Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre

Big Lottery Fund: Engaging Men In Your Project: A Good Practice Guide

Big Lottery Engaging Men BIG Lottery funds a wide range of programs and projects that are open to all but many of these attract fewer men than women, despite the fact that some of these projects deal with issues that tend to affect men more acutely. These resources offer practical and easy to implement ideas for services to reach out and improve their engagement with men and boys for good causes.

"The report identified several barriers that often work to prevent men from making use of services..."

It is common for services to run community projects with good intentions only to find that more females than males make use of the services provided. This leads to the commonly asked question "well, how do you get more men involved"?

The Big Lottery Fund in the United Kingdom provides grants totaling over £4.4 billion for community projects. Their own experience was that relatively few males made use of the services that were funded out of these grants. In response to this trend, they undertook a study through the Young Foundation to provide ideas and tips to organisations running community programs about how to better engage with men for a better result.

The report identified several barriers that often work to prevent men from making use of services provided including:

  • Help-seeking behaviours:  by nature, men are less inclined to actively seek out help and more likely to resist the need to get help for longer.  
  • Fear of stigmatisation: Peer disapproval, notions of masculinity and 'staying strong', and issues around abuse can prevent men from seeking help.
  • Feeling out of place: Since many health and community services are administered by a higher proportion of female workers than male workers, there can be a tendency to feel out of place or otherwise 'not welcomed'.
  • Differences in the way men respond to communications: lots of text, brochures, in-the-hand documents and signs on noticeboards are not always the best ways to publicise services.  Better results are sometimes obtained through peer networks, influencing partners and involving health services through other enjoyable pastimes such as sport, sheds or community events.

So what should services be looking to do to counter these barriers?

  • Blend the service with other activities: instead of making the service mainly about health checks or testing (ie, the issue that the service is explicitly trying to counter), blend this with something less threatening and more fun.  For example, offer the health service alongside events and activities that men will enjoy - physical work, sporting events, festivals, family fun days, car rallies etc.
  • Consider your timing: try not to make men choose between the service you are providing and their mandatory commitments such as work.  Men will favour their work particularly in a downward economy, so your service will need to work around this by opening earlier or later.  (There is evidence that Saturday morning sessions are not worthwhile given family and sporting commitments).
  • Social Connections: word of mouth and the power of the social network are worth investing in to raise awareness of events.  This includes social media but also formal peer to peer facilitators or 'refer a friend' benefits.
  • Influential partners and family members: the ability of wives, children and family members to influence men's decisions to get problems checked out is well-known.  Find ways to bring information to family members and support their ability to provide discrete information about services with freecall hotlines and other options.

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