Photo by Tim Gouw
2 min Read
May 17, 2023

Highs and lows of the naming journey

Name changes are hard. 

If you’ve ever been through a naming process, this won’t be news to you. 

Changing your organization’s name can be unexpectedly emotional—and of all the things that could change about your organization, it’s one of the hardest to get used to. Even a gigantic change like a new direction to your strategic plan unfolds over time. Name changes can feel abrupt—one day you’ve got the old name; one day it’s the new one.

If you haven’t yet been on the emotional roller coaster that is a re-naming journey, join us! Your ride may feel something like this:

Stage 1: Excitement


Finally! We’re going to replace that name that’s just not working with something fabulous and perfect! It’s going to be amazing! I’ve brainstormed 15 new ideas already!

Also Stage 1: Second guessing


But…what if everyone just hates the new name? Yeah, the current one isn’t great, and sure, people keep confusing us with the hardware store down the block, but it works. Maybe we’re making a terrible mistake. 

* Note: this stage can run under any/all subsequent stages, especially if the first brainstorm doesn’t turn up something you feel good about. Brace yourselves.

Stage 2: So close.

So close

There are lots of good options here. These aren’t exactly right, but there must be something just like this but not exactly this. We’ll totally get it. We’re almost there.

Stage 3: Lost in the thesaurus

Lost in the thesaurus

Uuuuuuuugh the ones I like are all being used by other organizations and none of the runners-up feel quite right. There must be a shorter, cooler word for “innovation,” right? Newness? Cutting Edge? Mutation? Vicissitude??? 

Stage 4: Taking stock

Taking stock

Okay. We’ve got a couple. They’re not bad. In fact, they’re pretty good. I just don’t know if I love them. Do I need to love them? Maybe I’ll love them. Maybe our Board will love them. Gosh, I hope our Board will love them.
* Note: Seeing the name with taglines and logos, in mockups, and other visuals can be a big help at this stage.

Stage 5: Commitment


We’ve got it. This is going to be our new name. We can own it; we can champion it; we can build up the meaning and positive associations. It still feels a little weird to think and say—”I work for NewName!”—but I trust we’ll get there.

Stage 6: I LOVE IT

I Love It

I honestly can’t really remember what it felt like when this wasn’t our name. It’s fresher and more strategic and so much more reflective of our community and the work that we do. TOTALLY WORTH IT.

*Note: This stage rarely happens until after the name is already out there in the world. Hang in there!

If any of this feels familiar, rest assured: you’re not alone. The name change process can have its ups and downs—but in the end, you’ll probably be glad you went on the ride. 

At Big Duck, we’ve helped many nonprofits rethink their names and examine their brands. If you’re preparing for a name change, this resource guide is full of tips and guidance—and please do reach out if you’d like to learn more about how we can support your organization on the journey.

support your organization on the journey