2 min Read
July 19, 2017

What’s in a name? How your nonprofit’s name can affect awareness.

Many nonprofits wish their organization was well-known enough to be a “household name”. That level of awareness can be helpful for achieving your communications goals, from fundraising to advocacy, but it’s no easy task to get there. In fact, your organization’s name could be working against you.

Nonprofits can have descriptive names that say just what you do, metaphorical names that symbolize your work, and beyond. But how does the name itself affect levels of awareness for your organization? Big Duck’s market research tool, the Brandraising Benchmark, has uncovered a few interesting trends surrounding names and how they may affect levels of awareness for nonprofits:

  • The more descriptive the name, the better. While the desire for an evocative, out-of-the-box name is understandable, our research shows that in many instances, awareness is higher for those organizations whose names spell out exactly what they do. In addition to being descriptive, stating the problem you work to solve or issue you work to advance clearly in the name seems to lead to higher levels of awareness. For example, American Parkinson Disease Association is descriptive and it immediately gives you a sense of their issue area. This provides a head start on their communications goals because they don’t have to work to tell their community who they are and what they do.
  • Using an acronym isn’t in your best interest. Big Duck has long been anti-acronym—they’re common in the nonprofit space and they don’t tell audiences anything about who you are. Now we have some data about acronyms and awareness that makes the case against acronyms even stronger. Unless you’re the ACLU (or another household name), relying on an acronym-based name generally leads to lower awareness. This means names including an acronym (e.g., DELTA Rescue) or relying on one solely may be holding themselves back in terms of awareness. This can be a tough habit to break. Start by referring to your organization by its full name internally. This is a good way to slowly move away from the acronym that should eventually translate to your external communications.

With all this in mind, take a step back and look at your name. Is it working for you or against you on the path to achieving your communications goals? Our study of the impact rebranding has on nonprofits (“The Rebrand Effect”) revealed that organizations who change more aspects of their identity may see stronger results than those that make smaller adjustments. Maybe it’s time to rip the bandaid off?

If you’re interested in getting some data to help you better understand how your name affects awareness, consider participating in the Brandraising Benchmark.