Things are getting pretty hairy at the $2 billion New Jersey-based Affinity Federal Credit Union.
John Fenton, CEO, and Joe Herbst, senior vice president and chief strategy officer, decided to go head-to-head to see who can last longest without shaving to raise awareness about prostate cancer among the company’s 370 employees and 133,000 members. They are competing to grow the best beard this month as part of the Movember campaign for men’s health.
Employees and members can pick their team—Team John or Team Joe —and make a pledge to the Affinity Foundation for each day they go unshaven. Their challenge will end no later than December 3.
Movember is hybrid of words combining the words moustache and November. The campaign idea started in Australia as a way to generate awareness and raise money for men’s health issues, particularly prostate and testicular cancers. The idea is that when a man grows a mustache or a beard, people ask him why, opening the door to men’s health education. Another connection to cancer awareness is that patients often lose hair during cancer treatment and by embracing facial hair, participants in Movember are displaying an outward show of support.
”It’s obviously a very good cause,” Herbst said. “It’s fun, it raises morale and it’s a competition between bosses. I figured, why not?”
One hundred percent of the funds raised by Affinity will be donated to the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey to support free prostate cancer screenings.
In the U.S., Movember raised $21 million in 2012, up from $15 million the previous year. Movember donates to three causes: the Livestrong Foundation, the Prostate Cancer Foundation and its own Global Action Plan program.
By Nov. 14, the credit union had raised $1,231.
“The employees love it,” Herbst said. “They love the competition and they really like to see us go head-to-head. Some employees are voting for both of us just because it’s a great cause.”
Both men said that the women in their lives dislike the beards and can’t wait for the end of the month, but they understand the importance of the contest.
“It’s important in this day and age to take the message of preventative health to the public in any way you can,” Fenton said. “My older brother had prostate cancer but found out early and beat it. This isn’t something you can ignore.”
Fenton and Herbst said that they have appointments for prostate exams.
“The staff is involved and I know a lot of the men are going in for check-ups because of this message,” Fenton continued. “And members are also pitching in and donating to the cause.”
Fenton said that he is taking a lot of good natured ribbing from employees and members.
“One of the staff asked me if Tim Allen should be worried I’m going to take the role of Santa Clause away from him,” he said. “Around here we all work hard so we like to play hard. This is a lot of fun.”
Herbst agreed that the contest is going well and said that there are already plans in the works to celebrate Movember in 2014.
“It’s an important message, we raise money for a great cause and its fun for all of our employees,” he said. “And hopefully I can reach my goal of beating the boss.”
In addition to internal promotion, the contest is also being shared on Affinity’s Facebook page.