See all those scruffy guys on the train and at the office? Sure, some of them may be hipsters, but if they were clean shaven a week or two ago, there might be another reason for their facial hair. Ronn Torossian believes there’s something to those fad charity pushes … but is it enough?
Thousands, maybe millions, of men are scratching their cheeks and chins this November. These guys are not trying to wreck gramma’s Thanksgiving photos. They are participating in Movember, a charity movement that challenges men to show solidarity by growing a mustache. The aim of Movember is to draw attention to men’s health issues. Sure, it isn’t neon pink or anything, but a Fu Manchu or handlebar mustache on a guy who was baby faced a month ago sure can be a conversation starter.
Movember started in Melbourne, Australia way back in 2003, when only 30 Aussies took part in the campaign. Eleven years later the movement has spread to 21 countries including the United States, England, Brazil, and Russia. According to reports, Movember has helped raise more than $559 million for various men’s health programs worldwide. A healthy sum to be sure. But Movember is far from the only fad participatory charity event we’ve seen in recent years. After all, 2014 was the summer of the Ice Bucket Challenge.
But do these fad movements really raise awareness or are they a glorified version of slacktivism?
The first argument has to center on the millions raised, both for Movember and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Numbers don’t lie, and these recipients sure appreciated the windfalls from these challenges. We could stop there, just say: “Hey, this was awesome, why complain?” But there is a legitimate question nonprofits should answer before trying to come up with their own moment in the social media sun.
The counter argument? Longevity. People love to be part of something new and different. Particularly if they also feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. See a bunch of guys at the office all waxing their stache? Instant connection. You suddenly have a way to connect that didn’t exist before. But the question remains … once “Movember” becomes December, will that activism and brotherhood continue? Ask ALS charities. After nearly constant promotion on social media and across the news networks, they have virtually vanished. People are either fatigued or disinterested. And when it comes time to actually DO something to help them again, will that enthusiasm resurface?
It’s a tough question to answer, but one Torossian says all charities should be prepared to address. There’s nothing wrong with a fun bit of shenanigans to get attention. But if you don’t have a program to keep those folks engaged, you are missing a huge opportunity.