Moustache Money: Where the Movember Donations Go

Mj 618_348_mustache money where all the movember money goes
Kelvin Murray / Getty Images

You can see it everywhere: A grizzled upper lip here, a half-formed Handlebar moustache there, a scraggly face that used to be clean shaven. Yes, we're well into the month of Movember — the global initiative encouraging men to grow moustaches for 30 days. But why are these men doing this? The stated purpose is to raise awareness and — importantly — money for men's health. "The fun side is competing with each other," says Mark Hedstrom, the U.S. director for Movember. "But the serious side is really having that conversation about engaging men in what kinds of health risks they face."

In many ways, it's a success: Movember US raised $71 million dollars since the event hit the States in 2007, with donations from everyday Mo Bros funneled directly to various non-profit programs that either research or raise awareness for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health. While some 200,000 men donated in the US last year, given participation in all 50 states and 21 countries, there are surely scores of men growing facial hair without knowing why. Here's their guide (and, for the rest, motivation).

Mj 390_294_the history of movember

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Prostate Cancer: $39.6 Million in the U.S.
Research into prostate cancer is Movember's biggest U.S. beneficiary — it's received $29.6 million so far — and with good reason, says Hedstrom. Over 200,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, making it the second largest diagnosed cancer in men. And while it's typically not fatal, it's important to understand the risks and serious side effects when you undergo PSA testing and treatment, including erectile dysfunction, bowel dysfunction and loss of bladder control. Movember invests in two non-profits for research: the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and the Movember Foundation's Global Action Plan (GAP), which look into a number of things from new tests for predicting aggressive prostate cancer to clinical trials for possible treatments.

Movember also allocated $10 million to True NTH, a program they developed and launched this year that helps current prostate cancer patients adapt with the side effects of their treatment. "It's patient-centered support," Hedstrom says, "What outcome does that patient hope to achieve, and what options are available to them? Through this side of the cause, we're doubling down on prostate cancer."

Testicular Cancer: $10.1 Million in the U.S.
Testicular Cancer is one of the leading causes of other cancers in men from 15 to 35, developing in the testes and sometimes spreading to the abdomen or lungs. And though it's highly solvable if caught early, men still die from the disease. The survivor rate is 99 percent when it hasn't spread, but Movember is adamant about boosting that rate to 100 percent.

"One of our initiatives is designed to solve for that last percent," says Hedstrom. "Because the survivor rate is so high, there's not much money going into it. But if we can solve that last percent, we can cross that last line." Movember invests in two main beneficiaries: the LIVESTRONG Foundation — who primarily help men adapt to the disease — and the Global Action Plan, which looks into understanding the biology behind testicular cancer.

Mental Health: $77.7 Million Globally
Movember is moving into the U.S. mental health space for the first time this year, says Hedstrom, as the U.S. only invested globally in the past. But mental well-being has always been part of Movember's vision. "When you look at physical health, you have to combine that with mental health, as well — they go together," he says. "In the US, there isn't a large [mental health] investment from federal and state governments compared to physical well-being," he explains. "Our hope is to change that through our investments."

Through their main partner, the Prevention Institute, Hedstrom wants to focus on prevention. "By prevention we mean, if you look really closely at communities and the factors around them, you can prevent emotional, psychological, and physical trauma — reduce it in young boys and old men — and provide coping mechanisms so they know how to seek help if they ever need it."

Men's Health Awareness and Education: $3.8 million, U.S. 
Finally, Movember invests in its own campaign, the Awareness and Education project, where the money is spent on developing ancillary platforms like apps to support the cause. Movember wants men to know it's okay not to feel well — and it's alright to talk about it. It's all about "starting a conversation", says Hedstrom, and continuing that open talk among men and the people they love. The main initiative is called Move, and it's about exactly that — encouraging men to be active. "We've been conducting research in implementing programs for a healthy lifestyle," Hedstrom says. "By delivering the facts and statistics about how much exercise you do, and what foods you eat, and encouraging men to converse with the people in their lives about it, we're actively pushing men to be more active and eat a healthier diet."

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