4 Tips That Helped Movember Build a Community of Supporters and Raise $1B Worldwide
Editor’s Note: This November, NonProfit PRO is celebrating its 20th anniversary. To mark this momentous occasion, we are talking to nonprofits whose roots also span two decades to take a deep dive into how the sector and their organizations have evolved — and what other nonprofits can learn from their success.
For a nonprofit to truly make its mark on a cause, it needs to find people passionate about its mission. As nonprofits struggle with acquisition and retention, and as donor engagement wanes, it’s more important than ever to have those passionate people in your organization’s corner. The proven way to do that is to build a community of loyal donors, dedicated volunteers and others moved by your mission in a variety of ways. And it’s never too late to start creating this community.
Over its 20 years, Movember has funded more than 1,300 projects worldwide and raised more than $1 billion. To get a closer look at how the nonprofit has built a community of loyal supporters and advanced its mission of men’s health, NonProfit PRO talked with Brittany Veneris, director of fundraising for the U.S. at Movember.
Movember got its start in Australia in 2003 when its founders, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery, went to a bar and were motivated by the pink breast cancer awareness decor. They realized nothing like that existed for men’s health so they set out to change it.
Here are a few ways Movember built its community around men’s health over its two-decade existence.
1. Find Your Niche
The movement began raising funds for the Prostate Cancer Foundation before becoming its own nonprofit and building its own community. The nonprofit has also expanded its mission to include other vital subsets of men’s health along the way — but Veneris cautioned that those decisions should be strategic, so be sure your mission’s new paths are not misguided.
“So what we took a look at really was, ‘What are the main things really affecting men and the communities of men that are leading to why men die on average five years earlier than women? And what isn't also being worked on?’” she said. “We also don't want to be replicating [what’s already being done] in the space just to do it, when there's already great work being done.”
As an example, heart health could have been a focus area, Veneris said, but that work would duplicate the American Heart Association’s mission, so Movember branched out to include testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention over the years. And since four out of five suicides are by men, mental health became Movember’s priority prior to the onset of the pandemic.
2. Build a Community and Make It Fun
Though a serious cause, the nonprofit prides itself on including elements of fun to raise awareness. Enter the infamous mustache that turned into Movember.
“If we can take a key moment … and really turn it into a way of, ‘I can have fun, I can build community, I can take action’ and blend that all together — we found that people are more likely to come back, they're more likely to get involved and they're more likely to increase their engagement in any type of way,” Veneris said.
To have that longevity, the community Movember has established has been key. Movember takes that moment — the annual campaign in November — and uses it as fuel year round. The organization brings awareness for all of its men’s health focus areas, including Testicular Awareness Month in April, Mental Health Awareness Month in May and Men’s Health week in June.
“The community is 100% the backbone of who we are and our mission,” Veneris said.
There are various ways a community member can find a nonprofit and become a part of its mission. One example is to be a survivor. Veneris recounted a 28-year-old testicular cancer survivor who was treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and placed in a breast cancer survivor group for support.
“It's a completely different journey,” she said. “And the fact that there were no support resources out there, his wife got online, found Movember, called us and right away, we connected him with a few other testicular cancer survivors in his own backyard. And with that, he was able to have open, honest conversations.”
He’s now a long-time Movember supporter and serves as a guide for the organization’s Nuts and Bolts program.
3. Diversify Donors and the Channels Where You Connect
Though the community is largely men, the nonprofit has diversified by offering more ways to get involved, such as hosting an event, or running or walking 60 miles for the 60 men who take their life by suicide every hour globally.
“So we've been able to open up our supporter base quite drastically, while still not losing the focus of men,” Veneris said. “Because at the end of the day, we know that we're also about the communities of men and we all have men in our life that we care about, but we all want them living longer.”
Welcoming more people to your own community may require adjustment to your messaging and the channels where you connect with your most passionate supporters.
Movember is still commonly known as the “moustache organization” — the “Mo” in the organization’s name stems from the Australian spelling variation of “mustache.” While the organization is grateful to those who build brand awareness by just growing a mustache in November, Veneris and her team strive to get more people to understand the nonprofit’s impact on a deeper level.
That included a pre-pandemic message shift from “Grow a mo. Be a bro.” to “Whatever you grow will save a bro.” This year, that pivot to lead with impact continues with the updated tagline, “The mo is calling,” which allows the nonprofit to stay true to its roots while evolving its brand to build a larger community.
“This is more than just a mustache,” Veneris said. “This is more than just a month. This is a movement and everyone is included.”
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When it comes to channels, Movember embraces social media, including gaming platforms like Twitch, where the nonprofit developed FIFA player skins featuring mustaches through a partnership with EA Sports. On Meta, the nonprofit has shifted to reels over posts due to stronger engagement. Across all social media platforms, communicating via direct messages has become an important part of the organization’s strategy — even when a paid media campaign results in mixed responses.
“How are you having effective conversations? Because, again, that's part of who we are as an organization. And our mission is also about having those effective conversations, and that's going to come in good and challenging ways.”
4. Let the Community Tell Your Story
Now that you’ve developed a community, let those supporters tell your story in a relatable way. After all, their versions will have more heart, Veneris said.
“Sometimes I feel nonprofits can be very regimented — ‘We have this cancer statistic and we have these stats as to survival rates’ or whatever the impact cause area may be,” she said. “And we get so caught up sometimes in the statistics, which are important, but they don't tell the story.
“The community tells the story and the people tell a story. So lean into your community and your people to really help you evolve your mission and your story because, at the end of the day, you're trying to help more of them, you're trying to change the path forward for [your cause].”
Related story: Why Everyone Can’t Be in Your Nonprofit’s Community