How to Choose a Name for Your Nonprofit Organization
Finding the perfect name for your nonprofit can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Where do you even start? A great name does not need to be hard to create or involve a long creative process, it is really about breaking it down to the basics of what your organization wants to accomplish. Don't hesitate to get creative, but rest assured that you don't need to be the next Pulitzer winner to find something that works for you.
Creating a name for your nonprofit is a vital step before officially starting your nonprofit. We are here to help you by sharing our best tips for creating an impactful name for your organization.
Here are the main topics we will cover:
- Think About Your Impact
- Connect with Your Target Audience
- Think Sustainably
- Word Choice
- Check Availability
Here we go!
Your brand is the identity of your organization. Branding creates an image that consumers will associate with a name. It is important for your nonprofit to think about what kind of brand you want to have, and let this shine through in your name!
This is something you should have done prior to registering your nonprofit, as you will want to convey this in all of your representation.
Don’t worry, creating a nonprofit, like creating a brand, is just another way to say that you need to think about how you want your community to view your organization. Take some time to write down words that you would like to be associated with your nonprofit, and then use these to create your name.
A good way to think about your brand is like a character in a tv show, you want to think of everything this person would do or say, and you should stay in character at all times. You should ask yourself: What would this character look like and how would they act? Are they colorful, simple, or poised? What do they care about the most?
Think About Your Impact
Your impact is one of the most important parts of your organization! The main reason for this is because your impact evokes emotion. Not only are you talking about how you are helping your community, but you are adding data that humanizes the problem. This is what makes people so dedicated to help you and your cause.
Think about how you may be able to invoke this kind of emotion through your name. What you can do to get to this point is to think about your impact, and question what part of your impact motivates people to get involved. We recommend you make a list of these, and see if any recurring themes jump out and use those to push you toward an organic name choice.
If you don’t know what it is that draws people to your nonprofit, ask. If you already have a board of directors, donors, or volunteers, don’t hesitate to get their opinion. If not, take it to Facebook! There are tons of nonprofit pages where you can ask nonprofit organizations questions.
Pro Tip: Make sure that you are not thinking of adjectives that invoke a negative feeling (ex: Hungry Children International). You want to focus on the problem you are solving and associate empowered emotions with these solutions (ex: Food For All International).
Connect with Your Target Audience
While doing your needs assessment and writing your business plan you looked at who your target market would be, or who the most likely users of your product or service would be. You should keep this in mind when thinking about a name for your nonprofit.
The name in the beginning is to, for example, attract volunteers and donors and donors, and not directly the beneficiaries. You want to choose a name that appeals to this group of people! Formulating a name that is attractive to your target audience will help you to gain more traction.
Try to find the most important information for your target audience, or in other words, what will make them the most committed to help you. If you are unsure about this, we highly recommend actually speaking to people that are part of your target audience.
Not only will this give you a better understanding of what your name should be, but this includes them in the process. They will remember this, and want to follow up with you later on the progress of your organization.
When it comes to a name for your nonprofit, you want something that you won’t outgrow. Changing names can be a hassle, especially for nonprofits that are trying to drive donations. The easiest way to prevent a change-of-name is to create a sustainable one from the start. To do this, referring back to your nonprofit mission statement, and even your vision statement, is a great place to start.
You can do this by leaving out information that is overly descriptive. A good example of this are nonprofits that include their location within their name, for example, the Wisconsin Wildlife Foundation. That name is great for an organization that is based in Wisconsin, if staying local is part of their mission. If your nonprofit plans to expand, consider leaving out the location.
Thinking sustainably? Sounds great to Ryan!
Another great example of this is all of the nonprofit organizations that have stemmed from COVID-19. These nonprofits have amazing missions, and are impacting a large number of people that are in difficult situations due to the pandemic. Most of these types of nonprofits have created names that have something to do with the situation, and this works very well for them! If they decide that their organization can operate outside of virus times, we can predict a name change for them in the future.
The moral of the story is that before settling on a name, be sure that it won’t limit your future plans.
Earlier we told you that you don’t need to be a Pulitzer winner to find the right name for your nonprofit, and we are standing by this! Our answer to this is simply to tell it like it is.
Think about the main purpose of your nonprofit, add some of the details, and it’s as simple as that.
An easy way to do this is to think about your who, what, when, where, why, and how. As we pointed out earlier, be careful with when and where.
Your "who" should be talking about your beneficiaries. "What" is what you do, "why" is your impact, and "how" is how you embody your mission.
Popular examples of descriptive names are: Habitat for Humanity, World Wildlife Fund, and Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Pro Tip: Be wary of creating a name that is too confusing. Names that get people thinking are fun, but if your potential donor cannot remember how to spell it when writing a check it could negatively impact your business.
Last, but certainly not least, you need to see if any other nonprofit has your name. First of all, you should do this to avoid any lawsuits or issues with trademarking. Second, you don’t want potential donors to get confused and donate to the wrong organization!
Make sure to check if there is someone with your exact same name, you can do that here. If not, the next step is to see if there is another nonprofit organization that has a similar name. You can do this by doing a simple google search of the name you want to have. If there is one with a similar name, we recommend that you reconsider.
You can also use these tools to imitate great nonprofit names! Imitation is the highest form of flattery, and there is nothing wrong with using these ideas for your organization. Take a look at some other nonprofit names that you like, and see how you can use that as a framework to create a name for yourself.
Now that you have considered your brand, impact, target audience, future plans, wording, and the rest, you are on the right track to creating an impactful name for your nonprofit! You can develop a few options and test these with people in your target audience.
Remember that you need your nonprofit's name to match in all of its official paperwork, including your bylaws, articles of incorporation, and 501c3 application. Be sure to dedicate enough time to this before filing your paperwork!
We hope these tips will help you to create the perfect name for your nonprofit organization! Let us know in the comments if you have any questions, or just want to show off your brand new name. 😍