A Look Back at Movember

We take a look at Movember’s growth and the role that digital has played in the charity’s success – from humble beginnings to a worldwide phenomenon

Paul Rubens | 26th Nov 19

The Movember Foundation has come a long way from its roots as a group of Australians growing moustaches in November to promote good causes back in 2003. Today it is an international charity which encourages awareness in men’s health issues and which has raised £700 million to support its three key causes: prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health and suicide.


Social media foundations

Movember’s masterstroke was to promote itself by encouraging supporters to share photos of their moustaches on Facebook. As the nascent social media platform exploded in popularity around the world from 2005, so did Movember.

As awareness of Movember skyrocketed thanks to its supporters’ posts on Facebook, the charity decided to use the social network as a focus for its digital fundraising efforts. It became the first charity to get an integrated API to link its site through to a Facebook fundraiser and was one of the first to trial a Facebook “Donate” button, live fundraisers, and an easy way to gift donations to Movember as Facebook birthday presents.

One challenge that the charity leaders faced was that once November was over every year, people tended to forget about the charity and its causes. There was also a concern that the charity’s message about men’s health was getting lost as the focus was on pictures of moustaches rather than cancer prevention and mental health support: in 2012 less than 10% of  Movember mentions on social media related to raising awareness in men’s health issues, and just 17% discussed fundraising and donating, as Marketing Week reported at the time.


Diversification strategy

This emphasised the need for changes in Movember’s strategy, and the biggest one emerged when the charity leaders decided to do more to include women in digital fundraising efforts by branching out beyond facial hair growth.  In 2016 Movember added “Move” and “Host” initiatives in addition to its core Moustache-growing activity.

The Move initiative promoted mental health awareness by challenging supporters – male or female – to walk or run 60km “for the 60 men lost to suicide each hour,” and the charity ensured that there was a digital fundraising aspect to this by allowing Movember “Bros” and “Sistas” to track their Move progress using FitBits or other digital trackers, and post their progress online.

The Host initiative was somewhat different, encouraging members to host fundraising events of almost any kind to raise awareness in the charity’s causes.

These two initiatives had the result of moving the focus of Movember away from pictures of moustaches, making it easier for women to be supporters, and, crucially, enabling fundraising to take place all year round rather than concentrated on the thirty days of November each year.

Digital fundraising initiatives

In the last few years, Movember has launched a number of new digital fundraising initiatives and partnerships to raise awareness in men’s health issues more widely. These include:

  • Contactless fundraising badges:  In response to a notion that some people in the UK felt “too British” to ask for donations, in 2018 Movember distributed 600 contactless fundraising badges in the UK and USA which allowed supporters to donate to the charity by touching a smartphone to the badge
  • Instagram documentary series:  Movember broadcast a series of awareness-raising documentaries about prostate and testicular cancer on Instagram’s IGTV long-form (up to one hour) video platform
  • Game streaming presence: Movember established a presence on the Twitch streaming platform in 2018 to raise awareness with gamers and music fans, make Movember merchandising sales, and carry out influencer fundraising on the platform
  • Teamed up Mr Porter’s Journal: Earlier this year the charity formed a partnership with online magazine Mr Porter’s Journal. The partnership included a Health in Mind section in the  magazine and a “Health in Mind Fund  powered by Movember” initiative which included fundraising and a social media campaign
  • Partnership with TikTok: The charity formed a partnership with TikTok, a short-form video platform, to showcase videos of supporters explaining what Movember means to them as well as showing off their moustaches. TikTok agreed to donate £1 to Movember for every video posted with the hashtag #Movember up to a maximum of £10,000