movember may have opened a new seam in the mine of possible donors but those donors and the brand might now be deserving of rescue by some experienced fundraisers, well equipped to imagine how to retain and respect previous MoBros, whilst also recruiting new ones. It also needs staff with detailed knowledge of men’s health in the UK, working in health charities and managing medical scientific research and health information. Those improvements would consolidate the donor base before it totally implodes, majorly improve articulation of the cause and, crucially, deliver the capacity and knowledge to accurately inform, engage and help far more men.

‘In my Glorious Rule’ as @RevRichardColes would have it, I’d pull together a health charity consortium for men’s health and research in the UK, made up of the British Heart Foundation, the main UK mental health charities and Cancer Research UK [in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK] –with some kind of political/campaigning aspect that pays attention to the social determinants of health in men, as advised by the Men’s Health Forum. I’d then simply hand them the fundraising mechanism of Movember to manage.

Movember would be a greater brand if its context was properly and transparently UK based, its interest more intelligently articulated as men and their health - and that it was properly refreshed every year.

Instead, the UK risks losing it, largely unaware of its unusual origins in Australia and how the transplant may not have 'taken' quite as well as hoped. 


Movember fundraising

A nice article, Chris. I'd been keeping an interested eye on the Movember leaderboards over the past few weeks and recalling the previous heights from which Movember seems to have fallen. The guys running Movember have achieved something pretty amazing and are very talented in understanding how to use social media and to mobilise men. HOWEVER, they always appeared to be somewhat resistant to seeking and accepting input from others on how the Movember 'offering' could be constantly improved.

Whether the trends toward greater amounts of facial hair have been influenced by the Movember campaigns is debatable. Either way, facial hair is now much more normal and the fundraising challenge of growing weird and wonderful 'Mo's against that background becomes ever greater.

Maybe the Movember leaders will see the campaign through to a natural point of exit and say - as they're entitled to - that while the campaign had legs, it delivered a huge boost to the cause of men's health. I'd far rather though that they turned their creative juices to reinventing the campaign - or better still, to finding a powerfully effective successor.