Growing facial hair was not something new for Jim Gibbons who tried it out before and liked the look.
But in 2009, he discovered a chance to grow a mustache and benefit a good cause.
“It seemed like a no-brainer,” he said.
The campaign called Movember, which began in Australia and has spread worldwide, encourages men to grow a mustache during November. In the process, the event hopes to build awareness for men’s health and raise money for prostate and testicular cancer organizations.
In Gibbons’ first year, he raised $1,300 with a team of friends. He said it was so fun and successful that he decided to do it again and get more men involved.
In 2010, Gibbons convinced his brother, Dan to be a “mo-bro,” the title given to men who join the campaign. This year, the Gibbons brothers, along with their father, Dave, have created a team across the country to grow facial hair and raise funds for Movember.
Ministry of Mustache Growth and Management
To build their effort, the guys formed a team called the Ministry of Mustache Growth and Management. The team is made up of two branches, the northwest branch, based in Portland, where Jim lives, and the Midwest branch, based in Libertyville, where Dan and Dave live.
Growing facial hair may be a unique way to raise money, but the Movember Foundation slogan says it is changing the face of men's health.
“They are changing faces across the globe," Jim said. "The mustache is a billboard on your face for the event for 30 days.”
So far, the Gibbons have encouraged 49 people to sign up; about 50 percent are Libertyville residents. The number surprised Jim, because the men must sacrifice their looks for a month.
“There are guys, who are a minority thankfully, who don’t end up looking great,” Jim said. “But you appreciate their sacrifice and their commitment to the cause. The guys get a lot of love from their fellow mo-bros.”
Apart from raising funds for a good cause, Dave says there is another benefit to Movember.
“Doing it with your sons, raising awareness and sharing photos, it’s a nice byproduct,” he said.
The Gibbons hope to raise $10,000 toward Movember, doubling last year's fundraising goal. As of Nov. 20, the teams already have exceeded that goal and raised $11,584.
How the Gibbons Raised Funds
There are various ways the guys raise funds. Jim created a daily photo blog, made Facebook posts and sent emails. But, he adds, the mustache is obviously visible and makes an easy conversation starter.
“If someone gives you a funny look, I can tell them what it’s all about. They may not always make a donation, but at least it spreads the word,” Jim said.
Among the unique fundraising methods, Jim auctioned his style rights. Whoever makes the largest donation by Nov. 1 gets to decide the type of mustache he grows. This year's winner chose a police officer-style mustache.
“He has expressed no displeasure in my mustache so far,” Jim said. “I hope his $100 donation was well-spent.”
Dan also helped organize some Chicago-area events, including a private party at their Libertyville home, and partnered with a Chicago bar that donated drink proceeds to Movember. A similar event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 26 at Paddy Long’s in Lincoln Park, Chicago, where part of ticket proceeds from its beer- and bacon-tasting will go to Movember.
The money raised within the United States goes to programs run by Live Strong, the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. In 2010, more than 64,000 people raised $7.5 million.
Dave said he has been amazed at the range of people who have donated. The most touching moment for him was receiving a donation from a woman whose friend died in his early 30s from prostate cancer.
“It made me feel great that she was grateful people were trying to bring awareness,” he said.
Mustache Helps Keep Issue at Top of Mind
While Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom dominate fundraising efforts, Jim says it is encouraging to see awareness spread in the U.S. He says that even if people do not donate, he hopes Movember will stay in their minds and inspire them to do the research.
Once the month is over, team members vary on how long the mustache remains. For Dave, his plan is to shave it off on Dec. 1, adding, “It’s symbolic of the event.” Dan also has plans, thanks to his boss. To receive his donation, Dan has to go to work with only half a mustache on Dec. 4.
Some people wonder if Movember is just about growing the mustache to be lazy. But Jim is quick to correct the misconception.
“It is so much more than just me deciding I am going to not shave for a month,” he said. “It is me deciding to make a conscious effort to grow a mustache and use it to do a lot of good for a noble charitable cause.”
For information or to donate to the Gibbons team, visit us.Movember.com.