The Importance of Choosing a Compelling Name For Non-Profit Organizations
Somewhere, in some training manual, there must be a section on choosing a name. Any writer can tell you that selecting a title is important to the success of an article. It's almost as important as choosing searchable, valuable keywords.
Similar to choosing the right title to convey what your article is about, branding, or brand name recognition, is critical to the success of any organization. Image consultancy firms earn their money by assisting both for-profit- and not-for-profit organizations to present their most meaningful, consistent and attractive face to the public.
Not only must the organization be easily identified with its products, publications, and services, but there should ideally be a clear link between the organization by name, and those products publications and services it offers.
What Were They Thinking?
Sometimes, you just have to shake your head and wonder, "What were they thinking when they came up with that name?" One can only imagine that no-one wrote it down to see what it would look like in print.
The Ontario Rabbit Education Organization is, I am sure, a distinguished gathering of intelligent and devoted individuals.
A quick trip to their website will reveal that their concerns are legitimate, and their aims, praiseworthy. Their name, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired.
All that came to mind after reading their name, though, were passages from Watership Downs, and images of the lovely little bunnies from the Beatrix Potter children's books scampering around a school room.
And did anyone note down the initials to see what they might spell?
O.R.E.O. - really?
What's in name?
Yes, a rose, by any other name would smell just as sweet, but if its name were suddenly, magically changed to, for example, "stinkbladder", how well do you think it would do on Mother's Day this year?
"Yes, florist, I'll take a dozen of your best red stinkbladders, please - have them delivered."
"Certainly, sir, and would you like a few stems of ferny cat'spiddle with that? Ferny cat's piddle - our new name for babies' breath.
Perhaps that is stretching the point just a tiny bit, but an unfortunate name can do more to sabotage your venture than almost any amount of blandness. The same is true of website names and addresses. The unfortunates in the following video obviously did not think things through when selecting their URLs.
WARNING - the following video MAY be offensive to some viewers
The Eat My Words SMILE or SCRATCH Test (as seen in The Wall Street Journal), is based on our philosophy that a name should make you smile, instead of scratch your head.
SMILE if your name has these 5 success factors:
S for Simple – one easy-to-understand concept
M for Meaningful – your customers instantly "get it"
I for Imagery – visually evocative - creates a mental picture
L for Legs – carries the brand, lends itself to wordplay
E for Emotional – empowers, entertains, engages, enlightens
SCRATCH your head it if it has any of these deal-breakers:
S for Spelling-challenged – not intuitive
C for Copycat – similar to competitor's names
R for Random – disconnected from the brand
A for Annoying – hidden meaning, forced
T for Tame – flat, uninspired, boring, non-emotional
C for Curse of Knowledge – only insiders get it
H for Hard-to-pronounce – not obvious
If your name suffers from any of the problems in the Scratch category, you may need to revisit it, no matter how clever or cute you think it is.
These concepts hold true for Non-Profits...
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All non-profits out there can profit from this example of lack of foresight. The town of Killam, AB has a sign near the schoolyard that admonishes you to "watch out for children playing." A nice sentiment. Immediately underneath is the phrase "Welcome to Killam!"
There's a lesson in this. Before you commit anything to print, whether in your newsletter or on a very large sign, read the copy aloud. You could be saving yourself and your organization from a very red face.
A similar blunder almost occurred during the naming of the then-new technology center in Texas...and yes, this is a verifiably true story, according to one of my profs from the Southwest. The institution was to be named for Sam Houston, and the seemingly obvious, no-brainer response was to call it the Sam Houston Institute of Technology.
I am sure that everyone who has ever attended or will ever attend that venerable school is sincerely grateful to the fellow who decided to doodle a logo using the proposed name's initials.
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The businesses whose signs appear below have definitely taken a clever approach with their names. While they may be eye-catching and pleasing to the ear however, they may not be representative of the best choices for a not-for-profit organization.
The name you choose should also be professional. As many not-for-profits depend on grants and government funding for their operating expenses, a name that is both appealing and professional is of primary importance.
By all means, be creative in your choice of names, but remember it is also perfectly acceptable to be straightforward and to the point.
Whatever name you do finally choose, whether clever and cutting edge or plain and pleasing, and no matter how brilliantly you feel it represents your organization, be sure to follow these few simple suggestions:
- Check out the initials - what do they spell?
- Write the name the way it will appear in your newsletters and on the letterhead - how will it look in a letter appealing for funds or in one of your fund-raising advertising campaigns?
- Read the name and the initials aloud
- Try to think of any nicknames that might be applied to your organization - there will always be some bright wag who can and will create an unfortunate acronym from any initials you could possibly choose. Just try not to make it so easy that you become a sitting duck (stationary target) like the Snap-On Tools Man.
Selected Images from the Top Fifity Clever Business Names - eatmywords.typepad.comClick thumbnail to view full-size
© Elle Fredine, 2010, all rights reserved