With just over a week until its conclusion, men's health charity Movember hopes its 10th annual fundraising effort will be its biggest yet with just under 1 million men around the world having pledged their facial hair to the cause.
Movember began in Australia and invites men to grow a moustache in November to raise funds and awareness among their friends of men's health issues. Proceeds go towards international organisations that target prostate and testicular cancer, cancer victims and survivors, and men's mental health.
Speaking at the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco this week, Movember chief operating officer Jason Hincks said it had grown from a 30-person event in 2003 that raised no funds to one involving 1,127,152 registered participants who collectively raised $US147 million ($157.5 million) last year.
Now in its 10th year, Hincks said the campaign had raised more than $US441 million via more than three million participants as of 2012. He told that the 2013 campaign was “tracking for marginal growth”, based on registration figures to date.
While Movember positions itself as a fun event, Hincks joked that growing a moustache throughout the month wasn't always enjoyable.
"For the most part, growing a moustache is a bit of a pain in the butt: it's itchy; your wife, girlfriend or partner doesn't want to go near you; you make small children cry; and in my case, you look like a 70s gym teacher who's a little on the sketchy side," he said.
"Those of you who have been involved in the campaign will know this moment – we like to call it the 'Fight Club' moment internally – and that's when you're in your first week of a moustache and it's looking pretty sad.
"You've got a little bit of bum fluff under your nose and you're almost reaching for the razor, you're thinking: 'I'm not quite sure if I can do this, I'm feeling a bit self-conscious.'
"And then you find yourself in the bank or supermarket and look across and see some other loser with exactly the same kind of moustache. You have that kind of nod of acknowledgement or that wink of support and you have that moment of solidarity.
"It seems silly, but that's why a lot of people get involved. Movember is about a lot of people doing a little bit to achieve a remarkable outcome."
On the plus side, Hincks noted that Movember has the support of celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion), Seth Rogan and Hulk Hogan, and successfully raises awareness of men's health issues with 70 per cent of participants saying they had talked about issues during the campaign, 20 per cent visiting a doctor, and 67 per cent asking a friend to see a doctor.
He said the charity owed its success to its unique tone of voice, authenticity, customer service, and its attempts to be “not the best charity brand in the marketplace [but an] aspirational brand that men want to be a part of”.
As an added bonus, participants “save money on razors, take the attention off a bad haircut, [and] save the taste of soup for up to nine hours after you've eaten a bowl,” he said.