The past couple of years, when November rolled around, you would start to see pictures of me like this:
This would be your Mr. Topp, participating in Movember. That happy time when men all over the world grow a mustache to raise money and awareness of prostate and testicular cancer.
This year, I have opted not to participate; it seems a waste of time to me.
Everybody does it
A big part of the reason why is that everybody participates. When November rolls around, I am treated to a Facebook and Twitter (and Tumblr and RSS feeds …) full of photographs of gentlemen gradually growing a mustache. And women, too, wearing false mustaches.
Not because they are trying to raise money or awareness for cancer, for the most part. But because they are participating in Movember. Movember is cool.
This year, they even put a mustache on Big Ben to start the festivities. Look at it:
If everybody knows a couple dozen people participating, that seriously draws down the amount any one person can raise. My non-participation is not going to affect the amount raised, just who raises it — those people who would have given to me will instead give to one of the many, many other participants. Just as some who would have donated to my mustache last year did not because they had already donated to another’s.
It’s too easy
Beyond the mass of people doing it, it is an essentially a lazy activity, growing a mustache. All it takes is to not shave the upper lip. Built in with a high-profile excuse (“it’s Movember!”) to tell your boss/girlfriend/customer, it’s the lazy man’s approach to charity. Compare to people who donate their time to charity, or who run marathons to raise money — these people work and deserve support.
People recognise this, and give less. And the lazy nature of the charity drive does not lead those participating to try to raise more — too many are simply doing it because Movember is cool.
So how much money is raised?
£22 million last year, according to the Independent. But that’s with over a quarter million raising money, making it less than £100 per person. Compare to the London Marathon, where most participants are raising (at least) ten times that much money. Participating in smaller events also raises significantly more per head — for example, by running the Bath Half Marathon, Karen raised £500 with little trouble (and a lot of work).
While £22 million sounds like a lot of money – is a lot of money – it pales in comparison to how much could be done by a quarter million people who were actually investing time and effort in something. Nevermind the half million more who probably “participated”, but did not bother to raise any money at all.
So this year, I am spending November with a hair-free upper lip, and thinking of making an effort. This blogger would rather make a real difference than sport a mustache.