Movember: a professional fundraiser’s story of raising money through personal sponsorship

Exhibited by
Matthew Sherrington, fundraising and communications consultant.
Added
October 30, 2013
Medium of Communication
Event
Target Audience
Individuals
Type of Charity
Healthcare
Country of Origin
UK
Date of first appearance
November, 2012

SOFII’s view

By growing a moustache as part of Movember to raise money for a cause he had no previous connection with, Matthew Sherrington was able to practice what he preaches about storytelling and supporter engagement. As well as using his extensive experience he also learned how to use online tools to his advantage to relate his experiences in doing something he obviously found extremely hard. Who knew that growing a ‘mo’ could be so excruciating?

Creator / originator

Matthew Sherrington.

Summary / objectives

To raise funds and awareness for men’s health, particularly prostate and testicular cancer, by growing a moustache – a mo – during the month of Movember, whilst trying not to look a fool, since having a mo was bad enough. However reluctant, in for a penny in for a pound I thought. I’d never done a sponsored thing before, how hard could it be? I was part of the Good Agency’s ‘good mo’s’ team and we settled on a face-saving £1,000 between the seven of us, £150 each. Cinch!

Prostate cancer is not a cause I’ve engaged with, but sponsoring friends isn’t about the cause. You can read my article on event fundraising motivations here. So I made sure it was all about me: the emotional pain and embarrassment of growing facial hair and quirky observations on life with a mo, because Movember is a fun brand. That set the tone: ‘help me through a stressful hairy month’. It was also true.

Background

I didn’t have a fundraising plan at first. After nabbing some low-hanging fruit in the family during the first weekend, I then emailed everyone I felt I knew well enough to accept an ask for money. I had £500 by the end of the first week, so no going back. By the second week, £1,000 seemed possible, with the prospect of getting the Movember penknife with mo comb. It really did spur me on. Besides, team pride was at stake.

Emboldened by some at-last-recognisable mo hair and the strange caddish swagger it conferred, I started asking cheekily everywhere I had coffee or lunch whether they’d give me a discount as a contribution. Most were politely dismissive. One asked ‘what mo?’ But a few places generously gave me more. A couple of pubs chipped in too. And my local barber. All corporate sponsors were rewarded with sponsor Klaxon tweets.

In the fourth week, very late, I went international with a US email campaign. It launched after Thanksgiving weekend, when a friend there, following on Twitter, successfully made a trans-Atlantic gift. Well, seize the day, I thought. An intensive campaign of emails was a big success, with my US mo buddies rallying round. An average gift was 50 per cent higher than the UK, incidentally. I’m not totally convinced the exchange rate didn’t confuse some.

Some donations needed the face-to-face pitch. Some people waited late to make sure I was going to do it. Some needed to see the proof, or more likely press home my embarrassment, such as my siblings, naturally. The rational evidence still matters, whatever the overriding emotional motivation. Seeing people in person during the week and friends at weekends invariably helped turn casual support to firm donations. Although in one case it took an evening to explain that giving money to see my wife write a ‘living with the mo’ blog was a strategic distraction, with dangers of donor–funded mission creep. As a charity CEO himself he should have known better, but he came around.

Special characteristics

MyMoDiary started accidentally on Twitter, but was fun and provoked feedback. By the second week it had its own Twitter account and the idea of providing weekly email summary updates too was a no-brainer. A bit of men’s health was thrown in to keep a balance.

A plan formed at that time. I used a free online tool, PollDaddy, to launch MyMoGame, to pick my mo’s lookalike and got 106 players. The chance to vote on whether I looked most like a schnauzer was clearly a big draw, but the £1-per-vote matched gift from a corporate sponsor also paid off.

A second poll in week three, ShapeMyMo, gave the chance to influence the real world shaping of my mo and got 47 votes. I’d hoped for John Hurt, or even Brad Pitt, but Clark Gable won. As promised, I took myself off to Movember’s Gillette-sponsored pop-up barber in London’s Carnaby Street to have the trim. I looked nothing like him.

My UK mo mates got seven emails over the five weeks. My full campaign plan showing the income curve is on the left. MyMoDiary reached 300 people on Twitter regularly, 60 of whom became dedicated @MyMoDiary followers. Super-supporter re-tweets reached up to 20,000 people. Over the five weeks, 254 MyMoDiary tweets were sent. There were some highly engaged supporters. I even received a knitted mo.

Influence / impact

Gratifyingly, as well as messages left on my Movember page, I received 45 direct emails of support and encouragement. Eleven people offered moral support but couldn’t give because they were mo bros themselves, were supporting mo bros closer to home, or couldn’t help financially (mostly because of charitable over-commitment). One supporter looked right through the ‘it’s-about- me’ pitch and bothered to look into the charity’s policy on animal testing. Several people sent me mo-related articles and videos.

Results

The full details are on the left. Overall, £2,028 was raised in five weeks, plus £313 in Gift Aid. There were donations from 44 per cent of those I asked, with another five per cent encouraging but not supporting financially. ‘Mo bros’ were slightly less represented than ‘mo sistas’, though most of the supporting five per cent were blokes doing their own mo thing, or supporting someone else’s. In terms of awareness, MyMoDiary went far and wide and provoked a lot of interaction. Having a mo is certainly a talking point, for better or worse. Out of 300,000 mo bros in the UK I closed the campaign at number 153 on the Movember national individual fundraising leaderboard. Not bad at all for a collective mo-movement effort.

Perhaps the most interesting observation is the contribution made by Twitter. Everyone received the same MyMoDiary content in emailed weekly updates and the emails clearly drove the gifts. But those exposed to MyMoDiary live on Twitter were almost twice as likely to have made a donation. Two people initially gave gifts having only seen MyMoDiary on Twitter. One was prompted by Facebook and I’m not even on Facebook myself. The wonders of social media.

However, 37 of @MyMoDiary’s 60 Twitter followers did not give and a final direct message tweet campaign to them yielded a solitary reply from a mo bro unknown to me, growing his own.

Merits

It’s strange to think that the biggest personal fundraising I’ve ever done was for a cause that hadn’t ever touched me before. I like to think it’s a good case study of doing fundraising, engagement and feedback well and being focused on my supporters’ needs and interest (my humiliation). Hopefully, it’s a nice example that event fundraisers can draw on to give their participants ideas and encouragement to do better.It was a great opportunity for me to practice what I preach about storytelling and supporter engagement. I didn’t set out to do that, but once I’d started, it made sense to try to do it properly. It was useful, too, to experiment with free online tools (like Twitter and PollDaddy) to engage supporters as well as ask for money and feedback.

Other relevant information

My friends love me! They saw me through the month. Engaging people with the story as you go along maintains interest and awareness. Twitter worked here, but the key point is that frequent correspondence doesn’t have a negative impact on response rates, if it’s done well. More engaged supporters will value communication through different channels. I wish I knew how to use Outlook well enough to personalise my emails with everyone’s proper name. Luckily no one complained. Perhaps another time I’ll venture into Facebook too. One supporter gave after my phone made an accidental pocket-call, convinced I was calling to ask. If you’re bold enough, I’m sure I bit of telemarketing would work. I wasn’t. Finally, Twitter is fun. But can become obsessive. Which goes with grooming a mo, I suppose.

Follow-up on the project

I’m not growing a mo this year. I promised my supporters I wouldn’t. I’ve done this instead.

An excerpt from Matthew’s mo diary on Twitter, which he credits as making a huge contribution to his fundraising success.
View original image
Proof, if it was needed, that he raised a lot of money for the fight against prostate cancer.