For weeks I've been getting requests to grow a mustache. No doubt you've heard of the "Movember" campaign every November, when guys grow mustaches to raise money for and awareness of prostate cancer research and other men's health issues. It's well-meaning, but Movember is a deeply flawed idea -- and not just because I look worse with a mustache than Burt Reynolds in Smokey & the Bandit. Here's what's wrong with Movember in my mind.
Traditional fundraising is broken. Think about the ways we traditionally raise money for schools, hospitals, nonprofits or other good causes. We hold bake sales. Car washes. Poker nights. Art auctions. Bug races. Charity walks. Or we declare a month when people grow unflattering, outdated facial hair like Ron Burgundy from Anchorman. It's always the same. We bug, beg and bribe our friends, family and neighbors to donate or participate. We follow up again, Annoying Guy in Chief, as the deadline nears. We spend countless hours organizing and putting on the event and then counting up the tally.
And then, disappointed with the take, we begin to dread the same fundraiser next year, when we'll have to ask the same friends and family to pony up for another box of Thin Mints or another chance at that ceramic mug hand-painted by my child. As a father of four kids who's taken part in more fundraisers than I can count, I know traditional single-event fundraising like this is ineffective, because it's enormously labor-intensive, doesn't create a steady revenue stream and offers a terrible return on investment.
Don't get me wrong. Movember as a public relations tactic to raise awareness of men's cancer? Genius. I knew nothing about prostate cancer until Movember came along. Millions of people have heard of Movember, and I know it's encouraged many guys to get early tests for cancer and pay more attention to their health, including me. You're nuts if you think that's a bad thing. Want to check out the Movember website? It's here. Go there, please.
But we need to think about fundraising in a fundamentally new way. It's time to punt Poker Night. Beat it, Bake Sale. There's a better way to raise money for Movember and every other worthy school or nonprofit fundraising effort than guilting coworkers or golf buddies into prying open their wallets.
After Movember ends, how many guys will keep their mustaches and continue donating to prostate cancer research? Remember when Texas Hold 'Em tournaments were all the charity fundraising rage? Now it's mustaches and no-shave pledges. What'll be the next fundraising fad?
Fundraising needs to be tied to consumer purchases in a way that provides a consistent revenue stream without having to organize a time- and labor-intensive fundraising event every time kids need new band uniforms or a hospital needs a new ambulance. Asking people to change their behavior to raise money for a cause is a short-term, unsustainable fix.
Some credit card companies are starting to get it, offering lower credit card processing fees to merchants and donating a portion of their profits to a local school or charity. In exchange, the credit card company gains access to a base of merchants that's more loyal because of their affiliation with the local school or charity. And the merchant gets to tout its charitable giving and generate good will among its customer base.
This new guilt-free fundraising model is starting to catch on. Texas-based Century Payments has donated over $450,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure through its "Every Swipe Counts" campaign, in which the credit card company donates a percentage of every credit card transaction to participating merchants.
It's time to think about fundraising as a way to harness our collective buying power as consumers by identifying causes we support and then giving companies an incentive to fund those causes in order to win our business and loyalty. Collective sourcing can help our schools and put money in the pockets of chronically underfunded nonprofit organizations.
There are so many great causes out there that fall short of their potential because they're relying on an outdated, inefficient model of event-based fundraising that, let's be honest, amounts to little more than begging. It's time to fix fundraising once and for all. Until we do, I hope you'll join me in supporting the school or nonprofit of your choice. I'll be the guy growing a mustache and trying unsuccessfully to look like Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I.
It is Movember, after all.