How to Name Your Nonprofit to Stand Out From the Crowd

Your organization has a mission to fulfill, and I bet you’re the type of person who wants to keep moving and do the good in the world you’ve set out to do. Whether you’re naming your new nonprofit or rebranding, you’ve encountered this question more than once.

What is the name of your nonprofit? 

Can’t you pick a name from a hat that sounds halfway decent and keep going?

I don’t recommend it. Here’s where to begin so you don’t stay stuck.

Differentiating your name from your brand

Your name is just the beginning of what will develop over time into your brand. What’s the difference?

Think of your name as the doorway through which people will enter to learn more about your nonprofit and how it meets a need or solves a problem. 

If your nonprofit name is dull, forgettable, or a turnoff, you may lose people before they even reach for the doorknob.

If your name is intriguing, memorable, and engaging, there’s a better chance that your ideal donor or partner will walk through that doorway to see what you’re all about.

When choosing a nonprofit name, imagine each idea as it might appear naturally. When your audience encounters your name for the first time, they won’t see a single word surrounded by white space.

Instead, they will see the name in the real world and in the context of your nonprofit brand, which is the all-inclusive big picture – everything that makes your nonprofit what it is.

They’ll see the name with a tagline, a logo, brand colors, a website, social media channels, emails, newsletters, events, and more. All this will help you create a distinct personality for your nonprofit, meaning the name alone should never have to do all the heavy lifting.

As people become familiar with your nonprofit, they’ll connect the name with emotions, values, and experiences. 

Just as the simple name of a type of fruit has come to represent design, innovation, imagination, and even the sensory experience of that little whoosh when you unbox your new iPhone for the first time, your name will naturally evolve from a one-dimensional word into a multi-dimensional representation of your nonprofit brand – what you stand for, what you do, how you do it, what makes you stand out, your personality, and how you make people feel when they encounter you or engage with you.

Three factors to consider when selecting your nonprofit name

  1. Your audience: What kind of name will resonate with your donors or partners the most? Who will be interpreting the name, and in what context? How will they find you?
  2. Your purpose: If you could give your new nonprofit name a job description, what would it be? Be careful here. Many put too much responsibility on one little grouping of letters. Drawing upon some of my own company’s work with clients, here are some examples of what realistic job descriptions for a name can include:

To hint at what you do:

  • MedMaestro (robotic medication reconciliation)
  • StableForm (horse training performance analytics)

To trigger positive emotions:

  • Ruff Revival (mobile dog grooming)
  • Mama Moments (self-care subscription boxes for new moms)

To get attention or create curiosity:

  • Acularo (strategic business management platform)
  • Stoked (digital development studio)
  1. Your future: Although now you’re 100% focused on developing or growing your nonprofit, think ahead five years or so. What if you decide to make a slight shift? As nonprofits grow, they evolve. Make sure the name you choose now won’t limit you in the future. There’s no need to go too broad, but don’t go so narrow that you put limits on your organization so much you have to rebrand later on.

Brainstorming and researching ideas for a nonprofit name can be stressful, so don’t forget to take breaks. Most professional, seasoned ‘namers’ say their best names often come to them during downtime. The best recipe is: brainstorm, rest, repeat.

If you are stuck and ready to get some assistance in naming your nonprofit, I have an 18-person naming team standing by to help if you’d like to start a naming project with us. Our projects are all self-service. Upon payment and completing our questionnaire, you’ll have ideas from my team ready to view within 48 hours. Get all the details and start your naming project here. 

Evan and I will be standing by to hear about your nonprofit and what you decided to name it.

Lynn Tickner

Lynn Tickner, Founder, Ink and Key

Entrepreneurs can get stuck at every stage of growth, and Lynn Tickner loves to help them get unstuck. Her creative agency, Ink and Key, helps business owners start with a great name for their idea and turn that idea into a thriving business. As a StoryBrand Certified Guide, Lynn uses the power of story to help brands uncomplicate their message, create marketing that works, and reach their ideal clients.

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