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Cold Feet About Renaming? 6 hard-won naming insights from other nonprofits that will warm you up.

Posted by on October 2nd, 2014
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Naming   

Not every nonprofit that refreshes its brand needs a name change. In fact, we typically counsel our clients to lean against changing their name. Even if it isn’t a great name, it likely has meaning for many of your constituents, and that’s valuable for you.

But some nonprofits have reached an important moment in their life cycle when they realize the name they have is no longer serving the best interest of the organization, nor its brand.

If your organization would benefit from a better name, actually changing it can feel overwhelming.

Read on to discover some of the valuable lessons our clients have learned about how to effectively undergo a name change.

  1. Invite people into the process.  Name changes should not be closed-door decisions. Inviting people to participate in the criteria for selection, and even the brainstorming, gets everyone on the same page.
  2. Name the “Decider.”  Though you’ll involve lots of people to contribute thinking, be sure you’re clear with yourself and everyone involved about who the final decision maker will be. There will come a time when the varying opinions of everyone have been taken into consideration and it should be one person’s job to make the final call. At most, make the “Decider” a team of two.
  3. Remember, it’s not about you.  The name you choose sends a signal out into the world. It lets other people know just a bit about who you are as an organization and must feel authentic. Who are the people you most need to attract to your organization? These are the people for whom the name must sing. Sit in the shoes of those you serve, and those you wish to fund you or volunteer with you. Evaluate possible names through their perspective rather than your own.
  4. Rely on your brand to guide you.  Not everyone will love your new name. Take the opportunity to speak with skeptics about the name you chose and why you chose it. This is your chance to shine a light on your brand and the strategic rigor you brought to selecting your new name. This can often turn a naysayer into a brand advocate.
  5. Set the right amount of time to make a decision.  You don’t want to rush this. You need time to get your internal stakeholders on board, and time to reflect. However, you don’t want to overthink it. At some point, you must choose your new name and step boldly and confidently into it. Give yourself a reasonable deadline and stick to it.
  6. Recognize that the name will feel “funny” at first.  True story: I have a friend who changed her name in her 30s. Overnight. Imagine if your friend decided to change her name one day. You’d sit up and take notice (Great! That’s what we want a new name to do for you!). You might even wonder why she did it. But soon, you’d see she was still your wonderful, familiar friend. She just had a new name. The same is true for your organization. Every one of the organizations we’ve served simply can’t imagine going back to their “old” name – and recognizes they are stronger for having the fortitude to make the change.

To help ease some of your fears about renaming, we’ve compiled a set of case studies to showcase some clients who have successfully navigated the name-changing process.

And, if you’re a nonprofit who changed your name, we’d love to hear from you. What lessons did you learn?

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Sarah R. Moore, our Director of Brand Strategy, joined Mission Minded from a career that has spanned both the private and nonprofit sector.

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