Lifestyle & Belief

Beyond Movember: The innovations of cancer fundraising


Women from the Association of Women with Breast Cancer 'Alma Zois' hold balloons on 31 October, 2012 next to the landmark of the Greek northern city of Thessaloniki, the White Tower, lit in pink. The association launched a campaign against breast cancer to promote prevention and early diagnosis.


Sakis Mitrolidis

As the Movember Foundation proves, raising money for cancer research can take just about any form. While this charity supports testicular and prostate cancer research through conventional private donations, its public mustache advocacy, which requests men shave on Nov. 1 and let their facial hair go wild for the rest of the month, is the organization’s biggest notoriety generator, bringing in $126 million last year alone. (See GlobalPost's Movember involvement.)

Movember is only one charity that raises money for cancer through unique and quirky campaigns. The past few months have seen tons of fundraisers that give good Samaritans a plethora of ways to raise money and keep themselves occupied. Between international hiking trips, marathons, art auctions, benefit concerts, and poker tournaments, just about every imaginable communal activity has been used at one point to raise money for cancer research.

November is nationally recognized as lung, stomach, and pancreatic cancer awareness month in the US, prompting a slew of fundraisers for these diseases.

On Nov. 12 Boston will be celebrating the lives of Nat King Cole and Rosemary Clooney, two vocalists who died of lung cancer, during “Unforgettable,” a cabaret fundraiser. The proceedings will feature commemorative performances from a number of notable local actors and musicians.

Attending a concert isn’t active enough for some donators, who are attending a 10-day hiking trip through Nepal from Nov. 1 through Nov. 11. Organized by MacMillan, a British cancer fundraising and support organization, the trip requires a minimum sponsorship of roughly $5,400 and rewards participants with a bracing workout and exceptional views of the mountainous country.

Last October was breast cancer awareness month, and countries around the world acknowledged the disease with a series of fundraisers that included dinner galas, golf tournaments, and bowling matches. One of the most intriguing was a 31-hour treadmill walk-a-thon and concert held in Chandigarh, India, last October that concluded with a rally and a string of pledges to get mammograms. The event drew the participation of hundreds of local citizens and students from nearby colleges.

As awareness of cancer and the need for research grows and the internet makes information widely available and donations instantaneous, the potential for digital fundraising has exploded in the past few years. Twitter fundraising “festivals” like the one held for Charity: Water in 2009 raised $250,000 for drilling wells and helping poor rural communities in countries like Ethiopia get ready access to water.

Though marathons, tournaments, and moustache-growing are here to stay as fundraising strategies, keep an eye on the internet and social networks to see what the future holds for cancer charities.