Bye-bye Dorothy, hello Dave

Sara Sha'ath | January 11th, 2013

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They sportingly sprouted whiskers for Movember, grew their chin fluff for Decembeard, and now January has come around, thousands of British men are going teetotal for Cancer Research’s new sponsored event, Dryathlon.

Teaming up with Men’s Fitness, the charity’s marketing of the event makes an unabashed stab for the young(ish), male Movember market – ‘Are you epic enough to kick the booze?’ they cry on their Facebook page.

The online newspapers have launched a debate about the health implications of a month of alcoholic abstinence. (A few days off a week, it seems, is the recommended approach to cutting down.) Meanwhile, the blogosphere is a hubbub of voices complaining about the lack of effort involved – I was amused to see a forum member sarcastically asking if anyone would sponsor him to walk his dog that morning.

When you compare it to the months of training put in for a marathon, not shaving for a month or avoiding the pub does seem rather low key. But, before we scoff, it’s worth bearing in mind that approximately 254,000 Movember participants raised over £22 million in 2011. That’s about £87 each – not bad for a tache. If the Dryathlon reaps similar rewards it’ll be time and budget well-spent.

Of course, these kind of low-committment, high-volume events may not be the best way of finding lifelong supporters, truly engaged with the cause. While many ‘Mo Bros’ will have taken part with a genuine desire to support a bowel cancer charity, I would hazard a guess that there were a fair few that simply did it for the craic.

That said, at the close of a very grim year for charities – one in which charitable donations plummeted 20% in actual terms, year on year – you can’t blame Cancer Research for seeking out new markets, even if it’s just to raise a quick buck. Across the board, charities are trying to expand their event portfolios to reach a wider range of demographic groups – particularly as the value of the typical gift drops. And, to use a tired cliché, they may well be barking up the right tree.

Each year, the CAF UK Giving report divides charitable giving by gender and age group – interestingly, the typical gift dropped or stayed the same in almost every group. There were only two groups for which typical donation actually grew year on year: Men aged 65+ and Men aged 25-44.

There are a lot of other factors to take into account, I hasten to add – for example the number of donors, the methods of giving etc. And, the numbers are not enormous; the typical gift for men aged 25-44 has risen by £1 and by £4 for men aged 65+. But in the current climate it might well be worth paying attention to these modest increases. Are men closing the gap? And if so, are charities missing a trick if they continue to focus all their energies on Caroline Campaigner and our darling Dorothy Donor?