For the last 6 years, I have dedicated the month of November to the fine art of facial hair related fundraising. I feel proud to state that I have raised £11,000 for Movember, but I am always hungry to increase that figure by as much as physically possible, in the shortest possible timeframe.
I am often asked what motivates me to fundraise for men's health issues year after year (as a 27 year old female, I am not necessarily Movember's traditional supporter demographic). For me, this is a simple question to answer, I fundraise in the desperate hope that I will contribute to saving the life of even one man. If by telling the story of my father whom I loved dearly, but lost far too early, I can prompt even one man to take his health more seriously, then quite honestly, I am satisfied.
Recently I was asked a similar question, but the subtle difference in wording prompted an entirely different answer from me. I was asked why I choose to raise money for Movember. I would imagine that the anticipated answer was along the lines of "to help to find a cure for cancer" or "to save people's lives". The answer that I gave, and the answer that I stand by is in fact, that I raise money to cover Movember's overheads. Rent, electricity, tea and coffee supplies, stocking the stationary cupboard, recruitment fees, software purchasing, insurance costs, anything that contributes to the efficient running of the foundation. Now I'm sure this is far from the glamorous, high impact, or perhaps even virtuous response that charities might expect their supporters to give. But I am tremendously proud to dedicate one month every year to raise funds for Movember's overheads.
I do not want to be a superhero, I have no delusions of grandeur, but I do have an insatiable desire to make a difference. I want to protect other young people from losing their fathers, stop individuals from losing their husbands, reduce the number of men losing their best mates, put simply, I want to delay anyone from losing the men that they love, any sooner than necessary. Now the harsh reality is that £11,000 is not going to come anywhere near to achieving this. But what it can do is assist in making sure that the team at Movember are in the strongest possible position to achieve these goals on my behalf. There are crucial costs that need to be covered in order to make this possible and it is exactly these costs that I have no problem with fundraising for.
Over the last 6 years, I have become well acquainted with the team at Movember. This may be a tactic that other charities are wary of, favouring the notion of putting donors on a slight pedestal, thanking them graciously for their donation and allowing them to put their feet up rather than worrying about the nitty gritty of budgets, targets and expenditures. Well I would advise differently. The team at Movember are an amazing team to say the least. They are fun, innovative, passionate, motivated, trailblazing, straight talking and frustrated enough at the current state of men's health to ignite a thirst for change in all those that they meet. As a donor, I have only ever felt infinitely more passionate about the cause after speaking to the team at the helm. They don't sugarcoat the states of affairs to me, they tell me what their struggles are and they keep me up to speed with their proposed solutions. They champion me in any way that they can, they thank me for my efforts and they breed a trust in me that makes me ever more committed to assisting with their crusade.
Additionally to the software, stationery and rental costs that are recognisable as essential costs to the charity, I would go one step further than this in stating that I am also happy to pay for the 'perks' that working for Movember should, in my eyes entail.
As someone who has been employed by the private sector for the entirety of my career thus far, I am acutely aware of the disparity in emphasis on company culture within the third sector. With job titles such as Head of Culture, Culture Manager, Employee Engagement Executive being some of the most increasingly listed job titles on recruitment sites, it is evident that within the private sector we understand the importance of creating a working environment that mimics and cultivates the values of the business as a whole. If as a business, you invest in the working environment that you provide, you are more likely to entice desirable candidates and therefore place yourself in the strongest position to operate successfully. As philanthropist extraordinaire, Sir Richard Branson stated "The way you treat your staff is the way they will treat your customers". I ask myself why this is not deemed to be the case within the charity world? If your staff feel valued, they will passionately inspire donors to join the mission. To compete with the best brands in the UK, to attract and retain the best staff, charities need to begin to offer lifestyle as part of their employment package.
This is something that I think Movember do incredibly well and as a supporter I am extremely happy to see this. In the same way that they consistently thank me for my fundraising, I want to thank them for dedicating their careers to changing the face of men's health. I am therefore happy if my fundraising allows them to throw something as simple as one company get together, to boost moral, champion their efforts and make them feel more fired up to continue on their mission as a team. I fundraise to raise awareness, and I am conscious that a valued and motivated team at Movember are capable of raising awareness at a far higher level than I am. I therefore raise money to increase the volume that the team want to, and are able to make noise.
It should not be the case that we turn a blind eye to expenditure on cultural development within the private sector, who largely use it as a legitimate tactic to reward and encourage staff to strive for greater success, but scrutinise the same expenses when they are applied to the third sector who do so much to help improve the world around them.
It is ludicrous to vilify charities for their overheads. They are an essential and accepted part of operating a successful business and it is no different for the third sector. Instead we need to encourage a society that congratulates charities for their successes - regardless of the associated costs. I do not honestly believe that you can put a pricetag on human life and by breeding a penny-pinching approach to charity spending, that is exactly what you end up asking charities, like Movember to do. In my eyes, no cost is too high for saving even one life. It is my firm belief that the work that Movember do not only funds the potential of establishing a cure to the disease that cruelly took my father from me, but it also raises awareness of the symptoms so that the number of men requiring a cure is also reduced. I therefore hand over my raised funds to Movember with what to some may appear to be blind faith, but that I prefer to call established trust, that they are doing all that they can to ensure the progression of men's health within the UK. If that means spending out on suitably located office space, buying notepads to take critical notes in meetings, or even splashing out on perks to keep the team on top form then so be it. I thank Movember for all that they did to help my Dad, and all that they continue to do to make me feel that he lived nor died in vain. In return, I pledge to do all that I can to help them to continue to operate as successfully as they have been so far.